The Central Intelligence Agency’s increasingly desperate schemes to assassinate or at least embarrass Castro, from exploding cigars and Mafia hitmen to beard depilatories, are legend. What is less well-known are some of the same agency’s other various schemes to attack Castro, one of which is detailed by Jack Pfeiffer in his secret history of the Bay of Pigs (a copy of which was obtained by a Florida researcher).
This one isn’t as serious (or illegal) as the Pentagon’s subsequent NORTHWOODS plan, which proposed (among other things) what amounted to a campaign of domestic terrorism within the U.S. The CIA considered and rejected such plans as doctoring photos of Cuban aircraft to make it look as though the Castro government was painting them in U.S. Air Force colours (presumably for some nefarious purpose), or sending a “Billy Graham type” speaker around Latin America in a white plane to warn people of the dangers of revolutionary movements in their own countries.
Then, it came across something far better. This too was rejected by the chief mucky-mucks, but it still deserves to be reproduced in full as an indication of CIA thinking:
HQS is considering the following operation: shortly after a Russian boat homeward bound from Cuba passes through the Bosphorous [Strait] a dripping Cuban climbs ashore in Turkey. He claims to be political prisoner arrested by Cubans in Havana but sent to Russia for imprisonment. Cuban subject will contact local Latin American consuls and Istanbul press for exploitation, then return Latin America. After brief but dramatic exposure to press an “attempt” will be made on subject’s life. For this reason he will go underground so “they” will not liquidate him.
For Hava: request station recruit subject. Obviously he must be superb actor who can convincingly maintain role in spite of skillful probing by dubious newsmen. He must have memory capable of retaining thousands of “details” about his arrest and forced journey. He must be known in Havana so as to be missed when he is “arrested.” An articulate student type would be desirable. Swimming ability desirable but not essential.
Suggest that in recruitment, station state there good reason to believe Cuban prisoners really are being sent to Russia, but that this cannot be proved. Thus subject’s participation in this play-acting will be justifiable dramatization of Soviet control in Cuba. Station also authorized promise financial backing, later return to Cuba with fighting group, permission weekend with all the works in Paris, etc.
In recruitment, it should be stressed to subject that success this operation and status his position in international limelight depends entirely on security. His family and friends must really believe he has been arrested (and station must assist in spreading word of his arrest for specific offense so that facts will jibe in subsequent investigations.)
Advise soonest when your man is selected. His briefing will be in PBPRIME. Hope he may be recruited in time exfiltrate AMPAN boat departing Havana end of this month. (pp. 231-232)
The informal assessment by CIA leadership was that this proposal was “not worth the candle.” It’s worth pointing out, given how the international media works, that the largest target audience for this “operation” would have been American newspaper readers and TV news watchers, not Cubans.
It’s also worth wondering whether the CIA continues to ponder (and occasionally carry out) such manipulative operations, or whether this is an area of Clandestine Service activity that was abandoned in the 1970s.Tweet