8. “I Think it Was Joe”

Title Quote: Antonio Veciana

The CIA training that Veciana claims to have received represents another opportunity to examine his changing story. In the HSCA Volume X version of the story as told by Fonzi, the training was conducted by a man Veciana “knew only as Mr. Melton.” Fonzi’s citation for this information points back to Veciana’s HSCA testimony.1 Indeed, in that testimony, Veciana referred to his trainer as “Melton” or “Mr. Melton.” But during the second day of his testimony, Veciana was asked about Melton’s first name. “I don’t know if this is correct” he said, “but I think it was Joe.” Since Veciana did provide a tentative first name for Melton, Fonzi’s unsupported assertion that Veciana said the trainer was known to him as only “Mr. Melton” is yet another instance of Fonzi manipulating the evidence to make the story more plausible.

In the 2017 Trained to Kill version of the story, Melton had somehow evolved from “Mr. Melton” or “Joe Melton” to “Dick Melton.” Veciana, understandably, offers no explanation for this transformation or for why his memory on the matter changed over the years. Another curious difference between Veciana’s book and previous versions of the story is his description of Melton. After previously being less than sure even of Melton’s first name, Veciana now remembered Melton was, “… thirty-five, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He was tall, slim, with strong arms. I got the sense that he was military or had been in the military.”2

The most significant difference between the Trained to Kill testing story and previous versions is that in the book, Melton administers a lie detector test to Veciana well before the training sessions. This test supposedly occurred at an apartment building near the US embassy where Veciana and Bishop arrived in style by way of a large black sedan. Comically, after first writing that he could not remember, “anything beyond Melton, the [lie detector] machines and the US Embassy …,” Veciana goes on to describe the test in excruciating detail right down to the questions he was asked. Obviously, the lie detector test is a fabrication as Veciana would have certainly provided this information to Fonzi and the HSCA if it were true.3 Conversely, if he were lying about the Bishop matter, then the less data provided the better. This probably explains why early versions of his story were mostly devoid of specific information.

Even if sympathetic readers are willing to chalk up the lie detector test as “literary license,” there remain other troubling inconsistencies with the training story. In his HSCA testimony, Veciana said that Melton “didn’t know any Spanish [emphasis added] and this was one of the main problems we encountered.”4 But in the Trained to Kill version of events, Melton spoke “… a lot of Spanish but he wasn’t fluent.”5

The building where the training occurred is another area of contradiction. Veciana consistently described it as an office building on El Vadado and said that the building also housed a mining company but he was less certain about the name. In his HSCA testimony, Veciana only recalled that it was an American firm. But in his book, he stated it was the “Cuba Mining Co.” Apparently, Veciana and his publishing house were unaware that the HSCA learned that the mining company he was talking about was called the Moa Bay Company and the building, which housed the Berlitz School, was called Edificio La Rampa.6 In any event, the fact that Veciana was familiar with the building is not necessarily significant since he worked and lived in Havana. Notably the CIA, operating on a request from the HSCA, was unable to find any information on “Melton” or “Joe Melton.”

A crucial issue is Veciana’s allegation that Edificio La Rampa was a CIA training front, a claim that theorists have supported. In their book One Hell of a Gamble, Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali report that the Berlitz school was one of two de facto CIA stations in Havana, an apparent confirmation of Veciana’s allegations.7 The source of their information is Soviet archives that they were afforded access to for their research. It is probable that the Soviets in turn had received that information from Cuban Intelligence sources who were known for their propaganda against the CIA. The story of Drexel Gibson, who owned and operated the Berlitz school, reveals what the Cubans really knew.

On April 19, 1961, Gibson was arrested along with numerous other Americans in a Castro purge following the Bay of Pigs invasion. Gibson, who described his ordeal in detail to George Clifford of the Washington Daily News, was held for about a month in a house converted into a makeshift prison. Thereafter, he was transferred to the infamous La Cabana prison where he endured prolonged interrogation and mistreatment at the hands of his Cuban captors.8 After the Cubans had apparently satisfied themselves that Gibson was not an intelligence agent, he was released on September 5th and arrived back in the US on October 31st.

The CIA DCD interviewed Gibson on December 23rd at his home. Gibson told the CIA that his Cuban interrogators had been insistent that he was an FBI agent rather than an asset of the agency even though by charter the bureau is prohibited from engaging in international operations. Gibson developed his own theory for the Cuban fixation on the FBI. In March of that year, Gibson had returned briefly to the US to arrange medical treatment for his son. While there, he spoke to the President of the Berlitz schools regarding his increasing concern that several of the teachers working under him were Castro supporters. The Berlitz President advised Gibson that he should report his concerns to the FBI, and he did so before returning to Cuba. Gibson was certain that the Cubans had somehow learned of his report to the FBI and this knowledge had been the reason that his Cuban interrogators were convinced that he was an FBI operative. In support of his theory, Gibson pointed out that his interviewers were particularly interested in the opinions of each of his instructors regarding Castro.

The archives accessed by Fursenko and Naftali revealed that the Soviets and Cubans were so convinced that Gibson was a spy that they did not even believe that “Gibson” was his real name. They evidently believed that his name was actually “Drexel Woodrow Wilson.”9 In fact, Fursenko and Naftali list Gibson in the book’s index under “Wilson.” But Drexel Gibson was his real name and articles from his hometown newspaper dating to the thirties confirm this.10

Researcher Matt Scheufele has investigated the Gibson matter and reports on his findings in an internet article entitled “Drexel Gibson and the Berlitz School.” Verifying Gibson’s allegations, Scheufele says that seven specific Berlitz employees that Gibson mentioned to the FBI indeed had ties to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, or to Cuban Intelligence or worked for the Cuban government. One of these individuals, Rosanna Carfagno, was romantically linked to the bearded dictator.

Scheufele argues that the fact that Gibson’s interview was relegated to the CIA DCD two months after his return to the US and after he had given numerous press interviews shows that he was of little interest to the agency. Even more relevant to the discussion of the Bishop allegations, Scheufele reasons that if the Berlitz school had really been a training facility as Veciana alleges that Cuban G2’s search of the facility would have uncovered evidence of that fact. But according to Fursenko and Naftali, the only evidence found was “documents written by … [the anti-Castro group] MRR,” which probably refers to innocuous propaganda material owned by someone at the school.11

Scheufele’s article also supports the contention that Fonzi tended to investigate areas of evidence that supported his own theories. To that point, Scheufele says that Fonzi never bothered to look at the file containing the Gibson information which the HSCA had obtained as part of their investigation of John Martino. The bottom line in the Gibson matter is that there is no evidence that he worked for any intelligence agency or that the Berlitz school was a CIA front. Rather, it is likely that Gibson was a patriotic US citizen whose one-time report to the FBI landed him in a Cuban prison for six months. And the evidence shows that the Berlitz school was populated with Fidel Castro supporters rather than CIA trainers.12

Returning to Veciana’s Trained to Kill narrative: Bishop allegedly called again at the bank soon after the testing and drove Veciana to a ranch style home in Miramar. Here, Veciana was submitted to a second test administered in the form of a sort of truth serum. This testing was performed by an individual named “John Smith,” a character who appears in no previous versions of Veciana’s story.13 Bishop then supposedly drove Veciana back to the bank in the large black sedan, but as Newman writes, the idea of Phillips driving Veciana around Havana given his security situation is “about as likely as a germ at a Lysol convention” and the only thing missing was the “Aston Martin with automatically revolving license plates.”14

At around the same time Veciana was allegedly interrogated under truth serum (about September 30th using Newman’s calculations), behind the scenes the real CIA was concerned about the use of Phillips in a previously authorized project that involved propaganda operations in the Havana television field. The project, which was to be supervised by the Havana station, was given the cryptonym AMOURETTE-X. After extensive internal machinations which included concerns about Phillips’ security situation, an October 12 memo by Counterintelligence OA Chief Thomas Carroll Jr. stated that he was “unable to give further consideration” to Phillips for use in the project. Implausibly, Veciana says that in this same timeframe he and Bishop were in a six-hour meeting at the Hotel Riviera discussing the results of his “CIA tests.” By November 12, Phillips was finally authorized for project AMOURETTE-X. But his usefulness was a thing of the past because of his security situation and he was eventually replaced.15

There is one last canard from Veciana’s 1959 training scenarios that should be mentioned. In Trained to Kill, Veciana writes that he and Bishop communicated only when necessary, and then mostly using invisible ink.16 But this contradicts what Veciana said in every previous version of his story. Veciana had formerly maintained that he waited for Bishop to initiate contact by phone either directly or through a trusted intermediary. In summary, the 1959 Cuba recruitment of Veciana by David Phillips as “Bishop” and the associated training is a demonstrable fantasy. Rather than busying himself recruiting agents or assets, Phillips was in the middle of a security nightmare and preparing to leave the island for good. And since Phillips was no longer in Cuba by “mid-1960” as Veciana originally maintained, any recruitment of him by Phillips at that time was equally impossible.

Go to Chapter 9
The Bishop Hoax: Table of Contents


1. HSCA Volume X, paragraph 123.
2. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 49.
3. The questions Veciana was supposedly asked by the examiner also betray the fictitious nature of the exam. It is common knowledge that polygraph tests use questions that can be answered by a yes or no response (Norman Ansley, “Question Formulation.” Polygraph, 2009). But Veciana claims he was asked questions such as “what is your wife’s name?” and “what do you think about the Cuban government?” (Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 51).
4. HSCA Executive Session Testimony of Antonio Veciana, April 26, 1978, 5.
5. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 62.
6. Letter from G. Robert Blakey to Scott Breckinridge, August 25, 1978. RIF 104-10406-10260. This document shows the spelling “Edeficio” but “Edificio” is likely correct since that is the Spanish word for building.
7. Fursenko and Naftali, One Hell of a Gamble, 134-135.
8. George Clifford, “’What a Nightmare’ Says American in Cuban Jail.” The Pittsburgh Press, November 26, 1961, 1.
9. Fursenko and Naftali, One Hell of a Gamble, 135.
10. Newspaper articles note that Gibson was born in Corning Iowa in 1913. Several articles from Gibson’s hometown newspaper report on his academic and typing skills at a time when he indeed would have been in High School. See, for example, Adams County Free Press, February 6, 1930, 9.
11. Fursenko and Naftali, One Hell of a Gamble, 135.
12. David Phillips reported in his book that he had traded his services as a public relations man for French lessons at the Berlitz School. It is possible that Phillips learned of Castro operatives at the school and used the French lessons as a ruse to keep an eye on the situation. Another CIA man who took lessons at the school was counterintelligence operative Melvin Beck. In his book, Secret Contenders, Beck wrote of conversations with a “serious-minded woman instructor” who spoke of “the significance and meaning of Castro’s revolution.” This observation confirms the presence of pro-Castro individuals at the school (Beck, Secret Contenders, 27).
13. When answering questions from Smith, Veciana says he told him that didn’t believe in the lottery (Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 56). Veciana must have changed his mind since he later ran lotteries and raffles to raise money for Alpha 66.
14. Newman, Into the Storm, 79.
15. Newman, Into the Storm, 79-80.
16. Veciana with Harrison, Trained to Kill, 69.


  1. Exceptionally interesting chapter! I suggest another way of looking at the unlikeliness of Veciana's story. Is there any documentation that CIA ever conducted training in Cuba at all? There are many, many records of anti-Castro people being exfiltrated to the U.S., trained in various skills, then being infiltrated back in.

    I have seen zero records of anyone trained onsite in Cuba. This would require CIA training personnel and facilities in Cuba, right under Castro's nose. It would have been a substantial project that should have left numerous records, yet there are none. Everyone goes to the States for training.

    Forget about the false identification of Gibson (a very interesting discovery though), forget about the difficulties in identifying "Melton", put aside the security breach involved in using Phillips, the idea that there was a CIA training facility in Havana at this time, teaching people things like how to use explosives, is not just undocumented, it is absurd.

    1. Thanks for your comment Robert and I agree with your logic.

  2. Another comment on the serious problems here: the claim that "Melton" administered a lie detector test to V. The bizarre nature of this claim is worth underlining.

    There is plenty of documentation on lie detector tests (LCFLUTTER). CIA personnel who administer the tests are trained professionals, it is done by a separate office, and the tests are documented, there are written reports. It was a major issue when the personnel did not speak Spanish (see eg 104-10100-10371). V's description of the question types is moreover flat wrong, as you point out.

    Yet Veciana claims not only that he was "fluttered" but that the person who did the test was his paramilitary trainer. This is, again, absurd on its face, and cannot be described as mere "literary license". It instead shows that V knew nothing about the procedures for a lie detector test.

    1. I agree Robert, the more you look at the lie detector thing the less believable it becomes.


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