315. Editorial Note

In a May 23, 1967, memorandum for the record Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency J. S. Earman indicated that beginning April 24 he transmitted in installments a 133-page report to Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms on plots to assassinate Fidel Castro. A copy of the report is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 233, JFK Assassination Collection, Microfilm File 104–10184–10001, CIA Files, Job 80–T01357A, Box JFK64, Folder R48–ZZ. After reading a March 7, 1967, column by Drew Pearson that alleged the United States attempted to assassinate Castro, President Johnson directed Helms to conduct an investigation. (Interim Report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, Report No. 94–465, “Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders,” November 20, 1975, page 179) The result was the Inspector Generalʼs Report of April 24, 1967, which clearly indicated that the CIA was in contact with and cooperated with Major Rolando Cubela of the Cuban military in plans to assassinate Fidel Castro. The operation was known as Project AMLASH. After receiving the report, Helms orally briefed the President about its contents. According to his testimony before the Select Committee, when asked by the Committee if he had told the President “that efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro had continued into Johnsonʼs Presidency, Helms replied, ‘I just canʼt answer that, I just donʼt know. I canʼt recall having done so.’” (“Alleged Assassination Plots,” page 179) When asked whether President Johnson had been informed of or had authorized continuing efforts to assassinate Castro, Helms replied: “The Special Group would have continued to consider these matters, and I would have assumed that whoever was chairing the Special Group would have in turn reported to the President, which was the usual practice.” (Ibid., page 180)

The records of the Special Group for the Johnson administration do not record any consideration, authorization, or involvement by the United States in any plot to assassinate Castro during the Johnson administration, even though the CIA had a relationship with Cubela. Special Group/303 Committee Records of June–August 1964 indicate only that, in regard to rumors of Cuban émigré assassination plots against Castro and selected Cuban leaders, McCone and McGeorge Bundy were to inform Attorney General Kennedy to use U.S. law enforcement agencies to prevent such plans. (Minutes of Special Group Meetings, June 18, 1964, and July 30, 1964; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 5412 Special Group/303 Committee Records) The June 18, 1964, Minutes of a 303 Committee meeting read: “Mr. McCone was somewhat skeptical of the reported plots and stated that he would like [Page 742] to go into the matter further. Others, including Mr. Bundy, felt that the United States was being put on notice and should do everything in its power to ascertain promptly the veracity of the reports and then undertake prevention. It was decided that Mr. Bundy would call the matter to the Attorney Generalʼs attention as a matter of law enforcement.” (Ibid., Minutes of the June 18, 1964, meeting) Following an FBI investigation that dismissed the reported exile assassination plans, McCone sent Bundy an August 19 memorandum reviewing the investigation and agreeing with the FBI analysis. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cuba, Exile Activities, Vol. I, 11/63–7/65)

In the minutes of the Special Group/303 Committee meeting on January 7, 1965, a CIA January 6 paper acknowledges Rolando Cubela only as “a representative of an internal military dissident group, which is plotting to overthrow Castro.” The minutes indicate the Committee members asked, “What sort of man is Cubela?” See Document 295 and footnotes 3 and 4 thereto.

The Select Committee concluded: “the records of the Special Group do not show any consideration of Castroʼs assassination or of the AMLASH plot during the Johnson administration (or earlier) and there was no other evidence that McCone or anyone above the Agency was informed of or specifically authorized the AMLASH plots.” (“Alleged Assassination Plots,” page 180)

The CIA Inspector Generalʼs Report of April 24, 1967, provides considerable information about Project AMLASH during the Johnson administration. The Report indicates that a CIA officer was passing an assassination weapon, a ballpoint pen rigged with a hypodermic needle for Black Leaf 40 poison, to Rolando Cubela, AMLASH–1, at the very hour that President Kennedy was shot. (Inspector Generalʼs Report, pages 93–95)

The Inspector Generalʼs report provides background on Rolando Cubela Secades, the second-ranking leader of the Directorio Revolucionario (DR) 13 de Marzo, an elite group of leftist students founded in 1956 to organize violence to overthrow the Batista regime. (Ibid., pages 78–79) Although close to Castro, Cubela became disenchanted with him. When the CIA first contacted him in March of 1961 in Mexico City, Cubela was non-committal, but he soon began to insist that the essential first step in overthrowing the Cuban regime was the elimination of Castro himself, which Cubela stated he was prepared to accomplish. (Ibid., pages 79–90)

After the aborted ballpoint poison pen incident, Cubela attempted to obtain a silencer for a Belgian FAL submachine gun, but the CIA was unable to produce one in time to be included in an arms cache drop. (Ibid., page 97) On December 6–7, 1964, in Paris, the CIA informed Cubela that the United States could no longer be involved in [Page 743] the attempted assassination of Castro and that he would have to get help elsewhere in this respect. (“Alleged Assassination Plots,” page 89; Inspector Generalʼs Report, page 100) Instead, the CIA put Cuban exile leader Manuel Artime and Cubela together in such a way that neither knew that the contact had been engineered by the Agency. “The thought was that Artime needed a man inside and Cubela wanted a silenced weapon, which CIA was unwilling to furnish to him directly. CIA did not intend to furnish an assassination weapon for Artime to give to Cubela, and did not do so.” (Inspector Generalʼs Report, pages 100–101) Artime and Cubela met in Madrid on December 27 and December 30, 1964, where Artime agreed to provide a silencer to Cubela. (Ibid., pages 101–102) In Madrid on February 10–12, 1965, Cubela met Artime and reportedly received a Belgian FAL rifle with silencer and a pistol with silencer. Also during February 1965, Cubela requested financial assistance from several CIA officers for emergency travel expenses, and was given a total of $8,200. (Ibid., page 106)

According to the Inspector Generalʼs Report, “On June 25, 1965, headquarters sent a cable to the stations concerned directing termination of contact with members of the Cubela group. It read in part: ‘convincing proof that entire AMLASH group insecure and that future contact with key members of group constitutes menace to CIA operations against Cuba as well as to security of CIA Staff personnel in Western Europe. Under circumstances headquarters desires that contact work with key members of the group be eliminated as rapidly as possible, and that assets who may be in contact with individual members of the group or peripherally involved in AMLASH conspiracy be warned of danger implicit in these associations and directed to eliminate contacts ASAP.’” (Ibid., page 106) The CIA decided to terminate all contacts with the Cubela group, after it became apparent “that the circle of Cubans who knew of Cubelaʼs plans and of CIAʼs association with them was ever-widening.” (Ibid., pages 104–105) In March 1966, Cubela was arrested by Cuban security police, confessed his guilt, and, after Castroʼs written request to the prosecutor that the death penalty not be imposed, was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. (Ibid., pages 107–111)