Kennedy wanted sabotage against Cuba, papers show
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Kennedy sought to expand sabotage against
Cuba in the
days leading up to the Cuban missile crisis, more than 400 pages of newly declassified
A secretive advisory group held a meeting on Oct. 4, 1962, to discuss the
ongoing work of
Operation Mongoose, a once secret plan to cause disruptions in Cuba, including blowing
up power stations and planting U.S. intelligence infiltrators. Attorney General
Robert Kennedy, who was tapped by his brother to oversee Mongoose, attended.
"The attorney general informed the group that higher authority was concerned
about the progress on the Mongoose program and felt that more priority should
be given to trying to mount sabotage operations," minutes from the meeting said.
From other reports, it is understood that "higher authority" refers to
Kennedy, said Anna Nelson, a historian at American University and a member of
the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, which requested release of the
The records say that there was some discussion of mining Cuban waters with
devices "appearing to be homemade and laid by small aircraft operated by
Nelson said that plan didn't become reality.
"Either they never did it or we never knew about it," she said.
The documents now available at the National Archives in College Park,
Maryland, provide a glimpse inside the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory
Board, a group of civilian experts gathered as an independent source of advice on
intelligence matters. First formed in 1956, the group's impact has varied among
After the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961,
sought improved intelligence gathering and formed his version of the advisory
group. His executive order directed the board to review intelligence work,
including "highly sensitive covert operations relating to political action,
propaganda, economic warfare, sabotage, escape and evasion, subversion
against hostile states."
The document adds that "these covert operations are to be conducted in
manner that, if uncovered, the U.S. government can plausibly disclaim
responsibility for them."
Among those on the board were Clark Clifford, who was chairman of the board
for most of the Kennedy years and later became Lyndon Johnson's defense
secretary during the Vietnam War; retired Gen. James "Jimmy" Doolittle, who
led the first bombing raid on Tokyo during World War II; and William Baker,
head of research at Bell Laboratories.
Following the missile crisis, the board conducted a review of intelligence
gathering before the crisis and found many flaws in what was popularly seen as
a success for the United States.
During a meeting on Dec. 6, 1962, Clifford said the CIA and top presidential
advisers didn't propose or conduct enough surveillance flights over Cuba.
"The feeling in responsible parts of government seems to be that things
out all right, so why bother the president," the records cite Clifford as saying. "If
the president thinks a good intelligence operation took place, this could have
Nelson said that requests by the assassination records board, which disbanded
1998, to have the material declassified were initially rejected, but on January 19,
President Clinton approved the release.
Steven Tilley, who runs the National Archives collection of Kennedy
assassination records, said the documents don't specifically concern the
assassination, but fall under a broad definition of related issues, such as
conspiracy allegations and assertions that Cuba was involved.
The records only mention the Kennedy assassination itself on Nov. 22, 1963,
day the president was killed. The advisers expressed their sorrow and decided to
hold off on their latest recommendations until after Lyndon Johnson took over as
In a summary of the advisory board's work presented to Johnson, the group
Kennedy approved of 125 of its 170 recommendations, most of which
concerned overhauling the CIA and the Defense Department's intelligence
programs. The recommendations ranged from launching more satellites to spy
on Soviet missiles to finding a new name for the CIA.
President Bush will have his own version of the advisory board, but hasn't
appointed any members, White House spokesman Mary Ellen Countryman said
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.