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JFK Records Reveal Intense Level of Secrecy by CIA During Investigation of Assassination

Calling it “the tip of the iceberg,” Professor Larry J. Sabato and the Center for Politics at UVA released details today of new information discovered in records released by the National Archives last month from the collection of President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records. Among the findings was a previously unknown relationship between the CIA and then-President of Mexico to run a “telephone tap center.” The operation intercepted Lee Harvey Oswald’s call in Mexico City to the Soviet embassy a month before JFK’s assassination seeking a Cuban transit visa as a means of returning to the Soviet Union. The source of the tap had not been revealed to the public prior to last month. According to the new record, the Mexican President’s cooperation with the CIA at the time was also “not known to Mexican security and law enforcement officials.”

Other records show the clandestine phone tap operation was so deeply classified that the CIA resorted to extraordinary measures to conceal it even from the Justice Department as the department prepared a major report on the Kennedy assassination. One newly released document from November 27, 1963, shows the CIA requesting permission from President Adolfo Lopez Mateos and Mexico’s then Secretary of Interior Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (later President of Mexico from 1964 to 1970) to use statements obtained by Mexican citizen Silvia Duran, an employee at the Cuban consulate who interacted with Oswald about his request for a visa. The record notes that the CIA had the information via their secret wiretapping operation with the Mexican President’s office but could not use it without revealing the source. “Obviously the [secret operation] cannot be used…therefore request you cable in a translated version of her statements [along] with [President Mateos’] permission to use these statements in the official report.”

The Mexican cooperation did not come without a price. One document reveals that in October 1963 Emilio Bolanos, nephew of then Secretary of the Interior Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, requested radio equipment from the CIA to protect Ordaz during his successful 1963 campaign for president.

“While it’s unlikely that we’ll find any evidence of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, it’s still important to research these records,” said Sabato. “We’re finding important details that have been hidden from the public for nearly sixty years now, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. These records have been withheld for so long, in part, to ensure that when released, people will ignore or dismiss the information as irrelevant artifacts of history. The fact that the government counts on the public to ignore the information in these files is our primary motivation for involving as many students as possible in uncovering as many details as possible.”

King Depressed By Riots; Hoffa Sought Help from King

Records released by the National Archives in 2017 and 2018 – and rereleased last December with additional details – show that following an address by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the early 1960s to Teamsters Union members, at the invitation of James Hoffa, Hoffa asked King to speak to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and tell Bobby “to lay off” Hoffa. Kennedy was investigating Hoffa’s close ties to mobsters and organized crime. King was going to do so, but Stanley Levison, MLK’s attorney and advisor, convinced him that it would be “politically unwise, inexpedient, and likely to be a ‘boomerang’.”

Another record shows that in a March 29, 1968, FBI taped conversation between MLK and Levison, King said he “was depressed by riots” in Memphis that erupted from what was supposed to have been a peaceful event, and King considered calling off future similar events.

Another earlier record discovered during Sabato’s classes revealed that Levison may not always have had King’s best interests at heart. Speaking to the general secretary for the Communist Party of the USA in 1962, Levison claimed that “King is a wholehearted Marxist, who has studied it (Marxism), believes in it, and agreed with it, but because of his being a minister of religion, does not dare to espouse it publicly.”

Additional Revelations/Details on Events of the 1960s

  • In January 1960, the U.S. learned that Cuban President Fidel Castro was tightening his inner circle as all Cuban intelligence operations were reorganized and put under Army intelligence which reported directly to the President’s brother Raul Castro.
  • “To create confusion and disruption,” on Dec. 1, 1960, staff of the Cuban Consulate in Miami proposed “acts of sabotage and terrorism be committed in the Miami, Florida, area” and to blame such attacks on anti-Castro forces. Two years later, the Special Group (Augmented), formed by JFK and headed up by Robert Kennedy, considered acts of sabotage and terrorism in Miami to be blamed on pro-Castro forces and used to justify invading Cuba.
  • Cuban intelligence’s primary interests in the U.S. were in Miami, Key West, and New York, where they maintained intelligence agents to primarily monitor anti-Castro organizations.
  • Following the break in Cuba/U.S. diplomatic relations on Jan. 3, 1961, three members of the Cuban Consulate were granted asylum, but they secretly continued to work for Cuban intelligence.
  • Other Cubans who remained in the U.S. and claimed to be anti-Castro, were believed by a CIA informant to be working for Cuban intelligence.
  • Marxist revolutionary leader Che Guevara, a major figure of the Cuban Revolution who played roles in Fidel Castro’s new government, was publicly critical of Castro in the Egyptian press in 1965 and, as a result, Castro had loyal associates in Cuban missions throughout the world and within Cuba report on the movements and activities of Guevara and others critical of his regime.
  • During the Kennedy administration, the United States planned a complex series of secret operations to undermine and overthrow the Castro government. Collectively, these plans were categorized as Operation Mongoose – most of which were never implemented and were declassified in previous document releases. However, new information reveals that the operation included plans for the U.S. to counterfeit Cuban currency to debase the Cuban economy.

For nearly 10 years, Sabato has incorporated research of declassified JFK files into classes. Over the years, the research has yielded often surprising new details about the Kennedy assassination including that Oswald said someone should kill President Eisenhower years before JFK’s assassination; that Oswald told coworkers in the Soviet Union that someone would “become famous, with books being written and movies made of him” if he killed a U.S. President; and details of a mysterious call made to a British reporter 30 minutes before JFK’s assassination urging the reporter to contact the U.S. Embassy for some “big news.”

Sabato’s newest Kennedy class with 120 students began Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.