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tv   Attempts to Overthrow Cuban Leader Fidel Castro  CSPAN  April 23, 2021 4:27pm-6:01pm EDT

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he wanted a corporation in connecticut the rest of his life and it changed the lives of many people in the cia whose careers were basically not just the top three guys but ended with that kennedy that he wanted to shatter the cia into a thousand pieces. he didn't do that, but he was certainly upset. do we have time for one more? let's do one more question here and then we'll. >> does the book explore the issue of why alan dulles was in puerto rico, left to run probably one of the highest profile operations the cia had planned in many, many years to joe bissell who was, or richard bissell, who was an underling of his, was there any further delving into that situation? >> yeah, it was an imitation that had been to dulles many months before and dulles, i found the invitation.
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basically, this was a retreat for young american executives and invited alan to come talk to them. and dulles went because it was something he didn't go, it would be a tip-off to castro that the invasion was about to happen. if it did go to puerto rico, it would be one more indication that the united states had nothing to do with this. now, in moscow, the newspapers immediately, early as the 18th, run the operation from puerto rico, that's not true. but dulles did give his speech at the same time that chips were exploding in the bay of pigs. that same morning, he was chatting to the group of young executives and it is rather bizarre but it was thought to be the right thing to do. he really didn't know much about what was happening until he came back that evening. and learned at the airport about how badly things were going and then he told his aid, let's get a stiff drink. that's how he handled that.
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i think we need to cut it off here. i'll take, can we do any more questions? >> a question. i just, i don't understand how, if everybody in the world knew that this was going to happen, the cia didn't know that castro knew, did they not have any people infiltrated in the castro organization at the time? if everybody knew, then how did dulles not know that everyone knew? >> yes. it is, it goes back to the weird psychology of the cold war. everyone knew, but again, it wasn't that they thought they were going to get away and nobody would ever suspect the united states. it's just that they were, they wanted to, enough deniability to hide behind that, really so that he wasn't put in a position where he had to escalate. you understand? because if it was too obvious that the united states was
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behind this, he would have no choice for his own political reasons but to escalate probably in west berlin and then john kennedy would have no choice for his political reasons to escalate somebody else. so that's how this worked. it worked on so many different levels. i mean, if there's one thing i learned writing this book is that you don't want to be a president certainly during the cold war. you're faced minute by minute with these life or death decisions and they're incredibly difficult. i'll say the moral for me is that when people write about the bay of pigs, there's often so much anger involved. there has been over history. and a lot of blame goes around. my impression was that most of the people involved in this on all ends were doing it for what they thought were the right reasons. they were basically good people trying to do the right thing for the country. the problem was that it was a
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very difficult thing to do and the way they did it was not the right way. and now, you know, what the answer should have been still isn't really clear to me. john kennedy have thrown in the military entirely into this? well, we can say yes to that but then we have to ask, what would have happened afterwards? what if he had done that and ma what if marines had gone into cuba? it's hard to know how that would have played out. what happened was a tragedy. thank you all very much for coming tonight. i really appreciate it. thank you.
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>> as he approaches his 100th day in office, makes his first address to the joint session in congress on wednesday. watch live coverage beginning at 9:00 p.m. eastern on cspan. online at or visit free on the c-span radio app. >> next on american history tv, historian vince discusses attempts by the u.s. government to overthrow cuban leader fidel castro. he examines the bay of pigs invasion as well as lesser known plans with drug, coffee and
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exploding cigars. this talk was co-hosted by smithsonian associates and the international spy museum. >> good morning, everyone. >> good morning. yes, it is a good morning. it's a great day and after that, it's, well, we won't even go into that. i think it goes downhill. i'm peter earnest, the executive director and delighted to have all of you here with us. let us once again thank the smithsonian volunteers for being with us for this event. if you'd kind enough to turn off your mobile devices, cell phones and so forth. as an agency officer, cia officer, who went through the church pike hearings by vince houghton. before attempted assassinations, none of which succeeded, which either reflects incompetence or
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a lack of commitment or we'll hear one of them today. but looking back at that period, the charges almost seem quaint because today there's very little hesitation by successive administrations of both parties in knocking off the heads of terrorist groups and the leaders of these folks right and left. as you know, at least on a couple of occasions, taking out an american citizen. so looking back on that period, as i say, it almost seems quaint. however, it will be fun to revisit it with my colleague, vince who holds a ph.d. from diplomatic and military history. the area of his research was scientific and technological issues or developments, if you will, in the, during the world war ii and the early part of the cold war. vince also got a masters in relations between the soviet
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union and the united states. also of interest, you may get questions on that, a lively topic today. i should say vince also taught extensively both at the university level, the high school level, and middle school. i would think middle school would be the most challenging. the worst. good for you for being a teacher. u.s. army veteran and served in the balkans. it's my pleasure to introduce my colleague, dr. vince hauten. >> all right. thank you, peter. this is interestingly enough, when we plan the series, in the back, we talked about doing these four great assassinations with one not so great
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assassination. won't really matter that castro is not still alive as we plan these back, let's say, in october. so things have changed a little bit. but the basic idea behind this is killing fidel or, you know, not killing fidel. for a lot of younger people in which i deal with on a day-to-day basis at the museum, castro or the mystique of fidel castro is not well known as it would be for other generations. he hadn't been in charge for a while. he really wasn't this mean ogre of a person who was leading cuba. he certainly was for a lot of people that remember the cold war. a lot of people who lived through the time period. for the most part, castro was somewhat of a caricature of himself at the end and i love this cartoon. to me, it really spells out the end of castro's career once he had been retired. when he died, it was a big deal, a lot of places, but for many of
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college age students or older than that, it was like, okay. some old guy used to be a bad person who died. it didn't matter a lot when it came to the relationship between the united states and cuba or the broader world. so here we're going to talk a little bit differently. we're going to look at the cia attempts on castro's life. the number 6 and 138 according to castro's retired chief of cuban counterintelligence who said in an interview we've counted 638 different attempts by the cia on castro's life. the next 14 hours and 638 slides, we're going to systemically going to go through, no, i'm just kidding. i included this quote on here, it was great. this is from castro. surviving assassination attempts, i would win the gold medal. 639 is a charm.
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this is a spy mew semiexclusive. you're hearing this first before anybody else did. i now have acquired the name of the top secret operation that finally, finally got fidel castro. the name is a little on the nose. they're not as creative as they used to be. this is not an operation overlord kind of thing but finally paid off. mission accomplished. we finally got fidel. it's a funny story for me and my mom will never let me live this down. my fascination with fidel castro started at a very early age. i grew up in miami. i'm not cuban. the blond air, green eyes, transparent skin didn't give that away but everyone i knew, all my friends. and many of the fathers, mothers, grandparents were refugees from cuba. one of my best friends' and
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these are people who came over because they had to. to miami. the funny story behind this is my mom still is in miami. my whole family was down there for many years and i had been up here for ten years. i've lived in washington for the last ten years and every thanksgiving i went home to miami. that's where the family was. my wife's family is in miami as well. every thanksgiving except for this year. the one year i said, i've done a lot of traveling. been out of town a lot. let's just say in washington this thanksgiving and of course, fidel castro dies two days after thanksgiving. i would have been in miami. for the greatest party in the history of the universe on calle ocho. my mom will never live it down. that's what happens when you don't come home for thanksgiving. a horrible dictator dies and you miss a great party. it really was from the very beginning a question that i had to deal with.
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who was this man. somebody i just couldn't reconcile the image of castro that i got from my friends' families, the image of this monster with a lot of information that i had read from, let's say, more objective sources. the real problem you run into, there's not a lot of objective sources when it comes to fidel castro. many were pro castro. you can't get inside the man's head because they're skewed in certain ways. the other people that knew him best are his arch enemies now or were and you're not going to get a straight story from them either. how do you learn this? you look at things and say, this is a man with an incredible following. a man with an incredible charisma. but you hear all these stories about cuban education and cuban medicine being the best in the
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world about how everything is free. later in life, i learned the stories were half true, half nonsense. cuba has some of the greatest medical schools in the world. the doctors aren't there because they've all been shipped overseas. they were sent to venezuela, traded for oil. so the medical care in cuba is not very good for the most people because the doctors of the best in the world there, somewhere else. but you look at things like, these are the pictures of castro before he became el commandante. he wanted to be a major league baseball pitcher that sort of tried out the story of the orioles, more popular than anything else. he really wanted to be, he was a great athlete. good at basketball. somebody who was an avid reader and it was very difficult to kind of reconcile this with the monster i had grown up to think
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about based on my friends and friends' family. so let's tackle the broader question of who is fidel and this is going to be an incredibly controversial topic. again, there's no one that has a blank objective opinion about this. there are people who think he was the world's worst dictator. there are people who think he was a great guy. i'll come down somewhere in the middle. we ask some of these questions. was he a communist? in the end, yes. start out a communist? that's up for historical debate. i've even asked this question of cuban exiles, people who fought against castro for decades. did castro start out a communist? and most of them kind of hedge the question because they know, it's very difficult to say yea, he started out a communist. not because he was a card carrying marxist. the united states because he immediately started nationalizing companies that we had a lot of economic ties to or owned outright.
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you might say, it sounds like a communist to me. he didn't couch this in marxist terms like the cold war idea and more of the nationalist, what nasr did in egypt. that was the rhetoric. the idea, we need to bring these companies back to the cuban people. could he have been a potential partner? this is another counterfactual. anyone know what he visited first when he took power? he came here. right? a lot of people are surprised about that. thinking he went straight to moscow. no, he came to the united states. he came to try to meet with president eisenhower and vice president nixon. neither of whom were available. i guess ike was playing golf and it was purposeful. they did not want to meet with him. it was purposeful that when castro went to new york, couldn't find one except in harlem. the united states made it difficult for him to stay in a hotel in new york.
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don't get me wrong. i'm not saying we pushed him into the hands of the soviets but certainly that argument. the question is broader than that. the idea is, was he ready to embrace a soviet partnership from the very beginning? i think the answer to that is unknown. he wouldn't have come to the united states if he didn't think there was a possibility we could potentially work with hem. you could call this naive. many of his close advisers did call this naive. simultaneously as he was trying to meet with the americans here in the united states, his brother, raul, the current president of cuba and top lieutenants was in moscow, were in moscow, meeting with nikita kruschev. we wouldn't allow for the organizations billions of dollars for american economics. they knew the writing on the wall probably before fidel did. one way or another, however,
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once fidel castro realized there was no possible way of any kind of relationship with the united states, he does reach out to the soviet union. and puts himself in direct, let's call it, a direct confrontational situation with the united states. we were not in a position where we would let a soviet satellite state be so close. and this wasn't kind of sort of reaching out to the soviets. this was a full embrace of soviet ideology. i like to call castro a born again communist. in many ways, he was. when he came back from the trip and realized he was going to have to reach out and embrace the other major power in the world, he very quickly started adopting a lot of these marxist and lennenist term not he hadn't before. it worked. they had a pretty strong alliance as we know from things like the cuban missile crisis
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and the amount of weapons and aid that went to cuba. we're not, i mean, there's a lot of history here. we're not going to cover all of it. we're going to focus more on our attempts to get rid of him. and we're going to get to the bay of pigs. that's obviously one of the big stories here and there were schemes brought up and thought of prior to the bay of pigs and some of them are worth noting. so before 1960, castro takes power on essentially new year's day, 1959. if you've seen godfather part two, you know the story. and prior to the eisenhower administration, there were some basic schemes, and schemes is a good word here as you'll see for trying to take castro out. one of them involved a radio station and castro gave broadcasts about once a week. he would give a stirring patriotic, this is what we're doing inside cuba broadcast to the people inside cuba and one of the early ideas was to spray this radio station with lsd so
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that when castro went and gave his broadcast, he'd be tripping on acid and say crazy stuff and people would stop following him. then there was an idea of taking his cigars and putting lsd inside the cigars so that he would also trip whenever he smoked cigars. there was an idea to put substance that would make his hair fall out. and there's another thing here as well. salts inside his shoes and another thing that makes your hair fall out. the idea behind this was cuban society was very macho and people thought within the united states if castro's beard fell out, he would lose this machismo. if he had no beard and eyebrows, people would refuse to follow him anymore. this is your tax dollars at work, people. these are ideas thought up prior to the big idea. the big idea, of course, was the
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full fledge invasion, the bay of pigs. april 1961 when the actual invasion took place. we can talk for hours about this. i won't because we have other things to talk about. the bay of pigs was designed to take one fell swoop. the flag you see here is the flag of the assault brigade. there's a great story behind this also. it was named that because each of the members of the brigade had a number. not their name. it was kind of their code name. 2506 was the number of the first man who died. that's the interesting part that there weren't this many people in the brigade. only about 1500 people and the brigade that attacked cuba. but the idea was the start, the number system higher so that if someone was captured, say, what's your name and say my number is 2605. oh my god, there's 2600 of you
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here. nice little deception operation. but bay of pigs was operation thought of by the eisenhower administration, dumped on the kennedy administration because kennedy was a lieutenant during world war ii and eisenhower was a five star general. when eisenhower said this is a good plan, kennedy didn't put a lot of thought into it and that's the nicest thing we can say about kennedy in this case. the cubans don't have nice things to say about kennedy. they refuse to vote for a democrat because of what jfk did. that's the nicest, every one of their statements has four letter words i won't say since c-span is covering this. they're not fans. the most charitable thing we can say is kennedy really didn't know what he was getting himself into. the bay of pigs operation was a failure as we know. it doesn't oust castro. many of the members of the brigade were rounded up and
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captured and in many respects, according to others, the bay of pigs actually helps castro to consolidate his power inside cuba. prior to the out against castro. after the bay of pigs he was able to crack down violently on all these movements and lock in his power. and guevara, when he met with the secretary of state under kennedy, he said, thank you so much for that ridiculous operation because it allowed us to lock down power inside cuba. so let's look quickly at what went wrong. there's a lot of rushed planning when it came to the bay of pigs. we knew through intelligence that the soviets were going to ship advanced weapons to cuba as part of the deal that castro had made with khrushchev. so we couldn't wait long to figure out how to get this done right because eventually the
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cuban exiles would be dumped on a beach and running up against state of the art technologically advanced cuban weapons. in 1961 in the early stages when the bay of pigs invasion took place, they were not going up against state of the art soviet equipment. the idea is let's get in as quick as we can so we're not running up against top-level equipment. the broader problem is the internal security of the bay of pigs invasion. there's a lot to this. one of which is how good cuban counterintelligence was. cuban intelligence is one of the best in the world. per capita, probably the best in the world. they have a huge advantage. they only have one external enemy they're focused on, us. the cia only had one country they had to pay attention, to we'd be good at what we're doing. we're good anyway, but we have to look at everybody. the cubans really only needed to focus on the united states, but
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they were very accident very good at doing it. as they passed over the florida straits into miami, estimates vary but there are numbers that say 1 out of every 10 refugees was a member of cuban intelligence. so when the cuban refugee community in miami was planning this operation, there were cuban intelligence assets inside the planning, inside the operation, passing information back to cuba. to the point that a week before, five days before the bay of pigs invasion, radio moscow actually broadcast a message saying cuban exiles are about to invade cuba to kick castro out. you'd think the united states government would be like, this is blown. we cannot do this. they obviously know we're coming. this is a problem, but they don't. they ignore the warning signs. the "miami herald" was ready to publish a piece weeks before the invasion detailing there was a group of training camps in guatemala of cuban exiles
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planning to take out castro. and they sat on it, but the fact that the "herald" knew about this, they weren't in any top secret briefings meant that everybody knew about this. even assuming there had been internal security, assuming the planning was done well, the plan counted on a popular uprising inside cuba. the idea was that the 1500 men of brigada 2506 would land on the beach and the cuban people would rise up against castro. this was wishful thinking. there was no popular uprising. there was no rallying in the streets against fidel. a 1500-man brigade 2506 defending 40 miles of beach along this long coastline against the entire cuban army, plus militia. didn't go well. this is a picture of me standing on the bay of pigs. this is a big open beach. this is d-day. this is not something where you want to just drop 1500
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relatively well-armed but we're not talking about state of the art equipment here, men on the beach against the entire cuban army. and it's not a great area of operations. it's not a way to effectively start a revolution. if you don't get through the beach head, which they don't, you're screwed. you're being pushed back into the sea and there's not much more you can do. and the problem stems down to this group think. the plan came up from the eisenhower administration and kennedy said this is okay because eisenhower is a five-star general and nobody would stand up and say, mr. president, this is really stupid. everyone was really convinced that, yeah, the cuban people will rise up. that's a great idea. yeah, these 1500 guys can start a revolution and defeat castro. that's a great idea. and no one had -- i don't want to put it on their shoulders saying no one had the courage to stand up. i think it's more that people were just wishful thinking. and everyone began wishful
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thinking that this was going to be successful operation. so let's take a look quickly. this is huge. kirkpatrick did a postmortem after the bay of pigs. i wanted to pull out some big key issues they identified to show why this goes bad. the first one is interesting. the cia exceeded its capabilities. we have to remember this is the cia in 1961. during the 1950s, the cia got, let's argue, a little too big for its britches. a bunch of successful operations around the world, overthrowing governments in guatemala and iran. fixing elections in italy. but they're not yet the cia we know and love today. they're not yet the capability of running a massive paramilitary operation in 1961. right? they get really good during vietnam, really good during laos, the secret war in laos, but by 1961, they aren't quite there yet. this is not the same thing as fixing an election in italy. this is a massive paramilitary
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operation. so the idea that the cia is going to run this operation to kick out a very popular president was laughable at this point. let's go to the next bullet point here. failure to collect and analyze intelligence about cuban forces. that's a problem that the cia is not collecting and analyzing intelligence about cuban forces. that's the basics. peter can tell you that's probably plan number one. you should be doing if you are thinking about an invasion of cuba. and it just didn't take the time to do it. has a lot to do with the presidential transition and a lot more to do with the fact the cia just didn't know anything about what was happening inside cuba. insufficient spanish speakers. another one of those guerrilla operations in cuba 101 kind of things that you should know. and lack of contingency plans. when the plan went bad, which it did in the very beginning, the
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"uss houston," a ship borrowed from the u.s. navy, was carrying all the extra ammunition and explosives. that got blown up before it got to the ground. as it was approaching the bay of pigs it exploded. there went all the ammo, all the actual heavy weapons. what do you do now? what's plan "b"? >> there wasn't a plan b. there was no, how do we fix this. no, how do we get them out of this situation? again, not great planning. so bay of pigs is a failure. the u.s. licks its wounds. kennedy comes back and fires all the top leadership of cia including the cia director alan dulles who had been the man who built the cia into what it was at that point. dulles really falls on his sword in this case. it wasn't necessarily his fault but kennedy just felt he needed to clean house and bring in his own team. and he does. and his own team really begins to take things in a different
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direction. instead of looking at these big, huge, broad paramilitary actions, they start really thinking covert. how can we take out castro in a way that's not going to embarrass us if it goes bad and it's not going to get us into a shooting war with the soviets. and the answer to that is a program called "operation mongoose." many of you have heard of it perhaps. this became the catch-all for anything that was focused on destabilizing the human government and taking out fidel castro. there are programs, 638 different operations, which is a nonsense number. it's not really that high. they are counting everything from when a random cuban tried to do something against castro to one of these groups like alpha 66 which are a bunch of old dudes that run around the everglades blowing stuff up. these are not operations that are cia operations. but any time the cia or anybody else tried to do anything to destabilize the castro regime, it kind of came under this broader heading of "operation
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mongoose." and what mongoose was really a multiphased operation. it starts out relatively slow and then builds up over time as we continue to fail to kill castro. we begin to get more and more elaborate in our operations. in mongoose, it includes three pretty famous names in the history of cia. ever landsdale was the covert action guru within cia. he was the guy who was thinking of all the more interesting ways to do a lot of these, what we would consider now, because of church and pike and other things, unethical operation. although i'm not going to say he was a bad guy. he was given the parameters he would work with in, which was do whatever you need to do. william harvey was another great cia covert operator. more on the paramilitary side. harvey was also somebody who, there's like 100 of these, but
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harvey was one of the people brought up as a potential model that ian fleming used to create james bond. that's like, where did washington sleep? there's about 100 different people who were -- who did fleming base james bond on? harvey is somebody that is part of this group. actually, we have it from richard nixon himself. richard nixon said when he and ian fleming sat down and chatted about james bond, fleming told nixon bill harvey was an inspiration for the james bond character. now if you can't trust richard nixon, who can you trust? and then, of course, ted shackley. this name may ring a bell because shackley was the chief of station in saigon during a lot of the vietnam war. he will become a central figure in the "operation mongoose" plan because he was a chief of station in another place and someone that may surprise you and we'll talk about that in a second. so there are some very straightforward attempts at
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castro's life. i want to get those out of the way before we get into more elaborate ones. there were some, let's just go and shoot the dude that you'd think would be the keep it simple, stupid, theory. one of them was felix rodriguez. anyone heard of the name felix rodriguez? some. he's still alive. he lives in miami today. he used to be the president of the brigade 2506 foundation. one of the guys who went in actually before the bay of pigs invasion. it was called a gray team, an infiltration team. after the bay of pigs fiasco, many of the men who were on that mission were invited to join not only the u.s. military, in many cases, as officers, but also were recruited into cia. and felix took the cia route after a short stint with the u.s. army. and was recruited by cia to infiltrate into cuba and shoot fidel castro with a high-powered
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rifle. as simple as it gets, right? castro was given the rifle. it was ready to go. and three times they tried to get him in to the island and three times they failed to infiltrate him into cuba. it was at one time he was on a raft, needed a bigger boat and the boat never showed up. another time the boat showed up but it was a cuban coast guard boat. that's a problem. the third time they were unable to get him that close. eventually they scrapped the plan. but that shows, at first, they were thinking, you know what? let's just do it the old-fashioned way. a high-powered rifle with a bullet can solve our problem any moment. when this failed they went on to other things. there's an interesting coda to this thing with felix rodriguez. he did a lot of things in cia. he never got fidel, obviously, but he got an amazing opportunity as a cuban refugee in 1967 to hunt somebody else down. he was the leader of the cia team that went to boliv va to
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get this guy. anyone recognize the man on the right? that's che. the man on the left? felix rodriguez. this is the last known picture of che guevara alive, taken right before his execution. and felix led the cia-trained team that captured him. so he didn't get fidel but got che. not bad. that's his background. that's his story. so once this doesn't work, we start thinking in more elaborate ways. the elaborate planning is not done mainly from langley here in washington, d.c., area, it's done from a different cia station. now where are cia statios generally. are they in idaho? they're overseas in moscow, havana, beijing. except for the cia station in miami, florida. known as jm wave or jm wave
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without the slash or jm space wave. we'll talk about it as the miami station. this was a cia station in a domestic city, miami, florida. not supposed to be that way, but it was. during the majority of the 1960s, the largest cia station in the world other than the one right here at headquarters was in miami. not moscow. not beijing. not berlin. in miami, florida. and it existed under the cover name of xenopinnacle incorporated. this was a building that -- anyone know miami well? good. now i can make stuff up and -- it was actually over by where currently the miami zoo, kind of in an area that used to be an air station during world war ii. head blimps during world war ii in the middle of nowhere. no one would ever drive by there. when it popped up, no one gave it any thought. it used to be called several different things. these are some of the cover
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names. double check court. gibraltar court. as benign and, you know, boring names as you can possibly come up with so no one would ask anything else. again, largest cia station in the world. 300 to 400 officers at its height. that's pretty big. $50 million budget in 1961. that's a massive amount of money. not only do you have 300, 400 people working for cia but under the auspices of the cia miami station, probably about 15,000 cuban exiles that are, i'm quoting this from cia document connected to them in one way or another. this could be people directly working for them like felix rodriguez. people that are working with part of splinter groups or other things like that. but this is a massive enterprise. and actually ends up being one of the biggest employers in south florida. miami today, you know, the glitz and glamour and lebron and all
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that stuff, would not exist if it wasn't for fidel castro and the cia. i'm not exaggerating. to give you an idea. they had four people at the cia station just working on acquiring real estate and managing the properties that the cia owned down in miami. and i've got a list here. i'm marine as, hunting camps, things like publishing things that make paraphernalia. all of these things were bought and sold by the cia station. they leased more than 100 cars. think about this. you bring 400 officers down there and you are relocating thousands of cuban exiles. they all needed homes, to shop at stores, buy food. the economy in miami went from being a sleepy town where a lot of snowbirds relocated to a bustling metropolis it is because of the cia station and fidel castro. they ran the third largest navy
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in the caribbean just after the u.s. and cuba. access to state of the art aircraft at homestead air force base. but it was the worst kept secret in miami. now i have a great -- i have considered it a great story. my father, the reason i grew up in miami, my father grew up in miami as well. he was not cia. he actually was a p.e. teacher. he started out as the least top secret thing in the possible universe. and his college roommate after they had all stayed in miami after they had graduated. his college roommate said my car broke down and i need a tried work. tell me where you need to go. they're driving down south. they turn right on southwest 152nd street and oh, it's over here. xenotechnical enterprises. my dad goes, i didn't know you worked for cia? everybody -- it was the worst kept secret. the cover story didn't mean
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anything. everybody understood this is where the cia was operating out of to try to kill castro. they had to change their name again because so many people knew what it was and they picked the melmar corporation. got to the point where it was just kind of a joke about how the secret operation working against castro was being held out of miami. this wasn't a small building. it's hard to see. this is a massive enterprise. i'm going to walk over here for a second. all right. these are big buildings. so it took this massive amount of space in miami. these big buildings. it was considered -- the university of miami south campus, that's actually who they rented this space from the university of miami. and then um basically said you just keep it. just keep it. you basically transformed it now completely into a government-run facility. it's all yours. so this is not something you can keep secret, right? it's one thing if you have a safehouse or two in the middle of the woods or running a couple
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of operatives out of. another thing if you have 400 case officers and several thousand cubans going in and out of this compound in south miami. and there's stories that -- felix tells a story of them training in the everglades and pulled over by state troopers. and the trooper seeing anti-tank rifles in the back of their car. and then being like, what -- it was just kind of a nudge, nudge, wink thing. go on your way. go on your business. it's not that odd that you have ap anti-tank weapon in the bask -- back of your car. it's just one of these things that everybody understood. so operations started from the cia station. and the way that if you've seen "godfather part 2" you might be anticipating. the real phase one of "operation mongoose" used the mob as their heavy hitters. this didn't really start out as
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an elaborate plan. this actually was an attempt by cia to keep things very simple. they wanted the mob just to walk up behind castro one day with a .38 snub nose and just shoot him in the back of the head. gangland-style mob killing. the mob, unlike, let's say, al qaeda, doesn't have suicide bombers. so they said, no, we're not going to do this. this is a guaranteed way to get ourselves killed so they demanded a more cia wizz bang bond way of taking out fidel castro. the main people who were the points of contact between the mob and the cia were johnny roselli, sam and travis. so roselli was this kind of middle management mob guy who knew everybody. he's kind of the joe pesci in "goodfellas." the guy that went around and knew all the different mob people. he wasn't made. wasn't at the highest levels but a good middle man go-between between these mob bosses.
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he was a point of contact for cia to reach out to the second man, sam junkana who was the head of the mob. this is the old-school, you know, he is al capone's basic descendant as being in charge of the mob in chicago. as big as they get. if you know the history of the warren commission and jfk assassination, sam and jack kennedy shared a girlfriend. that's where the whole did the mob kill kennedy thing come from? we're not going to get near that conspiracy nonsense today. but that tells you how made this guy was. he was about as big as it gets. and tropicante was the head of the mob in havana during the 1950s. he had a dog in the fight. he had been kicked out by castro with all the casinos and mob people. these are the guys you want to be working with. they are the ones that really, really want to get rid of castro. so the cia said we've got $150,000 on the line. whoever kills castro, the money is theirs. this is ordered from the very,
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very top. we're talking about alan dulles before he gets fired by jfk. now dulles would later on say that he was in a meeting where they discussed using the mob. no one said the word assassination. no one said bad words. we talk about intelligence operation. we never said anything about killing the guy. it was dulles' way of saying he had plausible deniability, but dulles blessed off on the use of the mob here. the cia preferred old-school gangland style but the mobsters refused. they had these ideas of using lethal cigars, not just ones that make his beard fall out but botulism toxin inside cigars and slipping it in. they were never able to get close enough to slip him one of these cigars. then an idea of having a pin with shellfish poison. the same thing created for u2 pilots if they had to commit suicide and were shot down. have somebody brush by fidel and
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stick him. the mob was like, we can't get anybody that close. this is not going to happen. then the idea that actually finally was put into production was to take a liquid poison and drop it inside his coffee or tea and the version of a small pill. they felt they would get to somebody that served castro his drinks and drop a pill inside. well, this is a decent idea. the problem is the first pill they created didn't dissolve. so they dropped it in water and it just kind of floated around in the water. this ain't going to work all that well. the cia's tech people went back and created a second pill that did dissolve, and they decided to check the lethality on, well, what do you check lethality on? a guinea pig. the problem was the specific type of poison they used, guinea pigs were inordinately immune to this particular kind of poison. so the guinea pigs were poisoned and just like -- what? thanks for the drink.
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you're like, oh, man, we have to figure out something else. and somebody finally said, well, you know, this poison doesn't work on guinea pigs. maybe we should try it on something else. finally monkeys. the monkey croaked and died. and they said we've finally got something that can kill castro. the problem they ran into, they had this elaborate operation to get somebody who served castro on a day-to-day basis. that person got cold feet. that person said i'm not going to actually do this. this is not something that's going to make my life go on for very much longer if i get caught doing this. so the idea was, castro liked to go to different restaurants in cuba. he would frequent a restaurant for a few days. okay. we've got a good pattern here. he's going there for lunch a couple of days in a row. but castro knew what he was doing. he wouldn't go there consistently. the minute they'd set up an operation to go poison his tea at this one restaurant, he'd start to go to a different
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restaurant and figure out a plan for that one and go to a different restaurant. they're essentially chasing him around havana trying to find a place to set up an operation to slip this into his tea or coffee. in the end, it doesn't work, obviously, since we killed him in 639, wait for him to get really, really old. the first initial attempt at killing castro doesn't work out. the next slide i am going to bring up, i wasn't sure necessarily if i was going to include this or not. because "operation northwoods." anyone heard of northwoods? so it's new to all of you? that's good and bad at the same time. it was an operation that was proposed but never carried out. and it went all the way up to john kennedy. it was created by the joint chiefs of staff and went all the way to the president's desk and the president said we're not doing this. but the fact that it was proposed has been used by a lot of conspiracy theorists, tin
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foil hat types to say, if the government was willing to do this, they're willing to do anything, like fake 9/11 or fake the moon landing or kill kennedy. northwoods is about as corrupt and shady a plan as you can possibly think of. this is something that i can't believe our joint chiefs of staff came up with. to give you some ideas of what "northwoods" is. the list of different ways we can justify an invasion of cuba to take out castro with the u.s. military. the suggestions were as broad as, staging the assassination of cuban exiles in the united states. having the cia kill cuban refugees and pretend it was the cuban government. developing a fake terror campaign in miami in washington, d.c., and blame it on the cuban government. as someone whose father was living in miami and i wasn't yet conceived, i'm very happy they didn't put this plan into action. they were talking about blowing up buildings in miami and blaming it on the cubans. they were also talking about
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creating a remember the maine incident to blow up like we did -- we, the maine explodes in 1898 in the havana harbor. probably was an accident but we blamed it on spain. started the spanish-american war. we can stake another -- blow up an american ship. blame it on the cuban government. that would justify an invasion. also talked about sinking a boat load of cuban refugees crossing and blaming it on the cuban navy. hijacking a civilian airliner and pretending it was the cuban government doing it. and then even dressing up cuban refugees as cuban army soldiers and having them do an assault on guantanamo bay. all of these are listed in this document approved and proposed by the joint chiefs of staff and handed to kennedy. kennedy said, are you guys out of your minds? this is -- we're not this country. we don't do stuff like this. and kennedy -- but it got -- how did it get to that level? how did it not get stopped
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before it got to the desk of the president? "operation northwords" was and is still used by the conspiracy nutters out there to say if we're willing to do this, what else are we willing to do? so this was a plan that was a little over the top, but it doesn't mean we didn't try other ridiculous things to try to kill castro. one of my favorites is the story of james donovan. anyone know the name james donovan? if you've seen "bridge of spies," tom hanks plays james donovan. he's famous for a lot of things. he's actually the general counsel for the oss during world war ii. also a lawyer for an organization called the osrd which focused on high-tech military research and development during world war ii. later worked for the nuremberg trials and then, of course, the guy who negotiated the release of francis gary powers, the trade for rudolph abel. he was tasked again by the u.s.
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government to go negotiate the release of the bay of pigs survivors who had been captured by the cubans. so we sent him over to negotiate with castro to get these hundreds of cuban exiles released back to the united states. the cia went in and said, look, you'll be in the same room as castro. castro loves to go scuba diving. give him this wet suit. and donovan was like, why am i giving him this wet suit? well, it's got a special fungus on it that will give him this massive skin rash. and inside the snorkel is tuberculosis. and donovan is like, i'm not doing this. number one, i'm a diplomat. i'm not working in your spy world. i'm not going to actually poison this man as i'm trying to negotiate in good faith. so donovan went out and bought a brand-new wet suit and gave that one to castro and the cia was really annoyed at donovan. that was a first attempt.
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another one was similar to this, the idea that castro loved to go skin diving, scuba diving. so someone had the idea of let's create a booby trapped sea shell. if you have seen our lump of coal inside the museum, the world war ii oss, it's in the shape of a lump of coal that you can put next to a railroad line. the idea was to create a fake seashell made out of an explosive and put it down in this area where castro liked to do and make it really pretty and amazing so castro would have to go down and pick tup and when he did it would blow him up. this is very much james bond. and this is nonsense. they wouldn't figure out a way to put it in a way -- a place that he would be guaranteed to pick it up. they also couldn't create an effective seashell that would be big enough to guarantee his death. and if they created one that was so beautiful, it looked so ridiculously fake that there was no way that castro would go and pick it up. so that plan was scrapped as
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well. also the issue of using a woman who had been fidel castro's lover. she had been jilted by fidel so she was really pissed off. i'm not going to get into interest sexist remarks about how mad she was, but mad enough the cia reached out and said do you want to get back at fidel? we want you to kill him for us. she agreed. we sent her back in. this shows how bad our operational security was or perhaps how good cuban counterintelligence was. when she walked in the room, fidel said, you're here to kill me, aren't you? he knew it was coming. and she broke down. she broke down crying. she said i'm sorry. he gave her a stern look and then they jumped into bed together and they were lovers again. so that didn't work out all that well either. then there was a program called a.m. lash. this was the idea of using a poison pen. also one of these in the actual collection. this looks like a normal
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ballpoint pen but instead of the tip of the pen there's a hypodermic needle. you can fill it with some kind of disease or biotoxin and stab a person with it. the interesting part about this is this plan was actually being hashed probably the exact same moment as john kennedy was being shot in dallas. so as one president is being assassinated, there was a plan being hatched in paris for another assassination taking place. and then everyone has heard the story of the exploding cigar. the reason i have this last, it's somewhat apocryphal. it's likely we try to do this. likely we created one that would, when he lit it, it would explode in his face and blow him up. it's very difficult to do. and just like the cigar with botulism, even more difficult to plant on his person, inside his cigars. but i want to point out that creating an exploding cigar is an idea that's been thought of before. this was not a brand-new idea
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the cia concocted. this was thought up by a very important person who decided this was a great way of taking care of his enemies. of course, that's bugs bunny. daffy duck, you know, the exploding cigar and jerry and tom. guys, literally, this plan is out of looney tunes. the cia is pulling stuff out of cartoons and trying it. now i don't know if there's a chicken/egg argument, do the cartoons do the play up on the actual mission but exploding cigars is not something that an agency that takes itself seriously is concocting. and i want to make a side note here because there's something we have to understand that this is out of pure desperation. this is not, let's think of the most ridiculous thing we can possibly do. this is let's think of any possible way that we can find to take out fidel castro because we were desperate to do so. sometimes desperation leads to amazing innovations. sometimes desperations leads to
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the sr-71. sometimes it leads to the internet. other times it leads to exploding cigars. it just depends on what direction you take it in. so that's really the end of the cia-type operation. there's about 50 other groups that tried to kill castro over time and failed in their own special ways. but i do want to highlight one because one guy got very, very close several times. his name is louis carillas. he was a member of 2506 and then went to the u.s. army afterwards. he was actually -- it's hard to read this. this is his picture when he was inducted into the u.s. army. he was part of brigade 2506 and actually the intelligence officer. this is an original spook who had been working against castro since the very beginning. and he was as hard core anti-castro as it got. and he was able to get very close to taking out fidel
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castro. let me give you a little background before we talk about panama specifically. he was known to work with orlando bosch, another cuban exile. he and jorge posada cariles worked together to try to disrupt the cuban economy, disrupt the cuban government, to kill fidel. they are both wanted, still, to this day, although bosch is now dead, but they are still both considered the ringleaders behind the bombing and destruction of cuban airlines flight 455. this was a commercial aircraft carrying a big chunk of the cuban fencing team from the pan-american games. they just won the gold medal and the plane exploded in the air killing everybody on the plane. and bosch and cariles were considered the two people that got the bomb on the plane. the idea was to kill cubans, kill cuban government officials. and many of them are completely
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unapologetic about their targets. these are people that are considered terrorists even by the u.s. government today. but in many respects, they're heros to many of the cuban exile community. the only ones actually taking it to the cuban government in many ways. interesting crossover, cariles was the deputy to felix rodriguez in the 1980s working in latin america. this is when felix was no longer with cia. he was an independent contractor in el salvador. helping to fund the anti-communist forces. iran/contra comes around. depending who you ask, felix kind of washed his hands of iran/contra but posada cariles jumped in with both feet and was wrapped up in iran/contra. also later on tourist bombings in havana and other places in 1997 that are traced to posada cariles. the interesting thing for the spy museum is in -- right after the 1997 tourist bombings, the
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fbi went into havana to help do the investigation of these tourist bombings. instead of investigating them all that deeply, they were able to uncover the evidence that led to the arrest of the cuban five here in the united states. so even the fbi dictated cariles and others as dictators didn't take it all that seriously to go ahead and find out what he was doing wrong against the cuban people. they used the opportunity to go inside havana to try to capture these cuban spies who were spying against the united states. so the panama plot is where he almost got castro. in panama city, cariles was discovered right before he had the opportunity to place 200 pounds of high explosives in the lectern that castro was about to give a speech. and right before, and this is --
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can you imagine the kind of destruction that would have done. he got close enough that they had to essentially arrest him on the premises as he was about to plant these bombs. so he got pretty close. he was actually captured. after this, jailed by panama. and then later pardoned because, you know, that's not really all that against the law. trying to kill castro. the fact that somebody with this rap sheet, that's why i included the rap sheet -- was pardoned and is now living his retirement down in florida, a free man, tells you a little bit about the american and our allies' attitude towards people who try to take out fidel castro in our name. and then we look at some of the precautions that fidel took until the very end of his life. and it came much, much more difficult after mid-1960s, late 1960s to consider going after fidel castro. he deployed food tasters. you want somebody to eat your food first so that you don't drop dead of poison.
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this is what a lot of dictators do nowadays is hey, drink this water first. see if it tastes funny. he also had his -- a lot of people sent him gifts as he was getting sicker and sicker. every one of his gifts were opened up and taken apart to make sure there weren't exploding cigars over anything tucked inside the gifts. he used to love to walk around havana. that made him like a person of the people where he would just take strolls and talk to the average citizen. well, after the couple of first assassination attempts he stopped doing that. it was really holed up inside several compounds inside cuba, right outside havana. i was there before he died, in the springtime, i guess, and you would drive by these areas and there would be just back off the main street, there would be a street that would have a big gate on it and military vehicles outside of the gate and be like, that's one of fidel's houses. and no one actually ever knew
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where he was. i asked the question, where does fidel live? they're like, nobody knows. even the cuban people didn't know. they know where his houses were. those are easily identifiable, but nobody but his top, top people knew which one he was in, at any one time. he had body doubles. people who looked a lot like him so in case he wanted to shoot somebody, hit the body double instead. and he had multiple addresses. he was somebody who was never in the same place at the same time. this had to be exhausting. you look at the longevity of this man, it's extraordinary. not just the fact he chain smoked cigars or was known to be someone who liked to eat a lot of rich food or had a very healthy appetite for female companionship or somebody that had so many people trying to kill them so many different times. the fact he was constantly on the move, constantly under stress he was going to be assassinated, constantly worried about his tiny country being invaded by the united states. i'm not saying i admire the man. i'm saying his longevity is
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extraordinary the fact he lived as long as he did. i'm going to end with my favorite story which is apocryphal about fidel castro. and it may be true. maybe not. this comes from like the telephone game of stories. so the joke is that one time fidel castro was giving a galapagos turtle as a gift. and they said, fidel, these turtles live up to 100 years. the story is fidel gave the turtle back and said, that's the problem with pets. they just die on you. this was a man who understood no matter what you try to do, he was going to keep on kicking. and really it's old age that got him in the end. a lot of people look at -- i asked this question. fidel has retired, but has he really retired? in the end he had. he was really out of touch with hat was going on in the day-to-day operations. raul was really running things the last couple of years.
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when something big came up, he got on the phone and said let's do it this way, but the final thing that got him was just he lived a long and exciting life and then operation wait for him to get really, really old and he'll eventually day and finally got fidel for us. so i'm going to open up to any questions. i'd feel happy to answer anything. i thank you. we do have a mic, two mics that are going to go around. >> you know, emphasis on how much high-level emphasis there was. i seem to remember being told that when robert kennedy was the attorney general on his way home to hickory hill every day, or almost every day he'd stop at headquarters and talk about this. so i think that's something worth pointing out, that this was, obviously, the attorney general but also the white house was extremely interested. >> yeah, it really became an unnatural obsession. this little country that had no real national security impact at
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this point. they had already finished nationalizing everything, right? the businesses were screwed one way or another. and granted, once the soviets were there as a military unit, they became a little bit more of a national security threat. until there were missiles there, they weren't at all. and, you know, we've been holding on, this is politicking a little bit. we've been holding on to this idea that cuba is a national security threat, and they're not, right? they are an intelligence threat. that's a whole other ball game. their intelligence operations are amazing. like the cuban five is a great story. they were arrested for spying. and they didn't get life in prison because they had a very interesting defense. they said we weren't spying on the united states. we were spying on the cuban exile community. you're like, that's about as logical a response as you can get, right? castro was worried about the exile community coming and invading. sure, he was worried a little
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about the united states military but after a certain point, certainly after we pledged not to invade and looked like we weren't going to do it, it was the exile community behind the cia that the worry was. but it's interesting to see how obsessed the kennedy administration got. i think it goes back to the bay of pigs. that embarrassment, it really played to the psyche of kennedy. it made him distrust cia, even when he put john mccohn in. even when he got a little faith back and abilities of the intelligence agencies it put a real big whack on his belief in competency coming from langley. i saw one over here. she's coming up with the microphone. >> hi. i have a little bit of a side question. by way of background, i worked on the internet for 40 years and i'm doing research on a book for the internet so i was wondering, can you explain what you meant when you said desperation led to the internet because -- no,
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seriously, that's something i have never heard and i have worked on the internet since the very beginning. >> when you are looking at -- when you are looking at arpanet, the idea was, can we create a fast and efficient way to communicate? and to communicate securely. that's what the darpa was trying to create. talking about desperation at the highest levels. you had the very -- you're not saying what you're supposed to say. desperation at the highest levels. cold war broader desperation. the idea that we need to create technologies that will give us a leg up on what the soviets are doing. you want to try to claim the internet is not as a civilian? >> first, internet and arpanet are two very different things and they have to be disambiguated. >> and the internet and arpanet are two different things. i'll get off this and talk to you about it afterwards. but in -- i do believe that what you said is factually incorrect
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based on having interviewed people who were in leadership positions in darpa during the '70s. but, okay. it's -- you know, it's not like the bowling green massacre, but i think you are not right. >> all right, i am, but that's fine. >> it's always good to hear vince shamed publicly. >> you are assuming i have the ability to feel shame. >> you're right. you're right. we love this. >> there were all these plans to kill castro. was there any plan what happens if they worked? >> no, no. >> a follow-up plan? there's raul. >> there were contingency plans. the problem you run into is that by the time, mid'60s comes around, there were a lot of claims to the throne by the exile community. it would be a power vacuum like
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no other. i mean, we've seen some recently that were pretty nasty, but a pretty significant power vacuum. raul steps in. che steps in. the idea was this cult of personality of castro, which it was, right? no question has charisma, his gravitas rallied the people behind him. if you cut off the head, that was the theory. the fact that people will rise up. at that point, it's unlikely, especially after bay of pigs. what castro did is to consolidate and bring power not just under him but under the government. under the system that had been created. so it's a counterfactual conversation, obviously, that if castro had been killed in 1965, would it have made a difference? some say yes. there's a lot of strong evidence that says you're in a position where castro dies, doesn't necessarily mean the government collapsed. it could go on, going on, especially with raul in charge or maybe che.
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che was never really a political leader. more an ideas guy. raul could have certainly stepped in or somebody else. at the very beginning, that made a lot more sense, right? when castro was still consolidating his power, taking out fidel would have had a huge impact because he was a guy everyone rallied behind. but as the government became more bureaucratic, as it became more like a government, it wouldn't necessarily have been a game-changer, i don't think. but there were contingency plans but i don't think they were realistic. and it would have been chaos. basically the tens of thousands of miami cubans rushing back to try to take their property back to try to -- who is in charge? there was a hierarchy within the miami exile community but splinter groups that had broken off that didn't agree to that hierarchy. it was very difficult. would have been very interesting, and i say that kind of in a sardonic way.
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would have been complete bonkers if it happens. amanda's got somebody there. >> i know you tried to avoid the subject of kennedy's assassination, but i'm just curious in your humble and speculative opinion, do you think either the cuban government and/or cuban exiles had anything to do with the assassination? >> i don't think the exile community had anything to do with the assassination. they were mad, but i'm a firm believer that lee harvey oswald pulled the trigger three times. and there's no evidence whatsoever that any ties to the cuban exile community. there's evidence that he had ties to the cuban government. but i think fidel would have let us know. he's that kind of guy. i think as he got older he would have been like, you know what i did? he had nothing to lose at that point, right?
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i think conspiracies, unless they can be proven -- i know this is a trite comment. i'm a firm believer in the razor idea that the simplest solution is usually the right solution. what you are looking at here is, he could have taken that shot, taken all three of those shots. the physics work. there's no reason to bring any kind of conspiracy into this. oswald was a deranged young man who thought killing kennedy was a good idea to help the soviets and the cubans, maybe they had something to do with it, but it's not in their best interest, right? if the cuban government sends him over to kill kennedy we'd turn it into a parking lot. i look back at the zimmerman telegram. gets world war i started. the german government says in mexico, attack the united states if they join world war i and we'll give you back the states. the mexicans are like, you're out of your mind. well, i can see the cubans doing
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something very similar. even if oswald went to them and said i want your help assassinating kennedy. no, no, no, we're on decent terms right now, right? they just agreed not to invade. i mean, castro was annoyed the russians pulled all the missiles out, but his number one goal was to make sure the cuban people and cuban government stayed under his power and he accomplished that. killing kennedy just opens that up for a possible reversal of that because you aren't going to have -- that would be the only invasion in american history with 100% approval rating. if the cuban government was proven to be behind the kennedy assassination, okay, everybody sign up and go. there doesn't seem to be a reason for either of those governments to be involved. but i could be wrong, right? i mean, who knows? yeah, amanda is in charge. >> i am kind of interested in
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the later history when or if we sort of stopped worrying about assassinating fidel and decided to wait him out? >> so the miami station was basically shut down or dropped down to like very few people about 1968. we were a little more focused on vietnam at that point. shackley had been moved to the saigon station chief. of course, by 1975 and peter talked about the church and pike hearings, where a lot of these assassination plots were revealed to the public for the first time. then something like executive order 12333, which peter alluded to this and these things seem to be commonplace today, but we're not offing political leaders today. and actually that was because of what comes out of the mid-1970s decisions, whereas now it's illegal for us to assassinate political leaders. now we get around that because
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al qaeda and other things. these aren't political leaders. they're terrorists. but it became actually illegal in the united states for us to target castro. that doesn't mean he wasn't targeted, but it wasn't a u.s. government policy. again, you have these groups like alpha 66 and i hope none of them are watching c-span right now. alpha 66 is a group of now very old men who run around the everglades shooting leaves and alligators and stuff, getting ready for the time where they can go and invade and take their country back. you know, there were attempts like what cariles did, alpha 66, trying to plan some kind of real operation. but none of them were backed by the u.s. government. because there's no reason at that point. i think most people in the high levels of the intelligence and defense world realize that cuba was not an issue anymore. this is especially true once the soviet union begins to fall because the soviet union was the
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reason cuba was considered a national security threat. certainly by the mid-1980s. cuba is not something that you are paying a lot of attention to. now why did people keep paying attention to it? because florida needed to be won in national elections. and south florida needed to be won if florida was going to be won and you had a ton of cuban voters in south florida who were going to vote for keeping the embargo. if youed to win cuba as a republican you needed to talk about how bad castro was. so you see the reagan administrations and bush administrations, even clinton talking about how bad castro is because if you want to win the united states presidency, you need to win florida. and until very recently and actually the census data for this is from maybe like ten years ago. cuban americans now only make up 49% of hispanics in south florida. so they're not the majority of hispanics in south florida anymore. and many of the younger cubans,
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so the sons and grandsons and daughters and granddaughters of the exiles are actually not still pissed off at john kennedy and are willing to vote more like young people, vote no more democratic and that's why you start seeing this shift in american policy towards a lightening of cuban sanctions, towards the thaw that started before the obama administration, even with the clinton administration because politics in south florida have dramatically changed. but you can -- it's safe to argue that it's stayed the way it did for so long because of political reasons, not because any national security reasons. most of the community had realized cuba was not a threat. by the mid-'60s, most people realized this. does that answer the question? yeah. we're going to go this side and then we'll come back over here. >> any speculation on your part as to what happens in cuba when
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raul eventually dies? >> well, they have a designated successor. they have a guy lined up. he's in his 50s. he's got, you know, with the trend that's going on, he's got 40 years or so that he can be in charge. there's a designated successor. the cubans that i talk to said that doesn't necessarily mean anything because when raul dies, there will be a little bit of a tussle to be in charge but there is a hand-picked successor who has a leg up at this point. he's a younger guy but he's still very -- he's not going to be some big reformer. the likelihood is that he'll be keeping the policies the same way they are today. but they were smart enough to realize that they needed to kind of name somebody. basically his job, he's like the -- he's like the attorney general or -- a high-level government official that has basically been named by raul as, when i step down. that's probably what will happen. raul is not dying any time soon. when i step down, this is the person that's going to take over. now theoreticalry, they're
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supposed to have elections for this stuff. fidel won with like 98% of the vote every single time. probably raul was the only one who voted against him. and, you know, so it's a democracy, but they are basically saying this guy is in charge next. so there's not a whole lot of democracy involved there. but it should be a relatively peaceful transition. theoretically. it never is perfect. you went from one brother to the other and that went pretty well. but a lot of the cuban people are a little worried about that because they said that if raul does die, there's no one really around anymore to put the power behind this guy. so there might be a little bit of a power struggle. but it's unlikely because most people basically said this is the next person in line. you can actually google it. it's michael somebody or other, miguel something or the other. i'll pay attention to him when it's time. i've got enough other things to worry about. but there are people at cia paying a lot of attention to him
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because he's the designated next guy. >> i understand that rafael trujillo was assassinated in 1961. was there any overlap in those who plotted trujillo's assassination with those plotting, attempting to kill castro? >> depends on what level. when you're looking at plotting, at the highest levels of the cia, you have the same couple of people making these decisions. the deputy director of operations. the director of plans at the time. when did that shift? plans to operations, peter? it was still plans at the time. ddp, deputy director of plans. people like bill harvey and landsdale and others making these operations. at the actual -- oh, people overlap on the ground? the plan for the castro was done
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with cuban exiles first and foremost. they only cared about cuba, right? and the -- they were great because they had a singular focus. great because they were really, really dedicated. they still are really, really dedicated to this day. castro dying, they had a celebration. okay, who is next? it's raul. i mean, it's cuba is not -- cuba is not free until cuba is free. for a long time, it was a cult of fidel but they realized like everybody else that it now becomes the government of fidel. and until the government of fidel is brought down, then there is no freedom. and you have to think these guys for 60 years now have been the same thing, feeling the same thing. as passionate as they've ever been. and that's pretty extraordinary. just as extraordinary as the longevity of fidel. the longevity of their passion. i can understand. look, i've never had my homeland taken away from me. i could understand if i did, i'd be pretty annoyed about it and
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probably want to do something about it. that's the situation that you're seeing here with these exiles communities down in florida. did that answer the question to the degree -- i mean, it's the -- from the highest levels of cia, you're talking about the same people. beyondpeople. beyond that they are farming it out to different groups. and it's always good to use internal people if you can. the likelihood for a lot of reasons, basically the legitimacy of governments, it is somewhat dinged up if people come up from the outside. so you want to use dominican, zero guatemalans, and you know you want to use cubans when you have cubans. so it's not always cross pollinate it. that really destroys legitimacy if you bring in people from the outside. especially in the latin american communities. latin american communities are some of the most prideful in their own background. and you would be surprised and maybe not but i was surprised to hear and see how derogatory
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they can be towards other communities. you know for people like from idaho a hispanic is a hispanic. and that is not the case. central americans have different ideas, south americans other ideas, and caribbean's they think that they're better or worse than others. and argentinians think they are better than everybody. so there is this hierarchy that every country has. and it's different. so that's why it's very dangerous to do a cross polynesian. and it's a long winded answer but i think it's what you're looking for. any other questions? yes right here. >> thank you. we are we're actually down there last year, and we actually went snorkeling in the bay of pigs. >> it's gorgeous. >> it's beautiful it's a nature preserve now and everything. but when they told us when we are down there, not only has he
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named a successor brigade 2506 raul in february 2018, but they are resigning. and my question is towards the end when obama and others had the rapproachment, was there a split over that? and after that what do you think the repercussions of the new administration are going to be with regards to cuba? >> there was not a big split. basically phil was the perfect mouthpiece at that time. if you remember fidel came out and he ripped the united states, and he said i understand this is happening i like it's happening but but the u.s. is not a great satan. and you know they are the bane of our existence. this is been his mantra from the very beginning. that is why when castor was in power, he did not have this when fidel was in power, you
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didn't have this kind of handshake. because the easiest thing for fidel to do, was to blame the united states for all the problems of cuba. the one thing i always argued against the embargo, was that you are feeding right into his hands. because the cuban people don't have the food they need, it's because the americans are embargoing it. if you don't have the freedom, it's because we have to protect against americans. if they don't have the keeping people whatever they need is because of the americans fault. we were the bogeyman that castro could always point to and say your problems are because of them. now raul is in a position where he can still kind of tweak that but it's much more difficult for him to say it is because of the americans. and one of the things that the obama but a plush mom did was make it where you could not use us as a bogeyman anymore. because you had the physical embargo it's still there, now we can travel down there, and
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you know that was ended at the obama administration. wet foot dry foot. it was an interesting policy for immigration. that only for cubans, if you're caught crossing from cuba to the united states and you're still in the water. we will pick you up and send you back to cuba. but the minute you step foot on dry land you can stay. so literally if this is the waterline, and i'm standing on the beach. and this is the waterline the waves are coming in, if the u.s. coast guard catches me three feet into the water, they ship me back to cuba. but if i'm running and i lay out and i make it onto the beach, i have asylum. that was wet foot dry foot. it's the most ridiculous policy. but it was done specifically for cuba. one of the last things that the obama administration did was and wet foot dry foot. it puts cuban exiles in our anybody trying to travel to the united states from cuba it puts them on the same footing as
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anyone else trying to get political asylum. so with the obama administration was trying to do and i agree with this, not because i'm a democrat, i grew that because studying cuban policy for decades, is try to take away that target. take away that excuse, for the cuban government. by saying your problems are because of the united states. and there's a lot of problems in cuba. they have some issues. i don't know where you stayed when you are there? there is about a one square mile area in havana, that is just gorgeous. it's like you're in venice. it's cobblestone streets and outdoor cafés. they're gorgeous buildings. there's no trash anywhere, art sculptures. it is absolutely beautiful. you go outside of that area, you're back in the 19 fifties. there's nothing done about anything, people laying in poverty. the craziest thing, everyone walks down the middle of the street.
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it's like why are you walking down the middle of streets? they're afraid to walk in the sidewalks, because balconies fallen people and kill the. so they walk down in the middle of the street. it's easier to work or you don't go through traffic then dodge falling balconies. we stayed in the nice area. we stayed with people in the not so nice area, and down the street neighbors the entire house collapsed while people were in it. and they don't fix it they pull bodies out and they leave it. there's no money to fix anything. all their doctors, their doctors are amazing but they're all venezuelan. they were sent there to help. >> -- ? >> yes venezuela when they collapse maybe that will get their doctors back. and they needed oil, they basically are trading doctors for all oil. and the fact is, their doctors make less money per month than
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i do in a day. and so a lot of times doctors will come back from the hospital, and have to clean somebody's house to make extra money so they can feed their family. that is cuba today. for decades, like i was saying fidel was able to say it's their fault. that was because of the embargo, because of the policies of the united states. but getting rid of that stuff, there is no one to blame but themselves. and that is one of the great things of trying to change these cuban policies. >> yes but. >> yes but? >> okay if you ask me can i get inside donald trump's head, i will say number one i don't want to get in there. i will have nightmares for weeks. but i do not know what he's going to say next to do next. it is you know what the upon with the obama administration did was make it difficult to roll some of this stuff back. particularly when some within
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the cuban community were happy about this. you had people visiting, you had people sending money who weren't able to send money before. seeing family who they weren't able to see before. rolling this stuff back at this point, the world didn't end. we opened up you a little bit, and the world didn't end. so people are like all right there goes that bogeyman. i cannot imagine it's high on the parties list, but none of this i thought was high on the priority list. i thought russia hacking was high on the list but it's partly not. so i don't how my crystal ball here, and i can't do that. i hope they continue. it sounds like from those i know at state, it sounds like rex tillerson, even though he was the exxon ceo, it he knows what he's doing. or at least is willing to learn. willing to take the job seriously. and at this point, it's not military intelligence, its state department. and if the stake goes to the
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president, you think and they say we're want to keep doing what we're doing, it's working its benefiting us. american businesses might be able to move in there sooner rather than later. we'll get you a nice car whatever you need to do. then i think we are in good shape. and it's not just about wanting to go down there on vacation, it's about the idea that this is an island with an amazing culture. great baseball players. there's a lot there. and it's not just music, culture they are 90 miles away and it's a wonderful place and before castro took power it was fantastic. the mob was there that was bad. right. bautista was there that was he was a tyrant. but for most really it's it's a paradise. it's a paradise from 90 miles from key west. it is something i think and i'm hoping will continue in this direction. and if anybody can predict it will godless you, you'll make a lot of money. but i can't be that person.
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i have time for one more question? as right there. >> i want to cut to the chase, and we were desperate to do so, do what extent do historians now believe they can be directly ordered as they ordered the assassinations. you know the apology tests, they have not acknowledged it, and there's a biography of robert kennedy saying there's no evidence. what is the current state of evidence whether john kennedy, directly basically said go get them? >> okay the cia, is not going to make those decisions on their own. even before -- nowadays any covert a operation has to be signed off. and that was not the case before. but under dulles, they will not make these kind of decisions. because dulles, it does have free rein under eisenhower but


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