Wednesday 15 September 2004

Secrets of the Florida Straits

by Trowbridge H. Ford

Since the Bush administration has decided to seek confirmation of Porter Goss, the retiring Republican Congressman from Florida's 14th Congressional District, as the next Director of Central Intelligence, the public should be made aware of his most damaging secrets, especially since the White House has pursued a most cynical course in gaining approval of his nomination.

One of the conventions of Congress is to approve the nomination of any of its members to a post requiring senatorial approval unless the candidate is notoriously corrupt, obviously unqualified or intensely disliked. It is to take advantage of this convention that the Goss nomination is being pursued since he had declined to run again in his district, and it is too late now to get on the Florida ballot. By waiting until the formation of the next Congress, Goss will then no longer be in a position to take advantage of the convention - what would promise a much more controversial confirmation process, especially if Bush retains the White House, no matter which political party controls the Senate after the November election. Goss is just too political in every aspect to succeed under these circumstances.

So the Bush administration, confident that it will be returned in two months, is going ahead with the nomination to take advantage of the current, special conditions, believing full well that, if confirmed now, Goss will continue as DCI next year. The gutless Senate Democrats are relying upon the electorate to do their work for them, and will only regret their failure to act, come January.

Given the qualifications, experience, and performance of all previous DCIs, it is hard to see how Goss can be stopped on these normal grounds. He is certainly well enough educated, has had a wide variety of experience, and has not performed politically, especially as Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, in an overly partisan way too often. As a Congressman, an elected representative, he is expected to have policies, interests, and agendas that other politicians might neither approve of nor follow - what he has reminded the Senators of during the first day of hearings.

This leaves Goss's own experience as a CIA agent, starting right after he graduated from Yale, and the country was trying to recover from the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. In this context, it is most alarming for Goss, fluent in French and Spanish, and first serving the Agency in Miami, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, to have stated that he then ..."had some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits." During that time, after the forced resignations of DCI Allen Dulles and DDP Richard Bissell because of the fiasco, the Agency was insubordinate, bordering on treachery, of Kennedy administration orders, especially in operations involving the Florida Straits. Never was the CIA so out of control from constituted authority.

For example, when Attorney General Robert Kennedy was finally briefed on the Agency's efforts with the Mafia to assassinate Cuba's Fidel Castro - what MI5's Peter Wright had finally persuaded the CIA to initiate in 1959, and William King Harvey was trying to effect under codename ZR/RIFLE, part of the Cuban Task Force W for Operation Mongoose, working out of the Miami station - he was furious to learn from Lawrence Houston that the Agency was using Mafia hitmen because it threatened to ruin all his efforts to prosecute them. While Kennedy thought that the collaboration had finished, and had made clear that he would be informed before it was attempted again, Harvey, the new DDP Richard Helms, and Johnny Roselli, a lieutenant of Chicago Mafioso Sam 'Momo' Giancana - thanks again to Wright's encouragement in November 1961 (Peter Wright, Spycatcher, pp. 143-62) - were at it again.

"Phase two," Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen wrote in The 60 Greatest Conspiracies, "featured more poison pills, rifles, and explosives over the course of eleven more months - but all these plots failed as well....Neither Harvey nor Helms had informed CIA director McCone of Mafia phase two." (p. 17) And he, of course, had neither informed the President nor the Attorney General who only learned of Harvey's treachery when his commandos attacked Cuba during the tensest moments of the Cuban Missile Crisis, almost derailing diplomatic attempts to settle it peacefully.

While the Kennedys did everything they could to stop Harvey and his Cuban exiles, ultimately forcing his transfer to Rome, Harvey went ahead with his own plans against Cuba as if Washington didn't exist. In April 1963, Harvey was seen at Plantation Key, planning with his former subordinates, especially E. Howard Hunt, and William 'Rip' Robertson, new attacks on the island, again with the help of the Mafia's Roselli, John Martino, Eddie Perez aka "Bayo", and others, notably William Pawley. Pawley was closely connected to former Vice President Richard M. Nixon, and Life magazine's Henry Luce.

In June, the Martino mission took a Cuban assassination team in Pawley's boat, close along the Cuban coastline, dropping them off to make the hit, and hoping to make contact with two Soviet colonels, willing to claim that Moscow had not returned to the USSR all its missiles, as dictated by the terms of the settlement. But instead of the colonels being turned over to the government, as Peter Dale Scott has written in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, they would give a press conference to prove that the Soviets were again threatening America, and that the Kennedy administration was doing nothing about it. ((pp. 115-6)

When these plans didn't work out, a CIA agent sneaked into Havana in September to reactivate Rolando Cubela aka AM/LASH to make another hit on Castro. To get Cubela on board, Demond Fitzgerald, Harvey's successor at Miami, claimed that he was the Attorney General's representative, and that Fizgerald was no mere operative but a real US Senator. While the Agency later disputed this audacity, claiming that Cubela initiated the operation, he convincingly denied the claims when Anthony Summers interviewed him while researching The Kennedy Conspiracy. (See, esp., pp. 322-4.)

Harvey et al. then decided to make AM/LASH a convenient fallguy for Castro's apparent effort to kill JFK himself while making Jack Ruby actually set up the real one. (For more on this, see my article about Harvey in the Archive.) What's really interesting is that their efforts in Miami opened the door for the actual assassination in Dallas - JFK was so threatened and protected in the Sunshire State that he promised to many, especially actress Joan Crawford, Nixon's employer at Pepsi-Cola, that he would take as many risks as possible when he visited Texas a few days later. Little wonder that Martino told his wife Florence this when he heard about the trip: "Flo, they're going to kill him. They're going to kill him when he gets to Dallas." (Quoted from Noel Twyman, Bloody Treason, p. 631.)

When JFK was setting out on the Texas trip, the most treacherous act of all by the CIA, and the least investigated occurred - the apparent shooting down by Castro of a U-2 reconnaissance plane, piloted by Captain Joe Glenn Hyde, Jr. The LaGrange (Ga.) Daily News, Hyde's home town, was filled with
ominous stories about the crash while reminding readers that similar flights had first discovered Soviet MRBMs in Cuba in October 1962, and that flights were continuing to make sure that they had left.

His mother, for example, said that he had called her on the 19th, to wish her a happy birthday from some undisclosed place, but now he had simply disappeared in the "Ten Fathom Curve" area, 40 miles northwest of Key West. While the Strategic Air Command (SAC) did not believe that Hyde had been shot down by the Cubans, it did note that the plane crashed without transmitting any radio messages, and that the downing of Major Rudolf Anderson's U-2 plane during the Missile Crisis took the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The day of the assassination, the Navy and Coast were conducting an all-out search to find Hyde who had apparently ejected from the aircraft before it crashed, and to recover the U-2. If Hyde had done so, it might take days to find him. "Strict security measures are in effect in the salvage area and newsmen are not permitted near the scene," the lead story of the Georgia daily reported. While neither mechanical trouble, nor Cuban fire had been ruled out as the cause of the accident, the stories clearly indicated that only Hyde, if he were recovered, could convincingly establish what had happened.

After JFK was assassinated, and attempts by the CIA, the Bureau, and the Defense Department to blame it upon Castro and the Soviets had been quashed, all interest in Hyde's condition and whereabouts simply died. The LaGrange Daily News settled for the shortest story on the inside the next day, entitled "Searchers Find No Trace of Glenn Hyde", and other papers across the country hardly had more. The mystery was not clarified either six month later when Hyde's survivors received his Distinguished Flying Cross for a flight he made in January 1963, a Fifth Oak Lead Cluster to the Air Medal for flights which did not include his apparently fatal one, and there was no mention of any Purple Heart for his apparent demise.

In sum, this appears to be the dirtest kind of covert action possible - what could easily have led to the resumption of the Missile Crisis if matters had gone according to plan in Dallas - and it is impossible to believe that Goss did not have it in mind when he referred to "interesting moments in the Florida Straits." He should be grilled at least about what was going on, and what really happened to Hyde. Is he living, for example, somewhere else under an assumed name?

For Senators disinclined to raise such explosive questions about old operations, I would remind them that this might well constitute treason - what one would hardly expect of a DCI officially committed to following constituted authority, especially when it is seeking a mandate to carry out all kinds of preemptive attacks, especially on Castro's Cuba, and his cohort in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Come January, if Goss is confirmed, he could carry out legally what he attempted treacherously behind the back of the Kennedy administration, and at the President's expense.