tv Lectures in History National Intelligence Under President Kennedy CSPAN September 3, 2021 4:18am-5:25am EDT
in this introductory course, we're continuing our historical survey of american intelligence under each presidential administration. and now we've come to the presidency of john f kennedy. january 1961 to november 1963. kennedy was a formal former naval officer. so he thought he knew something about intelligence. he was also a big fan of the james bond novels written by ian fleming. i've pictured him with his brother robert kennedy because the brothers together had great influence on us intelligence. there's a lot to say about us intelligence center kennedy, even though he served less than a full term because of course he
was assassinated by a pro-cuban american leftist a disturbed former marine named lee harvey oswald at the end. i'll have some reflections about the assassination. before we get to the main intelligence events of this administration. i want to mention a couple of other developments that they're not as spectacular, but still they deserve to be remembered as important milestones in us intelligence history and they leave a legacy to this day. one of them is the president's daily brief. which was created for kennedy as the president's intelligence checklist when i first came to cia in 1990 i was i learned that one of the nicknames that insiders used was the pickle factory. they never use the company, but they used the term the pickle factory and i couldn't figure out what it was until later. i became a ci historian and heard about the pickle. the president's intelligence checklist. it was renamed.
of course the president's daily brief and continues to this day. every president has used it and most have benefited from it. it was new in the sense that well, i mean president truman started the the tradition of cia presenting to him a daily intelligent summary, but the pickle and later the pdb was the first specifically presidential product that was tailored to the president's agenda his style and his interests with extremely limited distribution. so this is a major intelligence legacy from the kennedy administration. another very important development was the creation of the defense intelligence agency in october of 1961 further expanding this constellation of agencies. we know is the intelligence community as we've learned in previous class that community around the time of the end of
world war ii comprised just the state department fbi in the military branch intelligence organizations, and then with cia's creation 1947 ci becomes central to that community president truman added the national security agency in 1952. to president eisenhower added the national reconnaissance office to coordinate cia and air force activities regarding imagery from spy planes and and satellites that were coming online and then under kennedy. the defense department gets its own intelligence agency dia today is a major national agency of the us intelligence community as we've discussed doing important work in human intelligence and also specialized technical intelligence. so i got those important developments out of the way, and i want to focus on the two. biggest intelligent subjects of the kennedy administration which often are the two major
historical episodes that people remember from this period the bay of pigs fiasco and the cuban missile crisis. so we have a fiasco and we have a crisis they're both big problems what they have in common is obviously cuba. otherwise, they are vastly different kinds of problems the bay of pigs fiasco was a cia covert paramilitary operations specifically a regime change operation. that went very badly. the cuban missile crisis by contrast was a confrontation of superpowers the united states and the ussr over nuclear weapons with the two big problems have in common other than cuba? is that both largely were the result of shortcomings in american intelligence? in both situations bad intelligence analysis was at work. the bay of pigs operation was an
example of faulty covert action planning to be sure but that includes some seriously flawed analysis as we'll see likewise the cuban missile crisis begins with bad analysis, but in the context of intelligence collection both human and technical in both situations, the intelligent shortcomings were made worse. by executive decisions by policymakers and the two crisis also also are alike and that the ic learned a lot from the mistakes of of them both. so let's turn to the bay of pigs. revolutionary leader fidel castro turned his insurgency against the cuban dictator batista into a government when he ousted the dictator in early 1959. this is during the eisenhower administration. we're dropping back just a bit for context. castro quickly declared himself a communist aligned with the soviet union and this presented to the eisenhower administration
a more dire situation than what they faced in guatemala a few years before eisenhower wanted something done about castro. now cia proposed cover action to destabilize a cuban economy with economic sabotage eisenhower said he wanted something more drastic. now historians disagree on whether eisenhower meant that cia should assassinate castro. to cia officials at the time it seemed clear to them that eisenhower who clearly would not use words out loud, like assassinate and murder. is still clear to the cia officials that eisenhower really wanted castro removed from the scene by whatever means necessary just as they believe that eisenhower had expressed the desire. that an african leader patrice lamumba be removed killed if necessary to prevent the congo from going communist.
there's no smoking gun on either. on whether eisenhower really wanted them assassinated. now eisenhower was concerned about castro for the same reasons. he had authorized cia to topple the elected government of guatemala in 1954. he believed that once communism was established in the western hemisphere. it would spread by soviet-supported subversion and revolution and this is what as history teaches us. this is what communist governments do did my dissertation on the revolutionary government of grenada, 1979 and 1983 and there you have the communist grenadians being helped by the communist cubans in order to spread communist revolution to other island nations in the caribbean so that example from the 80 shows that in the 1950s eisenhower was on to something he was right. this was a threat so eisenhower authorized cia to plan covert action to remove castro from
power now at this point. i want to remind you of our discussions in this class about covert action as an intelligence function the purpose of us covert action is to influence political economic military conditions abroad in a way in such a way that the hand of the united states is not apparent. the involvement of the us government is not evident to people or it can be denied plausibly denied. the original cia plan for cuba under eisenhower was to infiltrate some 30 cuban agents cia trained agents to create resistance groups within cuba. i think someone noticed that cuba is a real big place. it doesn't really stretch from washington past chicago. it's obviously located south of florida, but you can see how big it is here. and so the plan quickly grew
from 30 to about 500 cia trained at cuban exiles would infiltrate the country and link up with the anti-castro forces that were believed to be operating in cuba cia propaganda efforts, including a clandestine radio station. this is all on the guatemala model would help build internal cuban support for opposing castro. and this is where it helps to have a knowledge of history, even when you're planning a covid-19 action. essentially cia was using the example of its predecessor the office of strategic services oss sending agents into nazi occupied france. where the population didn't like the nazis and was willing to take risks to support these these commandos these covert action operatives. cia remember that and remember
the positive aspects of the 1954 guatemala operation. and you're in your reading professor christopher andrew points out that eisenhower and cia ignored other relevant historical. precedence including the negative lessons of guatemala guatemala barely succeeded even against a weak and hapless government. that basically lost its nerve and allowed a success for covert action there. they ignored the lessons of the hike operation and indonesia where the people that we were helping in their military rebellions turned out to be weak and ineffectual. i would add that. they also ignored the lessons of many covert action operations involving the insertion of ethnic agent teams trained by cia in a places china and the ussr.
these showed again, if somebody been paying attention these show that fully three-quarters of these teams were caught the principle was established but not really acted on that. you're going to lose three quarters of your penetration agents you send them into denied areas. and they'll demonstrated the estimates of local opposition to communists was usually over inflated. so cia started infiltrating and by the way the on the bottom right there. those are cia trained tibetan commandos getting ready for an airlift into chinese occupied tibet so cia started infiltrating a few cuban agents into cuba and soon found out that there really wasn't an underground resistance and most of their penetration agents were
caught which again history might have taught them if they've been paying attention to it. but instead of recalculating are rethinking the whole plan cia shifted its plans instead to an amphibious landing of some 700 notice the mission creep here. we start with 3500 now, we're up to 700. trained cuban exiles that we're going to land by landing craft and paratroop penetrations establish a beachhead relocate to the mountains become a resistance force attract anti-castro cubans declare themselves to be the legitimate government of cuba and wait for us support. sounds pretty neat. now as a planning went on towards the end of the eisenhower administration the force kept getting bigger. in the planning to ensure that when the landing happened that they could actually seize and hold a beachhead. and when kennedy came into
office in january 1961 the planned cuban invasion force had doubled to about 1500. so again 3,500 700 1500 they would be supported by a rebel air force again trained. cuban exiles pilots of b-26 bombers which were in the cuban in inventory. we see i had its own b-26 is that were painted to look like cuban air force bombers. so the story would be of these were air force cuban air force officers who defected and then join the rebellion. the cuban invasion forces were trained at cia bases in nicaragua and guatemala. the invasion was planned originally i saw in the cia declassified documents. this was the preferred plan to land at the beach at. trinidad this was considered an anti-castro town again looking
for that local support. it had a good port. it had a defensible beach with good maritime approaches and was close to the mountains. the key mistake in planning for this covert action was that for operational security cia's own intelligence analysts. kept in the dark the experts on the current experts on the state of cuba. they had no input the directorate of operations. did its own analysis? and based its optimistic assessments of internal cuban resistance on the initial opposition to castro when he came to power in 1959. well, it's two years later and the analysts of the directorate of intelligence a di analysts could have told the do that things had changed. that castro had a lot more support.
that the internal security was ruthlessly efficient. and that there was essentially no opposition to him. even the deputy director for intelligence ahead of the analytic branch a man named robert amory was not informed. he knew what was going on, but he was not consulted even though he personally had participated. in the pacific campaign of world war ii in more than two dozen amphibious landings of this scale. more a lot more than the marine the us marine that they had brought in to plan the operation colonel jack hawkins. amory and all of his analysts were simply cut out for security reasons so some security this is a january 10th 1961 front page above the fold new york times article. us helps train and anti-castro
force at secret guatemalan air ground base. now secret anymore so another mistake was that this covert action was no longer covert. with this kind of publicity cuban exiles now the world knows are being trained probably by the us. guatemala for an attack on cuba yes. like how to drive in new york times various sources when you engage in a large operation unless you have operational security. that's very tight people talk. this happened with the albanian operations in late 40s and early 50s various other operations that chinese operations that we mounted in the early to mid-1950s when you get people together, they will talk and castro is know something is up even before this.
he's trying to penetrate these operations with his own people. you hire a bunch of cuban exiles how many of them are 100% of them anti-castro or it has castro sent one or two penetration agents in it's good counterintelligence. so very good question so multiple sources. and and it gets worse. i'll get to that. so another factor in the planning that turned out to be a mistake was a requirement that castro's air force be destroyed first. so that the cuban exile pilots in their cia provided b-26s pretending to be human air force. would have command of the air that was a requisite that was prerequisite for the success of this operation. cia recruited some help. they recruited pilots from the alabama national guard. to assist there was to be one air attack. two days before d-day before the
amphibious landing allegedly by these cuban air force pilots who were disgruntled and decided to shoot up their own planes and that's why these the cia's b-26s were painted to look like human air force plans the day before the invasion the b-26 exile force would come back to cuban air bases to destroy any planes that remain so two air strikes command of the air was essential and this was one of several things that had to go well for the success of this operation yet another problem. came from president kennedy's desire to maintain deniability that the us had nothing to do with this, you know, we didn't like castro but these are independent patriotic cubans acting on their own. a month before the invasion he ordered another landing site be found away from the town of trinidad. it's populated center, you know,
people will find out early, you know, this is long before the internet, but they might take pictures. too noisy. cia had four days to shift all of its planning to another location. and they've found it at the fairly remote bay of pigs, which is on this map here, obviously. right away from populated centers, but closer to havana closer to the cuban military and air force. also was surrounded by swamps. let me go to that slide. there we go. the zapata peninsula gave this relocated operation its name. so this became operation zapata and again, they have big surrounded by the zapata swamps. it's far away from the mountains where you hope the exile force will be able to melt away into to become that beacon of freedom for large numbers of disaffected
anti-castro cubans. that's the theory unknown to the planners was the fact that the bay of pigs was actually castro's favorite place to go fishing snorkeling. vacationing he knew it very well, which really helped when he arrived on scene to help to lead the defenders. also unknown was that there were coral reefs. and rocks that complicated navigation. the operations planners had looked at the imagery and concluded that those that darker water were that was seaweed. well, there were coral reefs. that's why. castro like to go snorkeling there. it's a good place to go. let me read to you a couple newspaper reports from the day. this is a date line. new york april 10th, so this is a week before the invasion. and it's alistair cooke is writing for the guardian of the united kingdom mystery of coming
invasion another three-hour harangue from castro and havana last night has failed to clear up the mystery of the coming cuban invasion who is training it where it is to be mounted from whose is the dominant power and exile and what the united states administration is going to do about it. all in the guardian that day was an editorial. since president kennedy came to power he has done much to restore american prestige in the uncommitted world. but if recent reports of a projected invasion of cuba launched from american soil and carried out with a connivance of the american intelligence service come true then much of president. kennedy's labor will have been in vain. um, no one will believe that a group of cuban exiles. however burning their grievances could assemble a force of sufficient size and with sufficient equipment unless they had the backing of the american government. dr. cardona the leader of the anti castro cubans has denied that the central intelligence
agency is implicated in his plans. this may be true but reports from authoritative american sources suggest that it is not richard bissell the head planner for the operation said in 1967 a few years later. we didn't realize the extent to which it was believed by everyone everyone else that this was a us government operation. apparently cia wasn't reading the newspapers. i'm being critical of my former agency because it deserves to be criticized on this. so on april 15th 1961 two days before the invasion the first wave of air attacks. by 6 b-26 is fewer than planned for damaged many cuban planes on the ground, but failed to destroy them all. the attacks alerted the cubans
that it's coming. got the attention of the united nations where the un ambassador allied stevenson found himself to be lying about us non-involvement in this operation kennedy president kennedy had ordered the first air strike to be smaller than planned foreign and then he canceled the second planned air strike. cia was afraid to recommend at that point that the invasion be canceled even though everyone knew at least on cia side that without command of the air the invasion was doomed. they're afraid to give that kind of bad news, which is if you think about it is is uncharacteristic. i mean intelligence is in the bad news business, but this is a case where they call it falling in love with your operation. they'd all fallen in love with it, and we're not willing to end it at that point. okay, when the invasion force
arrived on april 17th, it faced a fully mobilized cuban military with command of the air as well castor on scene effectively directing the defenses his forces quickly disabled the two supply ships a landing craft that made it ashore put a small exile force onto the beach where they fought valiantly for three days. kennedy refused cia's requests to have us navy aircraft provide combat support combat air support to cia chartered airplanes from the alabama air national guard dropped munitions and supplies on the beach for the rebels, but those were shot down the four pilots between the two aircraft died. they are stars on cias memorial wall. borgata 2506 surrendered and about 1200 survivors were taking captive. taken prisoner so it's a debacle afterwards.
this was humiliating. for the united states government and personally for president kennedy. it was a great victory for fidel castro and there was a lot of bitter recriminations and finger pointing going on. kennedy's advisors and pro kennedy historians ever since have placed all the blame on cia for its mistake and assumptions and planning for deceiving the president about his chances for success. and on the other hand cia people at the time and cia's defenders ever since but not me have admitted that there were planning errors. but insist the invasion could have been successful. if it had been allowed to work as planned, you know, it's failure. they say is kennedy's fault for canceling that second airstrike for refusing us military support he's blamed for moving the landing site and even for liking covert action too much.
the chief cia planner again was richard bissell he was a brilliant man. who also was the project manager for the u2 aircraft and also the follow-on the a12. um, he and director alan dulles had to resign in his memoirs bissell says i sincerely believe that even with the plans false as long as we were able to move ahead with the airstrikes and destroy castro's air force the brigade would still win the day. at least to the extent of establishing a beachhead. and then what? it is also possible. he said he wrote that we in the agency were not as frank with the president about further deficiencies as we could have been. so there's a telling admission. there was an internal report by the inspector general cia. lineman kirkpatrick saying that if cia had been more careful in its planning it would have realized that there was no effective organized resistance to the castro regime that could have rallied to help the invaders.
castro's forces were firmly in control of cuban society the vastly outnumbered any invasion force and the terrain offer no help at all. he said that cia should have canceled the invasion cancel the operation even though it would have been embarrassing to the agency. he said cancellation. yes would have been embarrassing but it would have averted failure. which brought even more embarrassment carried death and misery to hundreds destroyed millions of dollars worth of us property and seriously damaged us prestige. he was right about that. there was an internal rebuttal to the inspector. general's report the director of operations said the airstrikes were crucial to success without them. there could be no success. the defeat was attributable to a long series of washington policy decisions. so there you have a foot fairly common situation. something goes wrong something big goes wrong.
the intelligence folks the policy makers. the policymakers blame the intelligence folks thus was fulfilled the ancient saying in washington, there are no. policy failures. there are only policies successes and intelligence failures. now my view is that there's plenty of blame to go wrong go around. i think the historical record shows that there were plenty of failures on both sides. for intelligence people. i think there are some clear lessons from the bay of pigs the policy people can come up with their own but for intelligence people, you know, one of the lessons learned is do not plan for a covert action. or any kind of intelligence operation clandestine collection human intelligence technical intelligence that requires every part of it to go perfectly for any of it to succeed. secondly, do not undertake covert operations that have already been described in the new york times. third make sure your agencies
experts are involved in the planning the ones who know the most about the area you're going into if they are not cleared from the for the project. well, you should -- well clear them. do not be afraid of communicating clearly to the policy people the risks and consequences of failure of every part of the plan. and this takes courage, but intelligence people should be prepared to stay to stand out down and walk away. for many operation that does not make sense operationally or even politically remember the policy may want deniability. more then the conditions you've established for success. on the policy side there were huge implications us prestige was damaged to be sure the soviet union tried to take advantage. the soviet premier khrushchev
concluded that kennedy was weak and indecisive. and so demanded that the western powers abandoned berlin. as you know at the end of world war ii berlin was divided into east and west between the soviet union and the western allied powers khrushchoff said that west berlin was a threat. to east germany kennedy himself blames cia for putting him into that position. he briefly considered breaking up cia into its various missions or business areas and distributing it throughout the government. that was justifiable anger on his part, but he got over that. he also considered replacing alan dulles with his own brother robert. robert kennedy liked working with the agency, but he was savvy enough politician to realize that. that wouldn't work very well. it's not really career enhancing
for politicians to bcia director so we turn that down. now just a few months after the bay of pigs debacle. kennedy is meeting with the soviet premiere in vienna at their summit khrushchev. berated kennedy for american imperialism and said the soviets are going to get tough regarding berlin. um in august, this is four months the bay of pigs. the east germans acting on orders from moscow erected the berlin wall cutting off east berlin from west berlin. the communists called it the anti-fascist protective wall, but it was really meant to prevent east germans from escaping to freedom in the west. again, that's what communists do the us consider this an illegal act, but did not risk war to stop it. kennedy however, renewed the us commitment to the freedom of
west berlin and khrushchoff having built a wall. he backed down. on any further threats this became yet another cold war standoff. christoph however, was looking for a way to advance the soviet position in the cold war some sort of fata complete surprise move that would. change the strategic balance in moscow's favor. as we all know. and this is the accelerated history of that he did that by putting soviet missiles in cuba secretly believing that by the time the united states discovered them. it would be too late for the americans to do anything about it. but as you know, the us government did discover them discover them early. kennedy told khrushchev to take them out or else after some tense days khrushchev back down nuclear war was averted and kennedy was the hero only to be tragically cut down by an assassin's bullet a year later. and that's the history. most people remember and by large, it's true.
but and it's highly dramatic, but this dramatic story is largely an intelligent story. it begins. with the soviet military intelligence officer who volunteered to work and provide intelligence for cia and the british service mi6. olig pincofsky's intelligence began as the bay of pigs operation was ending and he continued as an espionage asset well into that summer of 1961 as cold war tensions or mounting. he was a well-placed colonel in the soviet military organization called the group gru. he reports on what he learns in meetings about soviet strategy towards the us he photographs secret soviet military documents including probably the most helpful one this r2 missile manual in translation here. the r2 is a medium-range ballistic missile mrbm.
of the soviets he passes these things to cia and his cia and mi6 case officers. he provides high level soviet policy papers. he even tries to war in the us ahead of about that the berlin wall is going up but he can't do so in time above all he conveys his impressions that the soviet leadership is not as confident as they appear. they are blustering from a position of weakness and they know it. they worry about provoking the us to war. they know they do not have strategic superiority in nuclear weapons. the national the national intelligence estimates at the time the us national intelligence at the time assessed that the soviets had far fewer nuclear missiles than they were claiming. it was bluster. and then khrushed off backs down on berlin and that seems to confirm pincofsky's
intelligence. at the same time pankowsky says kristoff might do something desperate. cia gave pinkovsky the code name hero the vast documentary intelligence that he provided was marked with the code word ironbark. and then the oral debriefings he gave that was the chickadee intelligence. and this is this is what we do we give multiple code names to mask the source of this intelligence colonel kuklinski who spied for cia and 1970s. his codename was gull and the intelligence from him was called chrysanthemum. so meanwhile the kennedy brothers the president and the attorney general are pressuring cia to do something about the castro regime. bay of pigs was embarrassing it looks like they want revenge.
they don't like being humiliated. they liked covert action christopher andrew mentions that they approved that president kennedy approved more covert action operations and even eisenhower and they especially liked covert action against castro. infiltration of agents propaganda sabotage and though it was never mentioned out loud assassination plots. the codename for for all these efforts is mongoose. mostly plans to destabilize the cuban government but it includes some ideas about how to kill castro at cia. there's a leadership change. the leadership fallout from the bay of pigs fall squarely on cia president kennedy told director dulles if this were a parliamentary system, i have to resign my government would fall but it's not so you have to leave. dulles was allowed to retire for his own dignity a few months after the bay of pigs in
november of 61. his replacement is john mccone. one of the great cia directors the agency at this time is monitoring soviet shipment of weapons to cuba to so cuba can defend itself against another invasion. youtube flights over cuba begin in february of 1962 makonnen that summer of 62 first raises a possibility that you know moscow might send missiles to cuba. macomb grasps that moscow might make this bold move in order to put ballistic missiles into cuba to overcome its strategic inferiority in missiles and bombers. at the end of august the u2 imagery shows that there are surface to air missile sites in cuba sam sites. surface to air missiles meant down aircraft mccone is alone in
the us government in believing that they wouldn't do this. unless they're defending something important from aerial attack. and perhaps that something would be ballistic missile sites. and also to shoot down reconnaissance aircraft, so the americans won't find out about it. so they would be blind over cuba. so what does the kennedy white house do? the sam sites spoke to them the kennedy administration orders a moratorium on flights severe drawdown. it allows only. three flights in september all of them over eastern cuba away from the known sam sites. that's a month of september two things happened. there's a special national intelligence estimate. we talked about analytic products the sneeze special intelligent national intelligence estimate authored
by sherman kent the head analyst. he says that it would not make sense for the soviets to place strategic missiles in cuba because it's too risky. now when we had discussed analysis we had talked about cognitive challenges to analysis cognitive biases and mindsets and we discussed how a big one among them is mirror imaging this idea that the other side is going to reason and figure out things like we would so this is an example a classic example of mirror imaging. at the same time uh mccone goes on leave he was a widower and he was recently remarried and he took his honeymoon in the south of france, but whenever a cia director travels you got communications with you, and he's sending cables back to cia saying you've got to press the
white house for permission to send you two's over those sam sites. figure out what's going on? what are they protecting? he has no evidence. it just makes sense to him. from september into october. there's a five week period in which practically no u2's fly the ones that do stay away from this the sam sites. they're largely on the periphery of cuba. even though mccone is making these appeals. meanwhile there's humid going on human intelligence espionage assets in cuba. are telling cia they they see there's some mysterious secret work going on in western cuba. including the some of them see long cylindrical objects being towed by military trucks. okay. makonnen insists and kennedy
allows a single youtube flight over the san cristobal area of western cuba on october 14th. going straight across the island. from south to north that would be this flight here. and it discovers in plain sight an mrbm site remember medium range ballistic missile kennedy then authorizes unlimited you too flights the recent book called blind over cuba. shows that the kennedy administration apologists and friendly historians ever since have blamed cia. or the bad weather for this five-week gap in effective overhead imagery collection what
in fact it resulted from white house policy makers. so the cuban missile crisis begins with an analytic failure that snee that estimate and a collection failure. caused by policy and then you have a collection success the u2. sees what's there? and using also pankowsky's intelligence human intelligence the analysts are able to warn kennedy about the situation. i want to point out to you on the previous slide that this is a soviet sam site, which has a distinctive star of david kind of pattern in it. over the next week u2 flights provide imagery that identify 24 medium range ballistic missile sites mrbms have a range of
about a thousand miles. and also intermediate range ballistic missile sites. and they have about a 2000 mile range, roughly. pinkovsky's intelligence on the soviet mrbms gives the president some indication of how long it would take to make these things operational. kennedy has the time to deliberate instead of simply to react the initial. impulse on everyone's part is what we got to take these things out. militarily with a strike but upon deliberation. he decides to impose a naval blockade. and use hard nose diplomacy and tell the soviets to get the missiles out and it's a good thing. he decided on the blockade rather than attacking cuba because it was a revealed years
later in 1990 that soviet forces in cuba actually had tactical nuclear weapons that they would have against an american attack. so that's good. thankfully. the washington post got it wrong about the invasion of cuba new york times got it, right. regarding a naval blockade. kennedy goes on national tv on the 22nd of october announces his situation declares the blockade makes it clear that any missile attack from cuba would be considered an attack from the ussr. and would be answered. the naval blockade over the next 12 days of the crisis works nsa intercepts confirm. that soviet ships are turning back u2 imagery is used publicly at the un to embarrass moscow. who deny that such work was going on the soviets back down?
imagery intelligence and signals intelligence monitor the removal of soviet missiles from cuba during the crisis a u2 was shot down kennedy refuses to escalate. and instead he responds to kristoff's proposal. that in exchange for removing the soviets removing the missiles the us pledges not to invade cuba. so cuban missile crisis comes to a satisfactory ending which means the world did not end. it's good. but the kennedy brothers obsession with castro continues. the momentum continues to pressure cia to get rid of castro. so a senior cia official met with a cuban agent in paris. on a 22nd of november 1963 to give him poison to kill castro, of course, that was the day. that kennedy was in dallas and was killed.
in the time we have left. i want to address. the all too popular story that kennedy's assassination in dallas was the result of a cia operation or conspiracy to kill the president. my bottom line opinion it's a myth. it's a canard. it's a lie. it is logically almost impossible to prove a negative. but i'm quite confident that cia did not kill kennedy. it's quite a widespread story. i don't know how many books. are out there making this assertion probably hundreds. maybe lots more. i do know that if you google, you know, kennedy assassination cia you get almost three million hits on google. it has its own wikipedia article. i'm not going to go into all the
aspects and variants of the theory because they're it's way too complicated and simply not worth our consideration. what i will say is this the idea that cia would murder an american president? to me as a citizen is simply unimaginable. and as a career cia officer, it's monstrous and obscene. in the highest degree this is an extraordinary claim that requires a burden of proof based on persuasive evidence. the so-called evidence i've seen is all infrared inferential highly speculative. not persuasive and i'm sure i'll hear from the conspiracy theories about theorists about this the alleged motives. don't convince me either. as a cia staff historian for 11 years. i find it implausible in the extreme. good scholarship over the years has shown that cia always without exception has considered itself to be the president's
agency and has done his bidding. yes, robert. what would lead like the natural conclusion for people to say? oh, it was cia like with as much support as there was with you know books being released in protests or you know, whatever the picture depicts like why would people believe like, oh it was obviously cia like that seems like a ludicrous idea to just kind of get that much support around. i'm not a psychologist. certainly, not a popular psychologist, but i think people want to believe that there had to have been a conspiracy that this. this punk could not kill the president of the united states without help. i mean we could go more in depth as to you know. some of the milestones in this theory one of which was the movie jfk by oliver stone which came out in the 1990s, which was done very skillfully propagandistically.
to show a cia conspiracy and after that film comes out you have at one point a majority of americans polled believing cia did it. based on a movie it had political implications you had the congress passes a jfk act which requires cia to declassify everything it has it could be related to the kennedy assassination. as i was saying the the agency is always. considered itself to be the president's instrument no matter what was going on whether there are intelligence failures debacles like the bay of pigs budget cuts signs that the cold war is thawing all of these are alleged motives. the silliest one among the silliest is that cia killed kennedy because he planned to remove the us from vietnam. um, the reality is that cia
wasn't really enaborative operating in vietnam. maybe the silliest is at the agency was doing the bidding of the vice president lyndon johnson or even sillier. is that johnson had it done because he was controlled by cia. which is nuts. another is that kennedy actually wanted to stop cia from trying to kill castro. against all evidence and see i didn't want to stop. now the real cia at the time. the agency i know. from years of study of cia internal documents oral history interviews memoirs memorandum and so forth is literally the last group of men and women on the planet. who would even consider doing such a thing? the most insulting thing i've seen is a claim that secretly that cia recently put a star on the memorial wall. for lee, harvey oswald one of
ours i was a historian responsible for the memorial wall. i find that funny and insulting and frustrating all at the same time. yes, i know on the internet. you can find youtube interviews with men claiming to be the cia assassin deathbed, you know confessions. you can also find claims about cia's cover-up of extraterrestrials and area 51 roswell cia's experiments in time travel and teleportation and none of those are real either. sorry to disappoint you. the people who believe these things. are sadly mistaken and many of them? or nuts the sad thing is that the conspiracy theorists. the true believers will just say i'm part of the conspiracy. of course, he would say that. which will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me? unfortunately, we live in an age in which logic and evidence
gives way. i will say is trumped by. assertion and identity if you want a good reliable source that refutes this. idea this theory you can google the name of max holland holland like the netherlands max holland an independent researcher who has been following this for years. i exhort all my students. to treat everything with due skepticism including what i teach you in class. check everything on the basis of solid evidence sound reasoning sound reasoning and good and reliable scholarship. and for heaven's sake and for your own sanity ignore this cacophony of loud voices who make assertions and say they must be true because there a lot of them. or because of the identity of the person making the assertion. now i fully admit. that i could be accused of hypocrisy here because i'm making an assertion about cia non-involvement. i don't have persuasive evidence because you can't prove a
negative and i'm asking you to believe it because of who i am. and intelligence relationships are everything. so on this i'm asking you to trust me. because that's the best we can do. so that brings us to the end of our treatment of kennedy and intelligence. are there any other questions on bay of pigs cuban missile crisis the other thing we mentioned jeremy yes in last class. you mentioned the presidential finding that is published to the gang of eight the memo of notification right was any of that in place of the time of the bay of pigs and how very good question? yes our discussion about covert action as a function of intelligence was as of now or as the recent developments the requirement for a finding comes from the late 1970s the the most recent law on this. which was one of the intelligence authorization acts. i think it was 1997 all that gets into the title 50 of the us code at the time of the kennedy.
administration there is no such process. there is a executive branch process, but there is no reporting requirement. to the congress. it was such reporting that was done. was informal low-key kind of off the record in the case of the development of the u2 spy plane cia notified one of the houses. i think it was the house of represent. no the senate and did not inform the house. so when francis gary powers was shot down at least half of the congress didn't even know. we had a youtube. so things have changed and we're going to get to that when we talk about accountability and the reforms of the 1970s. yes. an asset benkowsky. yes husky. um, did he not inform us about the missiles being brought into cuba like not specifically but he he gave us the documentary.
evidence the manuals which we were able to use in the during the crisis. i'm told that when we received all this information, we thought this is this is great. but you know, we're not. we don't have a need for it. and then the cuban missile crisis happens and we have all of us in a need for it. this is why intelligence officers try to collect everything even if it's not totally relevant at this time, it may be an investment for something that happens in the future in the future is always uncertain. know what they had at the time basically they know what they had, but they didn't know how relevant it was. i mean for a missile system that we don't expect to get close to but it comes close to us then it becomes relevant, you know, matthew. was there any objection made apparent to the cia by the rebel forces in cuba the anti-commios forces in cuba about choosing bay of pigs as their landing site for the operation. i don't believe they had any
input into that sort of planning. it's a very good question. i think as i understand covid action we would ask cubans and locals about the conditions of that place it the problem the shortcomings there probably could have been easily remedied if just brought in the the director of intelligence analysts onto that and that's one reform that macon had when he came into the directorship. he made it a requirement that the analysts be brought in for operational planning of that sort. joseph today one actually think the cubans did bomb their own air force like the did the plane deception work or did people just see right through it as a us did it? no, no, remember the requirement of covert action. is that the hand the united states is not apparent or can be denied plausibly. and what is plausible is a sometimes a matter of opinion.
i don't think given the publicity that anybody doubted once the shooting started. who was behind it? if bombing the air force was so crucial and we didn't like finish it the first time and everyone is saying it was so crucial. we should have done it. why wasn't it done like the second airstrike? like i said you fall in love with your operation and and i won't ask for personal testimony to this but you when you have fallen in love you, do you make dumb decisions sometimes? i i think it's true that cia and bissell hints at it in his memoir. was afraid to tell the president. and also there was a unstated assumption on cia's part that yeah if we don't get these airstrikes. when the invasion can't succeed, but the president surely will not allow it to fail. so he will then involve the us military. so that's an assumption on an
assumption and kennedy was not willing to go that far. so what we have here is a failure to communicate. according to phrase all right. eric what made director mccone such a good cia director? he had been a founder of what became us steel. he was a corporate manager. it was just far more efficient. clear-headed he also was a bit of a visionary he created or had created the directorate of science and technology. which had an existed at that point? i mean, there's there's a there's a long biography formerly classified biography on macomb. that was done by my boss at cia the chief historian david robarge and that has been largely declassified and available to you a good popular
biography mccone. i don't believe has ever been done. but he was he was only there for four years, but he did a lot of good things and really tried to get the place to clean up its act. yeah. you said that director or dulles right got like three months to not resign until it was like reasonable. what about the richard bissell was he just kicked out right? um, i think he was he left at the same time that the dulles went he was often another job within cia, but he thought it would be a step down so he was not interested in staying and we had a question right behind. what was the obsession with castro from the well from jfk and from the attorney general like was it the closeness to the united states, or was it the fear of communism just running all that? i mean in i've tried to give you a sense in this course that the
cold war was was deeply serious thing by the participants and the leaders involved. there was a fear of communism an advance of communism. anywhere is a defeat for free them everywhere. and just as eisenhower said we're not going to tolerate a country going communist guatemala. whatever the merits of that argument were and castro seem to be worse because he openly declared himself to be an ally of the soviet union. and that's that's the main enemy. that's the country. we have to worry the most about is creating so much trouble for us in the world threatening our allies have to do something. that was the thinking at the time and it became personal. think it became personal. so earlier in the course, we had discussed espionage and assets and the handling of those assets. how did the handling of the case with the soviet colonel and up?
not well, he was caught and there are different theories about how he was caught whether it was portrayed craft or or some other mistake that was that was made but he was he was caught. and executed a lot of the brave. soviets soviet citizens who worked for cia during the cold war met their fate a bullet in the back of the head in the lubianca prison kgb prison in moscow. we have been able to get we talked about exfiltration many people out but some of the most prominent ones unfortunately. we're we're martyrs for the cause. yeah. they follow up real quick server, and i we just passed back and forth if we're not mistaken on one of the slides it said that we had oral debriefs with the kernel. yes it how did the cia receive those world deep briefs if he
was in soviet russia. well, he got out occasionally. he's a great book on him and it's called you'll remember this title. it's called the spy who saved the world. because of the information he gave for the let me get rid of this. this is odious. the spy who saved the world and it's a story about pencofsky. and in it, it describes that he was an influential for kernel. he's pretty influential. he had some perks. he was part of a soviet military trade mission to britain and he would go occasionally to the west to britain i think to paris once and he would get away from his delegation and be met in a safe house by cia and mi6 debriefers. so there were extensive debriefings and that book which is a great book reveals all that stuff. the there is a story that pinkovsky actually got to meet
with kennedy. that part of the history is not true. but he wanted he considered pankoskey considered himself a soldier for democracy. and to the point where he asked can you dress me up in a american colonel's uniform? and then a british colonel's uniform so they did the thing you the things you do for your asset to keep them reporting. you'll do anything reasonable. yeah. do we know what he was giving a return for? being an awesome. i i think it's in that book, but typically, you know, you give them money. but not enough so they can expose themselves by conspicuous spending. we're always trying to preserve our assets lives and telling them that they need to you know, put dial it back, you know, but i think we gave him i do know we gave him particular gifts. to give to his superiors to curry favor so they liked him so that they would promote him so they would give him good jobs at
one point. we gave him a bottle of brandy. i think that was doctor to make it look like it was the vintage year of the birth of of his boss a soviet general. who just love that you found this for me? you know, we will we will do these sorts of things now. okay. anything else okay, so next week a quiz on thursday, and i'll see you next time we meet on tuesday. thank you for your attention.