Thursday, March 16, 2023

Spy Among Friends at Dealey Plaza


                               Kim Philby - William Harvey 

Spy Among Friends is a six part TV series about double-agent Kim Philby that premiered in England last year is now being featured on HBO.  Kim Philby and the saga of the Cambridge Spy Ring has some JFK assassination connections that I will get into but don't expect them to be part of this program. 

While it is being billed as a spy suspense drama based on a true story it’s actually boring, though the subject matter is worth knowing about, especially those aspects of the story that come into play in the Kennedy assassination chronicles.  

Kim Philby, one of a half-dozen known to be a part of what is called the Cambridge Spy ring, is the key figure in this drama, but he takes a back seat to his good friend and colleague Nicholas Elliot.

Philby, Donald MacLean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, John Carncross and probably a few others were all Cambridge University students in the 1930s who were recognized as liberals with a socialist bent who were recruited by a Soviet KGB agent, some say a Catholic priest. All of them were instructed to discard their communist ideology, go underground for a few years, and then get jobs in the government, and all succeeded in that task.

Philby was probably the most successful as he got a job in the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and made his way up the MI-6 Military Intelligence foreign branch, where he was even considered for a possible directorship.

During WW2 Philby and other SIS officers helped train Americans who were in Colonel William Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the espionage and sabotage branch of the US Army.

Philby’s main student was James Jesus Angleton, who like many OSS officers, came out of an Ivy League University (Yale), and Philby indoctrinated Angleton on the basics of Counter-Intelligence and spy catching.  After their lessons, or perhaps during them, Philby introduced Angleton to the three-martini lunch, something of a James Bond -007 – “Shaken not stirred” cliche.

Colonel Bill Donovan assigned Angleton to Italy where he worked for the OSS for most of the war, and afterwards, when the CIA was formed, like most OSS officers, he became part of the CIA and was made chief of the CIA’s Counter-Intelligence directorate, a position he kept for over two decades.

When Philby was appointed the SIS-MI6 liaison officer to the CIA 1949-51, he resumed his association with Angleton and the three-martini lunches, some of which also included William Harvey,  Harvey’s secretary Maggie Crane, Gordon Campbell, J.C. King and other high level CIA officers. Maggie Crane told Bradley Ayers that she sat on the floor when she drank martinis because that’s where she always ended up.

Eventually Philby’s Cambridge school mate and fellow spy Guy Burgess was sent to America on assignment and Philby invited Burgess to live with him. Unlike most of the Cambridge spy ring that were members of the Apostles secret society, Burgess, and the real James Bond, were members of the Cambridge Pitt Club, whose main interests were said to be hunting and fishing, as well as drinking. 

And boy, did Burgess like to drink. He was also a notorious homosexual and had a tendency to get into all sorts of trouble. One evening the three martini for lunch crowd met one night for a party at Philby’s house, some bringing their wives.

There the party got out of hand, not only from the drinking, but because of a quick sketch Burgess made of William Harvey’s wife, an unflattering cartaculture that was not very flattering, that enraged Harvey and sparked him to strangle Burgess, needing three men to pull them apart.

When the MI-5 - FBI counter-spies were beginning to close in on Burgess and MacLean, who was a high level  British State Department official, they were tipped off and fled England together, only to resurface in Moscow. Only a few  top Secret Intelligence Service officers knew they were on to Burgess and MacLean, and so the investigation began as to the identity of who they called “The Third Man,” with most of those familiar with the subjects focusing on Kim Philby.

William Harvey was one of the first to brand Philby a KGB Double-agent and the Third Man, but his suspicions were not immediately vindicated.

Philby denied the charges, called a press conference, and was supported by many of his friends, including fellow MI-6 officer Nicholas Elliot.

Elliot was also close friends with Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond -007 novels, that included numerous characters based on real people known to Fleming including James Bond, an ornithologist and Cambridge man as well as the author of The Birds of the West Indies. Bond was actually at the Bay of Pigs birdwatching shortly before the invasion.

JFKcountercoup: The Real James Bond - A True Story of Identity Theft, Avian Intrigue and Ian Fleming

Elliot also ran the secret operation to have scuba diver Buster Crabb  inspect the hull of the Russian ship that delivered Premier Khrushchev to London for a parley. Crabb never returned from that mission, his body was never found, and Nicholas Elliot couldn’t explain how or why the operation failed.

Although Philby did resign from the SIS when  he was accused of being the Third Man, he got a job as a journalist and foreign correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon, where he lived and worked for years.

In the meantime newly elected President Kennedy appointed Michael Straight to head the National Foundation for the Arts, a prestigious position in the administration. Michael Straight was from a wealthy family, and like his older brother, was educated at Cambridge in England, where he made the acquaintance of Burgsss in the Pitt Club, Philby and Anthony Blunt, all in the Cambridge spy circle.

When he received his appointment to join the Kennedy administration, Straight turned down the position, confessing that when a student at Cambridge, Anthony Blunt attempted to recruit him into the spy ring, that he knew Philby was also a part of.

The British SIS was informed of Straight’s confession, and confronted now Sir Anthony Blunt, surveyor of the Queen’s art, who was stripped of his knighthood but his role as a KGB spy was kept secret for another dozen or so years.

There was a debate in the SIS as what to do about Philby, and while some wanted him arrested immediately, Nicholas Elliott was instead sent to Beirut to confront Philby and get a confession, which he did. Since he wasn’t immediately arrested, Philby took the opportunity to skip town, and was sneaked out of Beirut by his Armenia gypsy friends. Resurfacing in Moscow, Philby began to write his memoirs, published as My Silent War.

And that is what this TV series Spy Among Friends is about – the personal friendship between Philby and Elliott.

In his memoirs, Philby recounts a meeting with Frank Wisner, then the head of the CIA’s covert operations branch, where Wisner explained to Philby how the CIA secretly funded their activities through ostensibly philanthropic foundations that were set up by riich and patriotic Americans.

In their book The Invisible Government, David Wise and Thomas Ross included a list of many of the CIA’s foundations, including the Philadelphia based Catherwood Fund.

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A perusal of the newspaper clips that mention Cummins Catherwood and his foundation the projects that the CIA was associated with clearly stand out, especially  the Cuban Aid Relief (CAR), that was set up to provide assistance to Cuban professionals who had relocated to the United States.    ]

One of the Cuban professionals who received assistance from the CIA through the Catherwood Fund was Julio Fernandez, Sr., who published a newspaper in Cuba before he came to America, where he got a job teaching Spanish in a high school in central Pennsylvania.

[     ]

Shortly after the assassination Robert Steel of Altoon, Pennsylvania walked into the local Pennsylvania State Police barracks and reported that his sister had found some papers that included the names Ruby and Lee Oswald. They investigated and Mrs. Margret Hoover explained that she found the papers in her backyard, and showed them to her grown daughter, speculating that Ruby and Lee Oswald were women her recently divorced husband was seeing. Then she realized that the papers were blown into her yard from a neighbor who was burning papers in his backyard.

Both women said they saw the names Ruby and Lee Oswald and the Silver Slipper, and an AMTRACK train ticket to Florida, among other things, so the State Troopers went to the neighbor’s house and interviewed Mr. Julio Fernandez, Sr., the Cuban newspaper publisher in exile, who said he was a staunch anti-Communist and didn’t know Ruby or Oswald, but did indeed burn some trash in his backyard. The local FBI office also investigated, and Fernandez said the train ticket was from his son, Julio Fernandez, Jr., who was an art student at Penn State University, who traveled to Florida to attend a conference there.

The conference of Cuban journalists at the University of Miami, home of the CIA’s JMWAVE, was co-sponsored by the Catherwood Foundation and the Pan Am Foundation.

And while I believe it was a coincidence, when Julio, Jr. was studying art at Penn State, one of the visiting professors was none other than Sir Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queens Pictures and Art and one of the double-agents in the Cambridge spy ring.

The CIA’s Miami JMWAVE base maintained three commando raider teams, each of which was co-sponsored by a rich and patriotic American millionaire – including mobster John Roselli, industrialist William Pawley, and journalist and wife of the publisher of Time-Life Clare Booth Luce.

Luce later revealed that on the evening of the assassination she received a very late night phone call from the leader of the JMWAVE comanado team she sponsored whose name she gave as Julio Fernandez.  Fernandez told her that one of the anti-Castro Cuban groups he was affiliated with, probably the DRE, had tape recordings of the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as photos and other documents that confirm Oswald’s Cuban Communist leanings.

US Army Ranger Captain Bradley Ayers, in his book The Zenith Secret, says that Julio Fernandez as the leader of the commado  team that he trained in small boat maneuvering among other things.

While Julio Fernandez is probably a common name in Cuba, it turns up in a number of places in the JFK assassination story. The Julio Fernandez, Sr., Cuban newspaper publisher who burnt his trash in his backyard, including one that mentioned Ruby and Lee Oswald, was probably too old to be the same Julio Fernandez who was a JMWAVE commando team leader who both Clare Booth Luce and Bradley Ayers mentions. But his son, Julio Fernandez, Jr., who attended a conference of Cuban journalists at the University of Miami in the summer of ’63, could fit that bill.

Until the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962), all of the JMWAVE commando teams were overseen by the CIA’s William Harvey, who was fired by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for ordering his commando teams into Cuba during the Crisis, and was re-assigned to Italy as the CIA’s man in Rome, where James Jesus Angleton worked for the OSS during WW2 and where Clare Booth Luce had served as ambassador.

And it was William Harvey who was one of the first to voice his suspicion that Kim Philby was a KGB Double-agent and the Third Man who tipped off Burgess and MacLean.

It was Harvey’s replacement, Desmond FitzGerald,  as head of the CIA’s Cuban Desk who assumed control over the JMWAVE commando teams in Florida, and it was FitzGerald who informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the CIA was undertaking a detailed study of the German military’s July 20, 1944 Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler, that they were going to redirect to Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Just when I thought I had covered all the Cambridge spy ring to Dealey Plaza along came V. Mitrokin, a former KGB archivist who should have known a lot of secrets and wanted to give them up. 

After the CIA turned him down, the British took the bait and where did they send him? To Cambridge of course. There, with the assistance of a professor, they wrote the Mitrokin Files. 

In order to establish his bonafides Mitrokin had to give up something good, like a double agent, and he did, National Security Agency file clerk named Lipka, who by then was retired. After admitting he turned over thousands of NSA documents to the KGB over the course of years, he was arranged before a judge in Pennsylvania, and mentioned that he saw an NSA document that named the real assassin of President Kennedy, that resulted in the judge banging his gavel and calling an end to the hearing.

As he was being taken out of the court a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer asked him what the name was of JFK's real assassin, and he said, Luis Angel Castillo.

Now Castillo deserves his own story, that will be forthcoming if you stay tuned.

JFKcountercoup: Luis Angel Castillo Revisited


FBI Repoert: 124-10187-10208.tif

Now, what needs to be done is a complete review of newspaper articles and CIA records on the Miami conference of Cuban journalists and the dozens of non-profit philanthropic  foundations that were used to funnel funds to covert CIA operations worldwide, as I have done for with the Catherwood Foundation. I would suspect that a review of the Texas based San Jacinto Fund would yield similar results.

I will try to find my copy of The Invisible Government  (1964 – Random House by David Wise and Thomas Ross) and post the list of CIA affiliated foundations, each of which should reveal some Cold War CIA secrets.

In any case, it’s quite clear to me that the assassination of the President at Dealey Plaza must be studied and investigated as a Counter-intelligence operation, much like the way that the Cambridge spies - Philby-Burgess-MacLean and company were eventually identified, and though most of them slipped away, we did learn most of the truth of what they did and how they did it.

I just don’t think Spy Among Friends is interesting enough to explain the tricks of the counter-intelligence trade, though I’ve only seen part one of 6, and it may run for even more instalments. 


Unknown said...

I promised to send you this a year ago and forgot. Hope the link works. I have highlighted a few strange members of the CIA like LBJ, etc.

You may have to cut and paste it I lost your email address email me and I will send you the PDF

MI6 said...

Craig - A very interesting read thank you. We agree that the TV adaptation of Spy Among Friends is a bit slow and the audio is poor making it hard to follow (if only on ITVX in the UK). Nevertheless, an amazing account based on Ben Macintyre's book and Philby's life.

It is worth noting just how many lives and careers Philby and co wrecked or cut short ... thousands including not only agents but of course many MI6 officer novelists such as David Cornwell aka John le Carré but not Pemberton's People in MI6 - best see the news articles about Pemberton at al in TheBurlingtonFiles website. Pemberton and co founded the now famous SAS 22 Regiment in Malaya in 1952 and were not outwitted by Monty's cousin!