March 21, 2001

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
                  documents reveal.

                  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 President
                  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, Kennedy
                  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 such
                  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 turned
                  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
                  dangerous implications."

                  Nelson said that requests by the assassination records board, which disbanded in
                  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, the
                  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 said
                  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 yet
                  appointed any members, White House spokesman Mary Ellen Countryman said

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.