Subject: Three Phases of Assassination

by Debra Conway

My dissatisfaction with authors and producers who rewrite history relative to when events actually happened, or who said what to whom, led me to this project consisting of gathering, studying, and interpreting documentary evidence putting together information on the CIA and Mafia's attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. It also considers the evidence of when President Kennedy and AG Robert Kennedy knew of the Mafia's involvement against Castro, versus knowing of specifically of the assassination plots. Whether either was directed from the White House, as some claim, is suspect. The record does show by May 1961, however, the Attorney General and FBI Director Hoover were aware that the CIA had earlier used Giancana in an operation against Cuba and FBI files contained two memoranda which, if simultaneously reviewed, would have led one to conclude that the CIA operation had involved assassination.

Debra Conway



CIA-MAFIA Timeline:

Apr 18, '61 FBI records indicate that Mahue informed the FBI that the Ballenti tap involved the CIA and suggested Edwards be contacted, Mahue informed the FBI that the tap had played a part in a project "on behalf of the CIA relative to anti-Castro activities," a fact which could be verifed by Sheffield Edwards, CIA Director of Security. (FBI Memo Apr 20, 61; Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, 11/20/75 p79)

May 3, '61, Edwards memoranda to FBI read that Giancana had been recruited "in connection with the CIA's clandestine efforts against the Casto government." No results yet, but "several of the plans are still working and may eventually pay off." Edwards stated, "he had never been furnished with any details of the methods used by Giancana and Maheu because this was 'dirty business' and he could not afford to know the specific actions." ***He also wrote that Richard Bissell had "told the attorney general that some of the [Bay of Pigs] planning included the use of Giancana and the underworld against Castro." (Rappleye and Becker, p 211-212;

***May 22, 1961, FBI Director Hoover sent the Attorney General a memorandum about the Las Vegas wiretip. An attachment to that memorandum quoted Sheffield Edwards as saying that Bissell in "recent briefings" of Taylor and Kennedy "told the Attorney General that some of the associated planning included the use of Giancana and the underworld against Castro."Bissell told the Church Committee that he did not remember any briefing other than for the review of the Bay of Pigs - The Taylor Report. (Bissell, 7/22/75) Taylor told the Church Committee that no mention was made of an assassination effort against Castro.

The summary of Edwards' statements to the FBI that was sent by Hoover to Attorney General Kennedy on May 22,1961, stated, in part that:

Colonel Edwards advised that in connection with CIA's operation against Castro he personally contacted Robert Maheu during the fall of 1960 for the purpose of using Maheu as a "cut-out" in contacts with Sam Giancana, a known hoodlum in the Chicago area. Colonel Edwards said that since the underworld controlled gambling activities in Cuba under the Batista government, it was assumed that this element would still continue to have sources and contacts in Cuba which perhaps could be utilized successfully in connection with CIA's clandestine efforts against the Castro government. As a result, Maheu's services were solicited as a "cut-out" because of his possible entree into underworld circles. Maheu obtained Sam Giancana's assistance in this regard and according to Edwards, Giancana gave every indication of cooperating through Maheu in attempting to accomplish several clandestine efforts in Cuba. Edwards added that none of Giancana's efforts have materialized to date and that several of the plans still are working and may eventually "pay off." Colonel Edwards related that he had no direct contact with Giancana; that Giancana's activities were completely "back stopped" by Maheu and that Maheu would frequently report Giancana's action and information to Edwards. No details or methods used by Maheu or Giancana in accomplishing their missions were ever reported to Edwards. Colonel Edwards said that since this is "dirty business", he could not afford to have knowledge of the actions of Maheu and Giancana in pursuit of any mission for CIA. Colonel Edwards added that he has neither given Maheu any instruction to use technical installations of any type nor has the subject of technical installations ever come up between Edwards and Maheu in connection with Giancana's activity. Mr. Bissell, in his recent briefings of General Taylor and the Attorney General and in connection with their inquiries into CIA relating to the Cuban situation [the Taylor Board of Inquiry] told the Attorney General that some of the associated planning included the use of Giancana and the underworld against Castro.'

The summary of Edwards' conversation with the FBI was accompanied by a cover memorandum from Hoover stating that Edwards had acknowledged the "attempted" use of Maheu and 3 "hoodlum elements" by the CIA in "anti-Castro activities" but that the "purpose for placing the wiretap...has not been determined...." (FBI memo to Attorney General, 5/22/61) The memorandum also explained that Maheu had contacted Giancana in connection with the CIA program and CIA had requested that the information be handled on a "need-to-know" basis.

RFK writes in the margin of the memo to his aide, Courtney Evans, "I hope this will be followed up vigorously," after being assured the alliance had been discontinued by CIA's Edwards. (Hoover memo to RFK and RFK's notation quoted in Assassination Plots, Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, pp127-128)

Note: Courtney Evans had worked closely with the then Senator John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy on the McClellan Committee which had investigated the relationship between organized labor and organized crime. During the McClellan Investigation Sam Glancana was one of the major crime figures examined. After becoming Attorney General, Robert Kennedy had singled out Giancana as one of the underworld leaders to be most intensely investigated.

Supposedly RFK was briefed on the Mafia episodes even earlier by Bissell according to Sheffield Edwards but Bissell denied it. Assassination was not specifically mentioned.

June 6, 1961 - A memorandum from Evans to Allen Belmont, Assistant to the Director (FBI) dated June 6, 1961, stated:
"We checked with CIA and ascertained that CIA had used Maheu as an intermediary in contacting Sam Gianeana, the notorious Chicago hoodlum. This was in connection with anti-Castro activities. CIA, however, did not give any instructions to Maheu to use any technical installations. In connection with this information received from CIA concerning their attempted utilization of the hoodlum element, CIA requested this information be handled on a "need-to-know" basis. We are conducting a full investigation in this wiretap case requested by the Department and the field has been instructed to press this investigation vigorously. Accordingly, 'the Attorney General will be orally assured that we are following up vigorously and the results of our investigation will be furnished to the Department promptly."

Aug 16, 1961 - Entries in the FBI files indicate that the FBI vigorously pursued its investigation of the wiretap case. However, on August 16, 1961, the Assistant United States Attorney in Las Vegas reported his reluctance to proceed with the case because of deficiencies in the evidence and his concern that CIA's alleged involvement might become known. The Department of Justice files indicate no activity between September 1961, when the FBI's investigation was concluded, and January 1962, when the question of prosecution in the case was brought up for reconsideration. (Assassination Plots, Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, pp127)

There is no indication that the FBI concluded that the CIA had used the Mafia for assassination plots.


Nov 9, 61 - JFK meets with reporter Tad Szulc and asks about Castro. Szulc's notes from that day read: "JFK said he raised the question because he was under terrific pressure from advisors (think he said intelligence people, but not positive) to okay a Castro murder, said he was resisting pressures." A few days later, aide Richard Goodwin discussed the matter of assassinating Castro with the president. It was to Goodwin that Kennedy observed, "If we get into that kind of thing, we 'll all be targets." (Mahoney p135; Schlesinger, p530)

Nov 16, 61 - JFK delivers speech at the University of Washington (Seattle) commencement: "We cannot as a free nation, compete with our adversaries in tactics of terror, assassination, false promises, counterfeit mobs and crises."


March 22, 62 - Hoover had a private luncheon with President Kennedy. There is no record of what transpired at that luncheon. According to the White House logs, the last telephone contact between the White House and Judith Campbell occurred a few hours after the luncheon.

Mar 23, 62 - The day immediately following his luncheon with the President, at which Rosselli and Giancana were presumably discussed, Hoover sent a memorandum to Edwards stating: At the request of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, this matter was discussed with the CIA Director of Security on February 7, 1962, and we were advised that your agency would object to any prosecution which would necessitate the use of CIA personnel or CIA information. We were also informed that introduction of evidence concerning the CIA operation would be embarrassing to the Government. The Criminal Division has now requested that CIA specifically advise whether it would or would not object to the initiation of criminal prosecution against the subjects, Balletti, Maheu, and the individual known as J. W. Harrison for conspiracy to violate the "Wire Tapping Statute."

Apr 10, 62 - Edwards responds in writing to Hoover's Mar 23 memo that prosecution of Maheu and presumably other Mafia figures for wiretapping "Would result in most damaging embarrassment to the U.S. government." In demanding a written response from the CIA, Hoover effectively cleared himself of any involvement. He also effectively blackmails President Kennedy with his knowledge.

***May 7, '62 - RFK briefed on past CIA-Mafia Plots: RFK meets with Richard Helms (Helms later denied this meeting took place despite a specific indication on RFK's calendar), and later that afternoon with Sheffield Edwards and CIA general council Lawrence Houston for a briefing on pre-Bay of Pigs organized crime assassination plots. (Testimony of Lawrence Houston HSCA, p62 National Archives) "Mr. Kennedy stated that upon learning CIA had not cleared its action in hiring Maheu and Giancana with the DOJ he issued orders that the CIA should never again take such steps with first checking with the DOJ."; CIA does not tell RFK the organized crime plots will continue. (Memo for IG from Sidney D. Stembridge Acting Director of Security 3.16.76, quoting FBI memo FBI 62-109060-4984 - states May 9,'62 as the date for this briefing.) Houston testified that RFK insisted "There was not to be any contact of the Mafia...without prior consultation with him." (Church Committee, Houston, 6/2/75 p37)

McCone later testifies to the Church Committee that Helms brought the only copy of the Edwards-Houston memo with him to brief McCone on the Mafia plots in Aug.'63.

May 9, '62 - RFK tells Hoover the CIA has used organized crime figures in an effort to assassinate Castro (phase one). A memo by Hoover of the conference with RFK states: The Attorney General told me he wanted to advise me of a situation in the Giancana case which had considerably disturbed him. He stated a few days ago he had been advised by CIA that in connection with Giancana, CIA had hired Robert A Maheu, a private detective in Washington, DC, to approach Giancana with a proposition of paying $150,000 to hire some gunmen to go into Cuba and to kill Castro. I expressed great astonishment at this in view of the bad reputation of Maheu and the horrible judegment in using a man of Giancana's background for such a project. The Attorney General shared the same views. ...CIA admitted that they had assisted Maheu in making this installation and for these reasons CIA was in a position where it could not afford to have any action taken against Giancana and Maheu. ...the Attorney General told him that he asked CIA whether they had ever cleared their actions in hiring Maheu and Giancana with the DOJ before they did so and he was advised by CIA they had not cleared these matters with the DOJ. He stated he then issued orders to CIA to never again in the future take such steps without first checking with the DOJ. (Memorandum from Hoover, 5/10/62)

May 14, '62 - After the May 7th meeting with RFK, Edwards, with Houston's assistance, prepared a memo (relating what had transpired at the May 7, '62 briefing) for the Attorney General's file that would establish his being "informed" of the plots, and that, to Kennedy's knowledge, they had been terminated. (Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders p106)

That same day Edwards had a telephone conversation with William Harvey. As a result of that conversation, Edwards prepared an internal memo for the record dated May 14, '62, which falsely stated that the operation involving Rosselli was then terminated. Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders p132) Note: Harvey found out about this memo when questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975, and he was furious. He declared that it "was not true, and Col. Edwards knew it was not true"; the falsification was intended to show that Edwards was "no longer chargeable should the operation backfire." (Senate Assassination Plots Report p134)

May 22, 62 - After being fully briefed, Hoover sends memo to RFK noting CIA had used Giancana in "clandestine efforts" against Castro. "Colonel Edwards said that since this is 'dirty business' he could not afford to have knowledge of that action of Maheu and Giancana in pursuit of any mission for the CIA Mr. Bissell, in his recent briefings of General Taylor and the attorney general and in connection with their inquiries into CIA activities relating to the Cuban situation told the Attorney General that some of the associated planning included the use of Giancana and the underworld." (FBI 62-109060-4984; Church Committee Interim Report, p127)


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