The Miami Herald
April 30, 2000

 U.S. propaganda war preceded exile landing at Bay of Pigs


 Newly declassified documents on the Bay of Pigs invasion reveal a monumental CIA propaganda
 operation that began almost a year before a CIA-trained force of exiles landed on Cuba's
 southern coast on April 17, 1961.

 The documents speak of success in distributing propaganda inside Cuba and elsewhere in Latin
 America in the months leading up to the invasion. They outline plans for using seized newspapers and
 radio stations on the island if the invasion force was able to occupy Cuban territory. And they reveal that
 the CIA took direct control of radio broadcasts after becoming disillusioned with infighting among Miami
 exile groups that had been conducting them.

 Directed by David Atlee Phillips, who also headed the CIA propaganda effort in the
 overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz seven years earlier, the
 propaganda effort included leaflet drops, pre-recorded radio programs made by
 Cuban exiles and distributed to about 40 stations around the Caribbean, and
 recruitment, training and infiltration into Cuba of ``small provocateur teams.''

 After all the preparations, the invasion ended in defeat in about three days of
 bloody fighting.

 The centerpiece of the propaganda effort was Radio Swan, a medium-wave CIA
 station broadcasting from a tiny island in the western Caribbean that was later
 used as a transfer point for supplies sent to Honduran-based, U.S.-backed rebels
 fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista government in the 1980s. The island has since
 been turned over to Honduras, settling a longstanding ownership dispute.


 Details of the CIA propaganda operation are contained in the Taylor Report, the
 work of a board of inquiry formed immediately after the Bay of Pigs by President
 John F. Kennedy and chaired by Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor.

 Portions of the voluminous report were declassified in May 1977 and other
 segments in later years, but the entire document was not declassified until last
 week through the efforts of the National Security Archive, a Washington-based
 nonprofit foreign policy center.

 ``This is a key document to help understand an episode that continues to
 reverberate in U.S.-Cuba relations,'' said Peter Kornbluh, who directs the archive's
 Cuba project and obtained the document's release.

 Included in the Taylor Report is a six-page summary of testimony by Phillips to
 the Taylor Commission along with a ``Propaganda Action Plan'' formulated in
 support of the invasion by the U.S.-funded Brigade 2506 and a brief history of
 Radio Swan.


 The station became operational May 17, 1960, two months after President
 Eisenhower approved the effort to rid Cuba of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. It
 operated through a commercial front in Miami known as the Gibraltar Steamship

 But Phillips, who died in 1988, said in his testimony to the Taylor Commission
 that the propaganda effort was much more far-reaching than Radio Swan.

 Phillips said taped programs produced in Miami by Cuban exiles were
 air-expressed to ``about 40 stations in five countries around the Caribbean.''

 ``We [also] had WGBS in Miami, a very powerful medium wave station. We had a
 medium wave station in Key West, and we broadcast from a series of other
 stations from countries all around the Caribbean,'' Phillips said.

 Small propaganda teams were also recruited, trained and infiltrated into Cuba,
 carrying printing presses, radios and other equipment.

 ``They successfully published a clandestine newspaper in Havana and a . . .
 [words deleted] carried out the only really successful political action that occurred
 in Havana before D-Day, which was a student strike.''


 There was, as well, a leaflet campaign with ``16 straight propaganda drops and
 seven more . . . combined with supply drops.''

 As the invasion drew closer, Phillips said, two teams were available that were
 ``capable of going into Cuba to take over captured radio stations or captured
 newspapers. We had a radio propaganda transmitter which went in with the
 Brigade and we had trained the men to operate it.''

 The history of Radio Swan noted that Castro began jamming it almost
 immediately but ``was successful only in the city of Havana.''

 ``Scores of letters were received from all parts of Cuba to show that the station
 had listeners,'' the document said. ``As late as March 1961, a survey was made
 to determine the extent of the listening coverage. An inexpensive ballpoint pen
 was offered to those listeners who would write in to the station. The reply was
 immediate: almost 3,000 letters from 26 countries. This barrage of mail included
 significant amounts from all parts of Cuba.''


 But the station had its problems as well, the document noted.

 ``Although great numbers of Cubans still listened to the station, its credibility and
 reputation began to suffer as the result of statements representing the selfish
 interests of the Cuban groups producing the various programs.

 ``In the first place, these groups talked overmuch about their activities in Miami
 and the hard fight they were conducting along Biscayne Boulevard. Naturally, the
 Cubans who were suffering under the Castro dictatorship within Cuba resented

 ``Secondly, the Cuban programs became a fulcrum where the individual political
 ambitions of Cuban exiles in Miami were presented to the other Cubans in Miami,
 forgetting the all-important target audience.

 ``Finally, each program fought with the other for `scoops.' As time passed and the
 Cubans found their sources of information were no better than the next fellow's,
 the program producers began to exaggerate in order to give their broadcasts a
 touch of sensationalism. They made statements which were obvious lies to the

 Efforts to achieve the proper control failed, the document said, so on March 27,
 1961, Radio Swan management sent a letter to program producers terminating
 their programs.

 They were replaced by a programming schedule ``implacably under CIA control.''