BACK --- CASTRO ASSASSINATION
Deposition with Mr. X:
AGENCY: HSCA 180-10140-10362
RECORD SERIES: Audiocassettes and other sound
recordings collected by the JFK.
AGENCY FILE NUMBER: RG233I-138
FROM: Mr. X
TO: McDonald, Jim
DATE: September 25, 1978
DOCUMENT TYPE: Audiocassette
SUBJECTS: CIA; Mr. X; Trafficante, Santos;
Roselli, John; Anti-Castro activities
RESTRICTIONS: Open In Full
CURRENT STATUS: Open
DATE OF LAST REVIEW: 07-26-95
COMMENTS: no times listed
JM: My name is James McDonald and I'm
a senior attorney for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
The date is Sept. 25th and I'm present in a room at the Central
Intelligence Agency at Langley, Virginia. Present in the room
with me is a former official of the CIA and committee staff member
Patricia Orr. The former official of the CIA has just been administered
an oath for the information he is about to give to the committee.
The following will be a sworn statement by this former CIA
official . We are not using his name during the course of this
sworn statement because of the sensitivity of the subject matter
and agency policy that is name will not be revealed at this time.
JM: Sir, what is your present occupation?
X: I'm a retired government employee. I am
doing some part time Real Estate work, I'm also a security consultant
for a private firm.
JM: Have you been employed by the FBI?
JM: In what capacity and during what years?
X: I was a special agent employed during the
period of 1947-1951.
JM: Have you been employed by the CIA?
JM: During what years?
JM: And you retired from the CIA in 1973?
JM: What was the nature of your duties while
employed at the CIA? ... if you would, please explain to the committee
by starting with the first position you held and if you would
give us your title and the years of service in that position and
briefly describe what your duties entailed.
X: Well, that's gonna be rather difficult
for me to do it unless I have something that I can refer to.
[knock heard on door. Someone says "stop tape."]
JM: All right.
X: I was originally employed by CIA as an
investigator. I subsequently held various positions in the office
of security starting with position of Desk Chief on Operational
Support. Eventually that became a branch and I became the Branch
Chief. I served as a Assistant Special Agent in Charge of one
of the field offices, Domestic Field offices and then became Chief
of Operational Support D.V. at headquarters. In 1962 I was transferred
to the Far East where I became Chief Regional Security officer
for the entire Far East and upon returning to headquarters I assumed
the title of dept. director for Physical, Technical, and Overseas
X: And I did retire in June of 1973.
JM: Directing your attention to the years
1060-1962. You were chief of the Operational Support Division
Office of Security at that time?
JM: And where were you stationed?
X: At headquarters.
JM: OK. Who was your superior during these
X: My supervisor was Victor White.
JM: And what was his position?
X: He was deputy director for Investigations
and Operational Support.
JM: During that time did you report to or
work for Colonel Sheffield Edwards?
X: Well, Colonel Edwards was the director
of Security and through, let me put it this way, my ordinary chain
of command was through Mr. White.
JM: And did he report to Colonel Edwards?
JM: Ok. Directing your attention to 1960.
Did there come a time when you and in your capacity at the CIA
become involved in an operation to assassinate Premier Fidel Castro?
JM: Did this operation involve the cooperation
and participation of individuals not connected with the CIA?
JM: Who were these individuals?
X: Well, Robert Mahue, who was a private investigator,
was approached by the agency to recruit somebody to handle the
assignment. He in turn talked to one John Roselli, who he knew
to be a person who had connections with people that could probably
handle such an assignment.
JM: Did you personally know Robert Mahue?
X: Yes. I know him.
JM: How did you know him?
X: He was originally recruited in 1954 by
the Office of Security to perform certain operational support
JM: And what official at the agency brought
Mahue and Roselli into the project?
X: Colonel Sheffield Edwards.
JM: Were there other CIA personnel involved
in this operation?
X: Robert Bissell, ah Richard Bissell, rather.
JM: And what was his position?
X: At that time, he was deputy director of
JM: And who else?
X: There was Colonel J.C. King who was chief
of the Western Hemisphere Division, I understand was involved.
JM: Ok. When Colonel Edwards first advised
you of this how did he put it to you? How did he explain what
the Agency was about to get itself into?
X: Well, he suggested -- he felt it was in
the National interest, at least, he was advised by some higher
official that it was in the National interest that Mr. Castro
be -- liquidated.
JM: And when you say liquidated, what do you
X: Well, I assume that was to be put out of
JM: Which means killing him, assassinating
X: I ... I gather that.
JM: Ok. And did Colonel Edwards speak to you
regarding Mahue bringing in individuals with contacts in the gambling
X: No, he didn't specify the gambling world.
He knew Mr. Mahue was actively engaged in some activity ... ah
... some businesses in Las Vegas and assumed that he knew people
who might be the type that could handle this assignment.
JM: Who did Mahue bring into this project?
X: Only one. At the time it was a John Roselli.
JM: Did you know who John Roselli was at that
X: Mr. Mahue identified him as an individual
who had the ice concessions in Las Vegas and who was rather knowledgeable
person with the groups that were in gambling interests. International,
JM: Did you personally meet with Roselli?
X: Yes. I met Mr. Roselli through Mr. Mahue.
JM: Where did you meet him? For the first
X: As best I can recall at the Plaza Hotel
in New York City in about September of 1960.
JM: Were there any specifics discussed as
to how plan was to be carried out?
JM: What was said?
X: Well, Mr. Mahue indicated to Roselli that
he represented an international group of clients who had heavy
vested interests in Cuba. And they were quite upset about the
confiscation of their interests by Castro and they were very much
interested in doing something that they felt would be of interest
of the United States as well as themselves in terms of liquidating
JM: And who was present during this conversation?
This is the one at the Plaza Hotel in New York?
X: Mahue, Roselli, and myself.
JM: Did there come a time when other individuals
were brought into the project?
X: At this point in time, no.
JM: When, if fact, did other individuals become
involved in the operation?
X: Well, after Mr. Roselli rather reluctantly
agreed to participate in this type of operation, he brought in
other individuals who I knew only by psudnymes a "Sam Gold"
and a "Joe." One "Joe."
JM: When these individuals were identified
using these names had you met them personally?
JM: When did you first learn their true identities?
The identities of Sam Gold and Joe?
X: It was, and this I just have to just play
by ear because the time-frame is a little vague but it probably
was several months after the operation got underway and I was
staying at one hotel at Miami Beach and Mr. Mahue was staying
at another hotel. And one Sunday morning he called me and asked
if I had read the paper. Now, I think their were two newspapers
in Miami at that time and I can't tell you which one it was but
in any event he said there was and if I hadn't gotten a paper
would I go down and purchase one and call. Which I did.
In the Sunday supplemental, which as I recall, is something
like the "Parade" like we have in the local papers here,
there was an article identifying the leaders of the Mafia. In
that article there were pictures of Sam Gold, who was identified
as Momo Giancanna and Joe was identified as Santos Trafficante.
And Mr. Mahue claimed this was the first time he was aware of
just who we were dealing with.
JM: In what year was this? What year are we
X: Ah, this was ... it's very difficult to
say whether it spilled into 1961 or whether it was 1960. But I
have a faint recollection, and I'm not sure of this, that the
article was something about Bobby Kennedy's" Ten Most Wanted"
individuals. Now on that point I can't say for sure that he would
have been the Attorney General. It seems to me before he became
Attorney General he had some dealings with a committee on -- looking
into organized crime. Now the time I'm very vague on. I really
JM: When did this operation begin? In other
words, when did you first meet with Roselli?
X: Oh well, that would have been September
JM: Ok. And how much after that meeting with
Roselli in New York did you learn the true identities of Sam Gold
X: Well, that's the thing that I can't pinpoint.
I'm sorry. I just don't know. It could have been two months after
this ' the operation or it could have been several months. I just
don't know. I've thought about it but I just can't pinpoint it.
JM: Is it possible that it could have been
as much as six months later?
X: It could have been. I don't know.
JM: Alright. What did you do upon learning
that the individuals involved in this operation were in fact organized
X: I contacted Colonel Edwards and told him
what we had discovered or, at least, as far as I was concerned
it was the first indication I had who we were dealing with, and
appraised them of his identities.
JM: And what did he say to you? What instructions
did he give you, if any?
X: Well, he just said, well this is probably
what we could have expected, I suppose. And I don't want to be
quoting him because I don't recall really what he said but apparently
he did not feel we should alter our approach to the assignment.
JM: Did he give you any further instructions
-- any additional instructions -- upon learning the identities
of these persons?
X: No. As I recall we just proceeded.
JM: Now, Mr. [pause, almost said Mr. X's name]
Sir, we've been speaking of the effort to assassinate Premier
Castro. Did this project involve two phases?
X: If you call it two phases -- there was
ah, after the Bay of Pigs I guess the decision was to just forget
about the whole thing. And there was a law. And then it was reactivated
when later on when they decided to turn Mr. Roselli over to another
JM: Were you involved in what we can term
phase two, after the Bay of Pigs?
X: Very generally, as I recall it. And again,
I'm recalling upon my memory here. I'm not sure. I remember we,
ah, meeting one of a member of the Cuban Hunter, an individual
by the name of Tony Verona. Now whether that was before Bay of
Pigs or after the Bay of Pigs, I'm at a total loss to tell you.
That I think was part of the second phase.
JM: Directing your attention to what we will
call phase one, you were most actively involved in that phase.
Is that correct?
JM: What was your role?
X: I was sort of -- if you want to call it
for lack of anything else -- a babysitter for Johnny Roselli because
at that time Mr. Mahue was actively engaged in almost full time
activity with the Howard Hughes organization and it was taking
more and more of his time. And because of the lull between any
activity on the project, he was not able to spend any excessive
time in Miami. Most of his time had to be spent out on the west
coast or Las Vegas.
So I was enlisted by Colonel Edwards to stay with Roselli while
there were lulls in-between. While he was in Miami. So I was just
JM: Could you describe your role as a liaison
between the agency,The CIA, and the individuals involved in the
X: Only with Roselli.
JM: In your capacity as liaison would all
reports or information given to the CIA come through you?
JM: Would you please tell us what method of
assassination was decided upon during the phase of the project,
phase one, as we have described it? When you were actively involved?
X: Well, I think several things were considered
but it ended up where they thought perhaps the best method would
be some sort of a lethal pill.
JM: And how was this assassination going to
be carried out?
X: Well, the plan was that the courier was
to -- first of all, I think, backing up, they were to recruit
someone who would be in a position to administer the pill to the
principal. And initially they were thinking of a cook or somebody
who would have access to Castro's meals. I guess the plan was
to have him place these pills in his food.
JM: Did you ever meet Santos Tranficante during
the period of this operation?
X: I am told I did.
JM: Would you please elaborate?
X: Yes. One time, one afternoon, Roselli and
I were just whiling away the time. We were staying at a motel
in Miami Beach and he suggested we go downtown to, not downtown
Miami Beach, to just look around the sights. He suggested we go
to a Haberdashery store. For one reason or another he took a dislike
to my shirt that I was wearing and suggested he buy me a real
fancy shirt. I wasn't particularly keen on his choice of it but
to humor him I went along and he bought a very fancy silk shirt
for me. While we were in there it became obvious he knew quite
a few of the employees. It ended up by our going to the back of
the store Where instead of being a stockroom as I envisioned it
would be, it was rather a lavish layout which looked like a club
of some sort. There were several individuals there and he introduced
me to these people. They were a sea of faces as far as I was concerned.
Their names were just thrown out first names, which I didn't get
or meant nothing to me.
Then after we left the store when we were walking away he said,
"Remember the fellow who was sitting at such and such a location
in the backroom?" He said, "That's Joe. He's our courier."
Now I wasn't really focusing on this individual there were just
a lot of faces but there I guess I did meet Trafficante because
I found out later he was Joe. And that was the extent of my ever
JM: When you met him in the store was this
prior to you reading the article in the Sunday supplement?
JM: What was Trafficante's role in the operation?
X: Well, as I understood it he was a courier
that was running back and forth from Miami to Havana and he was
representing the Casino interest in Cuba.
JM: And what do you mean by courier?
X: Well, he apparently Castro had closed down
the casinos and I guess the people that owned them back here in
the states running back and forth trying to determine what their
status was and whether they were going to be reopened or whether
they were going to be taken over by the government. But he did
have access to several people in the Cuban government. At least
that was the understanding I got.
JM: And was it to be his role to transmit
the poison pill to Cuba?
JM: Sir, in 1967, the Inspector General's
office of the CIA prepared a report dealing with CIA-Mafia plots
to assassinate Castro. In this report, the agency states that
Trafficante was the person who contacted and procured Juan Orta,
a Cuban official, and Antonio de Verona, a Cuban exile leader,
as two persons who could serve as potential assassins or accomplices
in the Cuban plot. Is this consistent with your perception of
X: I recall both these individuals and I met
one: I met Tony Varona. But it was my understanding that they
were possible,they were people that probably could take care of
the assignment. But I don't know whether that was Trafficante's
recommendation or was a recommendation made by "Sam."
That was not clear to me at all.
JM: Well. If the Inspector General's Report,
and as I say I'm quoting from it, or reading, paraphrasing from
it, you would have been the first person in position to transmit
information to the agency at that time -- such information that
is now contained in that report? Isn't that correct?
X: I was the only conduit from Roselli, through
Mahue, to the agency.
JM: Okay. So if the report, 1967 Inspector
General's Report states that it was Trafficante who was the person
who was supposed to contact Orta and Verona, then would that fact
X: Well, if I understand the way it was running
that would be true. Trafficante was the individual in touch with
the Cubans in Havana.
JM: Sir, if the 1967 Inspector General's report
also states that Trafficante after receiving the poison pills
to be used in the assassination passed these on to Cuban contacts
in an attempt to kill Castro. Is this also consistent with Trafficante's
role in the assassination plots?
JM: Thank you very much.
Notes On James O'Connell's Identity And Meeting With Roselli:
1. John Davis, "Fatal Hour", New York, Times Books, 1981 p. 58,
In August 1960 the CIA took its initial steps to enlist the underworld
in a Castro assassination plot. Bissell told the Senate committee
the idea originated with [J.C.] King and Colonel Sheffield Edwards,
the director of the Office of Security. The chief of the Operational
Support Division under Edwards (the Committee agreed not to identify
him, referring to him only as the "support chief") asked
Robert Mahue, a former FBI agent, as a private detective, had
developed Mafia connections, to contact John Roselli, a Las Vegas
underworld figure, and determine if Roselli would participate
in a Castro-assassination plot.
2. Warren Hinckle and William W. Turner, "Deadly Secrets", New
York, Thunder Mouth Press1992, (Revised Edition of "The Fish Is
Red." 1st ed. Harper and Row, 1981) pg. 25, A week later Maheu introduced
Roselli to "Jim Olds," in reality CIA Operations Support
Chief James "Big Jim" O'Connell. O'Connell, a lugubrious
man with a basset-hound face, had served with Maheu in the FBI
during WWII and thereafter had become Maheu's case officer. The
meeting was held in the Plaza Hotel in New York, where O'Connell
was staying on important business. [Fidel Castro] was in town
to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations. While
Castro was bear-hugging Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and pumping
the hand of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser at the UN, Jim O'Connell
was plotting his death at the Plaza.
3. William B. Breuer, "Vendetta! Castro and the Kennedy Brothers",
John Wiley & Sons, 1997, Pg. 95 -- Now, in September 1960,
Mahue and Johnny Roselli flew to New York, registered at the posh
Plaza Hotel, and were joined by CIA case officer Jim O'Connell.
Then the three conspirators winged to Miami and checked in at
the elegant Fontainbleau , where they were joined by Moo Moo Giancana
and Sam Trafficante. Three of the conferees used aliases: Giancana
was Sam Gold, O'Connell was Jim Olds, and Trafficante was Joe.
4. Gus Russo, "Live By the Sword", Baltimore, Bancroft Press,
1998. pg. 52 -- The initial planning meeting was held in Miami Beach's
Fontainbleau Hotel, where the assassins-to-be were offered $150,000
by the U.S. government to kill Fidel Castro. O'Connell told the
mobsters he wanted Castro gunned down in a gangland-style killing,
à la "The Untouchables."
Anson, They've Killed the President, 299
Ashman, CIA-Mafia Link, 108-109
Blakey & Billings, Fatal Hour, 58, 59
Blakey, Plot to Kill the President, 102, 208-210, 214, 249,
Breuer, Vendetta! Castro and the Kennedy Brothers, 95
Evica, And We Are All Mortal, 24, 31-34, 79-80, 136, 322
Fonzi, G. The Last Investigation, 1993, 373
Furiati, C. ZR Rifle, 1994, 23, 24, 25, 118
Hersh, S. The Dark Side of Camelot. 1997, 163, 165, 212
Hinckle & Turner Deadly Secrets, 25, 31, 32, 33-34, 79,
80, 136, 322
Hinckle & Turner, The Fish is Red, 29, 34-37, 75, 123
Hougan, Spooks, 329, 338
Hughes. Drosnin,M. Citizen 1985, 68-9
Maheu, R. Next to Hughes. 1993 47, 50, 65, 136, 138, 154
Moldea, The Hoffa Wars, 128, 131, 134-135, 277
Morrow, First Hand Knowledge, 23-25
Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 203
Powers, The Man Who Kept Secrets, 188
Ridenour, R. Back Fire. 1991, 86
Russo, Live By the Sword, 1998, 51, 52, 523
Scott & Hoch, The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond, 377-378
Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 330
Thomas, E. The Very Best Men. 1996, 226-7, 229
Wise, D. The American Police State. 1978, 215
Wyden, The Bay of Pigs, 41-44, 109