David Belin's Final Disclosure - an About Face
Despite trying to keep up with these things, I wasn’t even aware that after his book You Are the Jury, which basically puts forth the same case as the Warren Report, former Warren Commission counsel David Belin wrote another book published in 1988 – Final Disclosure – The Full Truth About the Assassination of President Kennedy, that I accidently discovered on a library shelf.
While we were the jury on the assassination of President Kennedy, and public opinion polls since 1964 have consistantly shown that 80% of the people don’t believe JFK was killed by one man alone, Belin continued to promote that false conclusion until the day he died.
Belin falsely blames a number of conspiracy theorists for convincing the majority of people that there was a conspiracy in the assassination of the President – specifically mentioning Bob Groden, whose name he consistantly misspells, Robert Sam Ansen, Mark Lane and Henry Hurt. The copy of the library book I read, has penceled corrections on the margins, dozens of them, and I didn’t bother to correct the other mistakes that I picked up.
Most people don’t believe the Warren Report because of silly conspiracy books, but because the Warren Commission failed to make it’s case, and the most serious critics use the Warren Report facts to demonstrate how and why it is wrong.
One thing he did get correct in his first book is that the murder of Dallas policeman JD Tippit is the “Rosetta Stone” of the assassination, that he repeats as a chapter in this book, but not for the reasons he believed. When the accused assassin was seen near the site of Tippit’s murder driving a 1957 Plymouth that was traced to Tippit’s good friend Carl Mather, and Mather’s alibi was that he was at work at Collins Radio - that ties the murder of Tippit and the President to the CIA’s JMWAVE station. On November 1, 1963 the New York Times ran a photo of the CIA raider ship Rex, and a story that said the Rex was owned by the Somozs of Nicaragua, and leased to Collins Radio, it connects the anti-Castro Cuban commandos who were paid and trained by the CIA to kill Castro with high powered rifles as he rode by in an open jeep, to what occurred at Dealey Plaza.
I ran across Belin in Congress when he testified shortly before the JFK Act was passed and tried to talk to him but he was too fast and practically ran down the hall to avoid me. Belin had a bad twitching eye that John Judge said twiched whenever he lied, which was quite frequently.
Even the title of this book Final Disclosure is a lie, as three years after the JFK Act’s deadline for the release of all the government’s assassination records were to be released, and there are tens of thousands of records still being with held and many more redacted. Everybody wants to write the last word – Case Closed, Final Investigation, Final Disclosure, but the case won’t be closed until the Archivist of the United States informs the President, Congress and the public that all of the government’s records on the assassination have been released. That’s something that won’t happen anytime soon.
Unlike his first book, this one is different because he acknowledges that after Watergate, the Family Jewels, the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro and Iran-Contra, the CIA has been doing some real shaddy things.
After re-hashing most of the basic facts of the JFK assassination story, Belin turns his face around and begins his re-evaluation of the case in Chapter 12 – The Paradox of the Birth of the CIA. Then in the following chapter, The CIA Investigation Begins.
He writes: “On December 22, 1974, a front-page story in the New York Sunday Times written by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh charged that there had been massive illegal domestic spying by the CIA – something that it ws forbidden to do. There were other charges too….”
This story led to President Ford appointing the “Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States,” also known as The Rockefeller commission after its chairman, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and Belin was named executive director. But he didn’t get the power to subpoena witnesses, use of a lie detector and open meetings.
It seems that Watergate, the Family Jewels and Iran-Contra changed Belin’s mind about the government’s involvment in creating conspiracies, they didn’t change his mind about the Warren Commission’s conclusions.
He writes: “The family jewels contained references to CIA consideration of plots to assassinate Cuban premier Fidel Castro, Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, and possibly Premier Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. By far the most extensive plans were directred against Premier Castro,” says Belin, and I emphasis he says they were PLANS, not plots.
“It was Daniel Schorr who broke the story about CIA involvement in assassination plots,” Belin tells us. “On a CBS news telecast on Friday evening February 26…Schorr’s story opened floodgates…”
“CIA assassination plans were not covered in any of the areas of investigation I had assigned to the other members of my staff, “ Belin writes, “I decided to assume reponsiblity for the investigation of assassinations myself.”
Belin justified his one-man Rocky Com investigation into the CIA’s assassination plans because even though they were to be conducted on foreign territory, they were planned domestically.
While he bases most of his one-man investigation into CIA assassination plots on government records, he did interview some key players including Sheffield Edwards, William Harvey and John McCone.
In his seventies when Belin interviewed him, Sheffield Edwards had been a West Point graduate (1923) and war veteran who was in charge of the CIG Office of Security, directing a staff of thirty-five people that grew to seven hundred by the time he retired in 1963.
Belin tape recorded much of the interview, asking Edwards about the origins of the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. “Edwards said that his first contact concerning a possible plan to try to assassinate Castro ‘was in the Kennedy administration.’ (He was wrong: it started in the last few months of the Eisenhower administration, in the fall of 1960.) Richard Bissel, who was then deputy director for plans and was in charge of the whole Bay of Pigs operations, broached the subject.”
According to Edwards, “Bissell asked me if I had any assets that would be available into the syndicate. I told him I would see.”
“It was Maheu first and then afterwards John Roselli,” said Edwards.
Belin writes: “Then Edwards told everything: how organied crime members had been contacted, how they were going to try to get rid of Castro by placing botulism pills in his food, and how the plan was approved by Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, who later was to become a member of the Warren Commission.”
“Edwards also testified that he personally briefed Robert Kennedy. With him at the time of that briefing was Larry Houston, general counsel of the CIA.”
“Edward’s testimony about briefing Kennedy was corroborated by the testimony of former CIA general counsel Houston. The memorandum, prepared after Edwards and Houston briefed Robert Kennedy, was dated May 14, 1962.”
This meeting occurred after Sam Giancana, who had been brought into the project by Rosselli, had the CIA place a bug in the Vegas hotel room of his girlfriend, a wire tap that the Vegas authories discovered, but were unable to prosecute because of the requests by the CIA – and attorney general Robert Kennedy.
Belin quotes only portions of the memo: “This memorandum for the record was prepared at the request of Attorney General Robert Kennedy following a complete oral briefing of him relevant to a sensitive CIA operation conducted during the period of approximately August 1960 to May 1961……In August 1960 the undersigned was approached by Mr. Richard Bissell, then Deputy Director for Plans of CIA, to explore the possibility of mounting this sensitive operation against Fidel Castro. It was thought that certain gambling interests, which had formerly been active in Cuba, might be willing and able to assit and furhter, might have both intelligence assets in Cuba and communication between Miami, Florida and Cuba.”
“Only two copies of the memorandum were prepared – one for the attorney general and one to be retained by the CIA,” Belin tells us, as well as, “The deception among the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Justice is unique. The CIA felt obligated to tell Robert Kennedy in 1962 about the whole story of the Phase 1 plans; Robert Kennedy was very tight lipped. He never told his 1962 visitors that he had already known about the operation for approximately one year, for J. Edgar Hoover, on May 22, 1961, had furnished him a memorandum prepared by the FBI from information furnished by Sam Papach.”
“One further question,” Belin asks, “Did Robert Kennedy tell his brother John about these plots and the involvement of the CIA?”
Belin correctly divides the CIA-Mafia plans to kill Castro into three parts – the first part being the poison pills, while the second part was the Mongoose action directed by Ed Lansdale and involved high powered rifles as well as poison. The third part was the Desmond FitzGerald plans to create the climate for a coup in Cuba that eventually settled on one man – Dr. Rolando Cubella (code named AMLASH).
We can dismiss all of the Phase One plans to kill Castro involving poison, a tampered diving suit, exploding sea shells and cigars, and focus on the plans to kill Castro that involved high powered rifles, as President Kennedy was himself killed.
Chapter 18 – Executive Action Capabilities and the Phase II Plans
Here’s where William Harvey enters the picture.
“Before the taped session, Harvey said that either in late 1961 or early 1962 he talked with someone at CIA concerning what that person called a request from the White House for the agency to develop what was called an ‘executive action capability’ – assassination or liquidation of leaders in foreign countries. According to Harvey it was Richard Bissill with whom he had this conversation.”
Shortly after President Kennedy took office he may have asked for the capability. At the urging of his wife then Senator Kennedy had read an Ian Fleming James Bond 007 novel, and one afternoon, while walking around his Georgetown neighborhood, he ran into his friend Mrs. Leiter, who was accompanied by Fleming. She introduced them, and Kennedy said “James Bond?” Mrs. Leiter then invited Kennedy to dinner at her home, when Kennedy asked Fleming what he would do with someone like Fidel Castro. “Ridicule him,” was Fleming’s response.
Once in the White House, when President Kennedy asked the CIA to send over “America’s James Bond,” William Harvey showed up at the Oval Office and handed over his pistol to the Secret Service Agent at the door before entering. I’m sure JFK was a little put off by the pear shapped and overwight Harvey in comparison to the suave and debanare Bond.
A lawyer from Indiana, Harvey joined the FBI in 1940 and then the CIA in 1947, earning the reputation of being a hard-nosed operative who had engineered the Berlin Tunnel, and was the first to name Burgess and McClean as two Soviet double-agents and Kim Philby as the Third Man who tipped them off before himself surfacting in Moscow.
“He also learned about the Castro operations from Bissel, who asked Harvey ‘to discuss it with Sheffield Edwards and take it over.”
“Harvey said he went through an analysis of the Phase I plan, he decided the plan was a ‘damn fool idea to start with’ and had been handled in an “incredibily amateurish’ fashion.”
Harvey was made head of the anti-Castro Cuban efforts at CIA, which he called Task Force W, set up in the basement of the new CIA HQ in Washington.
“Harvey was a man who worked alone. One of his first requirements was to have everyone else ‘stay completely out of the operation.’ So Harvey instructed Edwards to tell the Phase I case officer.” (Who Belin doesn’t identify as “Big Jim” O’Connell).
“The Phase II plans involved two possibilities: ‘rifle fire and the use of poison.’ Harvey was working with organized-crime figure John Roselli. Arms were sent into Cuba. The assassination plot never succeeded.”
Harvey took over the responsibility of being the case officer for Rosselli, and while Belin doesn’t tell us, became a close personal friend of the mobster who ran Vegas for Chiciago mob boss Sam Giancana.
“Although the Phase II plans did not succeed,” Belin writes, “I was concerned about who authorized these attempts to kill Castro. I uncovered incrimanting documents. One was a copy of minutes of an August 10, 1962, meeting of what was known as the ‘Special Group (Augumented).’ This was a group of senior people in the Kennedy administration who were involved in the overall planning of opertations directed against Cuba. The word ‘augumented’ was used to indicate the addition of Robert Kennedy as a member of the group…”
Belin asked Harvey if CIA director John McCone knew about his plans to kill Castro? Harvey responded: “To my knowledge he did not.”
“According to Harvey, they thought it best not to tell McCone.”
“Colonel Edwards told me that he did not know at the time of the May 7, 1962 briefing of Attorney General Robert Kennedy that the Phase II case officer, William Harvey, was undertaking another plan along the lines of Phase I. Therefore, Edwards said he did not tell Robert Kennedy at the time of the briefing, that there was a Phase II plan under way. Richard Helms knew about Phase II, but he was most reluctant as a witness to talk about it.”
McGeorge Bundy, the President’s national security advisor told Belin: “I would not have expected….the Agency would have undertaken anything like an attack on the life of a foreign leader without direct order from higher authority….It did not happen in the time I was there….but I can conceive of the President saying to somebody, ‘I do not want to make this decision,’ but giving some indication of the kind of decision he wanted made.”
“Bundy’s testimony did not ring true in light of other evidence,” says Belin. “A 1967 CIA inspector general’s report quoted Richard Bissell telling William Harvey early in the Kennedy administration that ‘the White House has twice urged me to create’ an executive action capability’”
Harvey was put in charge of this capability, and the operation was code-named ZRRIFLE.
Bundy later recalled that “Proposals under the overall plan with regards to Cuba ‘which did come from time to time (mostly not with respect to assassination) were reviewed in the first instance for practicability and only after that for wisdom or political rightness, and I recall no proposal for liquidation that ever got pasat the first stage to the second.”
Harvey’s Task Force W and ZRRIFLE programs, another part of the Phase II plans
Belin tells us that, “Another important member of the Special Group (Augumented) was Gen. Maxwell Taylor. President Kennedy asked Taylor on April 22, 1961, to work with Robert Kennedy and conduct a reevaluation of military, paramilitary, guerrilla and antiguerrilla activities that fall short of outright war, with particular attention to Cuba. Within months, Operation ‘Mongoose’ was hatched. The goal, in the words of a November 30, 1961, memorandum from President Kennedy to Secretary of State Rusk, was to ‘use our available assets…to help Cuba overthrow the Communist regime.”
“Based on the documentary evidence, the testimony of Harvey and his memoranda, and the admission of Lansdale, McNamara, Bundy and Taylor, it was clear that if this information were all put before a jury, there would be little doubt what they would conclude. The hightest officials in the Kennedy administration were intimately involved in the discussions of CIA plans to assassinate Fidel Castro. Robert Kennedy was also intimately invovled with those plans, and I believe his brother also knew.”
“Moreover, inside the CIA people were developing scenarios to show why the presidential order was not necessarily appropriate for all occassions. The example most often cieted was Adolf Hitler. ‘Would not the world have been better off it we had had a CIA in 1938 and someone had gone over to assassinte Adolf Hitler?....Yet there is still that question to be answered. What would we do if there were another Adolf Hitler who came into power and threatened world domination?”
I’m so glad that David Belin brings Hitler into the equation, because that’s exactly what Volkmar Schmidet did when he talked to Lee Harvey Oswald in February 1963 at a party at his home expressely set up for the Oswalds to meet Michael and Ruth Paine, at which he encouraged Oswald to kill right wing General Edwin Walker as Hitler should have been assassinated, specifically mentioning the July 20, 1944 German mililtary plan to kill Hitler.
Then there’s the September 25, 1963 briefing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the CIA’s Desmond FitizGerald, who told them the CIA was conducting a detailed study of the July 20, 1944 attack on Hitler to be adapted for use against Castro.
Then there’s the backyard photo of Oswald with the rifle and pistol and Communist publications given to George deMohrenschildt on which Marina had written, “Hunter of Fascists, Ha Ha.”
While Belin just says the Phase II plans didn’t work, he doesn’t bother to tell us that Rosselli was assigned to work with the anti-Castro commandos being trained at the JMWAVE camps under the guise of a US Army Colonel – Colonel Rawlston. Rosselli helped US Army Ranger Captain Ed Roderick train the Cubans as snipers at a range off Key Largo, and both Rosselli and Harvey sent in teams of commandos with high powered rifles into Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. When RFK learned of this, he had Harvey replaced as head of Task Force W by Desmond FitzGerald, and while Harvey was sent to Italy as the CIA Chief of Station in Rome, Harvey maintained his status as the case officer for Rosselli.
Officially, the last time Harvey and Roselli met was in Florida in June 1963, when they wined and dined and took hotel rooms out on Harvey’s ZRRIFLE account, after Harvey was replaced on the Cuban desk by Desmond FitzGerald.
And it was Desmond FitzGerald, who played tennis with RFK and came up with idea to try to create a revolt among the disenchanged Cuban military officers who could stage a coup, much like the attempt by the German military to kill Hitler and take over the Nazi government in 1944.
When Warren Commission attorney Sam Stern was questioned by the HSCA, he told them that if they had known about the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro they would have conducted a completely different type of investigation. Well now its up to us to conduct that different type of investigation, one that does what the CIA said it did and “study in detail” the July 20, 1944 Valkyrie plan to kill Hitler to see how it was adapted for use against Castro.
There are two of the five aspects of the Valkyrie plan to kill Hitler that are in play here – one is getting the victim to approve the operation – which Col. VonStufenhaven did by getting Hitler to sign off on the Valkyrie plan to have the Home Guard take over key installations in case of a revolt by the slave laborers, or sudden death of the Fuher.
As for the CIA operations against Castro, they had to get JFK to approve the plans to assassinate him, which they did through RFK and the Special Group (Augumented), as detailed by Belin.
As for the Phase III plans, in searching for a disenchanged Cuban military officer capable of leading a revolt, killing Castro and staging a coup, it came down to one man – Dr. Rolando Cubella (AMLASH), who we have come to know intimately as a leader of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE). In the entire chapter on Cubella, Belin manages to avoid his real name, only using his code AMLASH .
FitzGerald, against the advice of CIA CI offices, personally met with Cubella and told him he was a representative of RFK, and RFK knew of the operation, though FitzGerald later testified he didn’t believe RFK actually knew of what he was doing. Another Cubella case officer, who Belin fails to name (Sanchez), was meeting with Cubella on November 22, 1963 at the very time of the assassination of President Kennedy.
“There is one final footnote,” writes Belin – “a footnote that appears in no CIA documents but which was told to me by a CIA officer. AMLASH may have been a double agent. His arrest did not take place until months after his direct association with the CIA had been terminated. Though he was arrested for plotting the death of Castro, he was not executed. AMLASH was merelly imprisoined – in stark contrast to what ordinarily happens in totalitarian regimes when a key person is arrested in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a dictator.”
Then there’s the second aspect of the Valkyrie plan to kill Hitler that was to be adapted for use against Castro, and used in the assassination, besides getting the victim to sign off on the operation, and that is to blame the murder on the opposition – in this case Castro himself via Oswald.
“I believe that when Oswald shot Kennedy, he felt he was acting on behalf of the man he idolized, the man whose first name was adapted by Oswald to form his alias A. J. Hidell – Fidel Castro. I also believe there is a substantial possibility tht Oswald was influenced by the extreme anti-Castro rhetoric of the Kennedys and perhaps by Castro’s call for retaliation. But was there any Cuban conspriacy growing out of Oswald’s trip to Mexico? There is no evidence to prove this, although it is possible.”
Belin then blames RFK himself – rather than Dulles and the CIA, for not informing the Warren Commission about the plans to kill Castro – “Perhaps Robert Kennedy could not decide whether to tell the Warren Commission about the assassination plots against Castro. He eventually decided to withhold the information.” Written in pencil in the margin by a previous reader: “Just like the CIA withheld tons of information from the Warren Commission and the Rockefeller Comm.”
So on the one hand Belin insists the Warren Commission was correct in it’s lone assassin conclusion, but on the other hand, before he died he recognized the lies of the CIA, FBI and Justice Department in regards to the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro, Watergate and especially the Iran-Contra affair, in which he took particular interest. It’s a shame he didn’t live long enough to hear what the ultimate whistle blower Gene Wheaton had to say about Iran-Contra and the assassination of President Kennedy.
And Belin gives us the best evidence that RFK and thus JFK knew about the Phase I CIA-Mafia plots, and was informed of them and a memo exists that confirms that fact, and thus he may have signed off on the other Phase II plans to kill Castro, just as Hitler himself approved the Valkyrie plan that was used to try to kill him.
And finally, Belin says that if there was a conspiracy, it was Castro who was behind Oswald, just as the Valkyrie plan includes the provision to blame the opposition.