Newspaper Scoops and the Assassination of Fidel Castro Part 1
About the major newspaper scoop of the plot by the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro.
BEHIND THE FRONT PAGE-GREAT SCOOPS AND NEWS BEATS
THEY SET UP CASTRO
Dateline: Washington, D.C., May 3, 1967; Jan. 18-19 and Feb. 23, 1971.
By-line: Jack Anderson. Working out of a red stone and brick Victorian mansion on 16th Street, six blocks north of the White House, Jack Anderson writes a daily column which appears in 1,000 newspapers read by over 60 million people. In 1947, 24 years old and just out of the army, he came to Washington to work for columnist Drew Pearson. When Pearson died in 1969, he left the column to Anderson.
The Big Beat: As in other big stories, Anderson's two decades of legwork for Pearson, during which he developed countless contacts in the government bureaucracy, paid off in breaking the CIA assassination scandal. "We learned the details from sources whose credentials are beyond question," he wrote in 1971.
These were the details: The assassination of Fidel Castro was planned to kick off the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, a disorganized attempt of the CIA and Cuban expatriates to retake Cuba. The CIA contacted Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent who had worked for the CIA before and now ran Howard Hughes's Nevada operations. Maheu contacted John Roselli, a Mafia chieftain with friends in Cuba, and Roselli and two CIA operatives carrying poison pellets went to Miami. Roselli was so flattered to be asked to perform a secret mission for the government that he paid his expenses out of his own pocket.
In Miami, on Mar. 13, 1961, the pellets were given to a Roselli contact, a relative of one of Castro's chefs. A couple of weeks later Castro was reported ill, but he recovered before the Bay of Pigs fiasco on Apr. 17.
Undaunted, the CIA tried five more times over the next two years to get Castro through their Mafia connection; once more with poison, this time triple strength, and four times with high-powered rifles. Roselli ferried the assassins to Cuba in powerboats.
George Smathers, a senator and close friend of President Kennedy during his administration, told Anderson that Kennedy had complained to him of being unable to control the CIA. Said Smathers: "I remember him saying that the CIA frequently did things he didn't know about, and he was unhappy about it. He complained that the CIA was almost autonomous."
John McCone, the head of the CIA in the early sixties, told Anderson that the subject of assassinating Castro had occasionally been raised, but was never taken seriously. He denied that the CIA ever tried to assassinate foreign leaders.
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