Overview: the cia, the drug traffic, and oswald in mexico

The Intercepts, the Cover-Up, and the Assassination Plot

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The Intercepts, the Cover-Up, and the Assassination Plot

With the wholesale releases of the cable traffic in the 1990s, there is more and more recognition that the CIA and FBI, in the days after the assassination, engaged in a cover-up. Richard Mahoney reports that Bobby Kennedy, on November 29, asked Hoover if Oswald had been "connected with the Cuban operation [Mongoose] with money;" and received only a guarded reply, "That's what we're trying to nail down now."153 According to Mahoney,

It was obvious...to anyone in the know that the CIA, in particular Allen Dulles, a Warren Commission member, had covered up the CIA's violent relationship with anti-Castro Cubans and the fact that Oswald, as Senator Schweiker later said, "had the fingerprints of Intelligence all over him."154

Even Gus Russo, whose book is throughout a defense of CIA integrity, concedes that the CIA withheld information that "could have given the public the misperception that the Agency had a relationship with Oswald."155 But according to Russo, Dulles' cover-up activities on the Warren Commission were intended chiefly to protect Bobby Kennedy, rather than the CIA.156 "A full disclosure of Mexico City matters," Russo argues, "would have bared the Kennedys' plans to murder Fidel Castro....Such a disclosure would certainly have diminished JFK's mystique as an innocent martyr."157

Both of these two variant explanations focus on a cover-up designed to cover up anti-Castro assassination plotting in 1963: plotting in which both CIA personnel (certainly) and Bobby Kennedy (possibly) were involved. But neither Mahoney nor Russo point out the degree to which the 1963 post-Mongoose plotting involved the sources and managers of the Oswald Mexico City stories.

The Sources of the Stories and the ZR/RIFLE Assassination Project

In the pages to follow, I shall show how Staff D, the small CIA unit responsible for SIGINT (signals intelligence), and thus for electronic intercept operations, was also the unit which housed the CIA's ZR/RIFLE assassination project.158 The Mexican DFS, which supplied the raw intercept data to the CIA in Mexico City, also overlapped in many ways with the Cubans and organized crime personnel picked for the CIA-mafia anti-Castro assassination plots.159

It is possible that the special circumstances in Mexico City explain why the CIA's generic assassination project, ZR/RIFLE, was housed within the Staff D's intercept operations. ("ZR" normally prefixed the cryptonym for a intercept program.) In his hunt for killers, ZR/RIFLE chief William Harvey searched for individuals with criminal connections.160 The Mexico City intercept operation against the Soviet Embassy was by far the largest and most important CIA intercept program anywhere in the world.161 And the DFS, the local intelligence service on which the CIA relied to man its listening posts, was probably the intelligence service with the profoundest links to the international drug traffic and to American organized crime.

For example, the brother-in-law of Luis Echeverría Alvarez, in 1963 the main liaison between Win Scott and the DFS, was Rubén Zuno Arce, who during Echeverría's term as President of Mexico emerged as a top drug trafficker, eventually jailed for the murder of a DEA agent (Los Angeles Times, 3/25/93). Such direct family links between Mexican politicians and the drug traffic were unfortunately not uncommon.

Here is the gist of the DFS-drug-organized crime relationship, as set out in Chapter X of this book:

The DFS was involved in the LIENVOY intercept project and probably manned the listening posts. The DFS may have been assisted in this LIENVOY project by Richard Cain, an expert telephone tapper and adjunct to the CIA-Giancana [ZR/RIFLE] assassination connection, when he was in Mexico City in 1962 as a consultant to a Mexican Government agency. Richard Cain at the time was also part of that Dave Yaras-Lennie Patrick-Sam Giancana element of the Chicago mob with demonstrable links to Jack Ruby in 1963, and the HSCA speculated that Cain may have been part of the 1960-61 CIA-Mafia plots against Castro. [Cain's CIA file, according to a later CIA memo, "reflects that...in 1963...he became deeply involved in the President Kennedy assassination case.]162

Since 1995 new releases from Cain’s FBI file have revealed that the file identified Cain not with the CIA or its Bay of Pigs Cuban Front the FRD, but as “a former United States Army Military Intelligence Officer.163

Unmistakably Staff D, the small secretive part of CIA in which the CIA-Mafia plots were housed, controlled the LIENVOY intercept intake inside the Mexico City CIA station (Ann Goodpasture, the responsible officer, was a member of Staff D). If Richard Cain trained and possibly helped recruit the Mexican LIENVOY monitors, then the CIA-DFS LIENVOY collaboration would present a matrix for connecting the CIA's internal mishandling of Oswald information to the behavior of Ruby and other criminal elements in Dallas. It would also put the CIA-Mafia connection, through Staff D, in a position to feed to the CIA the false intercept linking a false Oswald to a suspected Soviet assassination expert (Kostikov), the intercept that became a major pretext for creating a Warren Commission to reach the less dangerous conclusion of a lone assassin.

There are contextual corroborations of this matrix. Both Ruby and the DFS had links to the Mexico-Chicago drug traffic, dating back to the 1940s. The DFS and the Mexican drug traffic became increasingly intertwined after 1963; the last two DFS Chiefs were indicted, for smuggling and for murder; and the DFS itself was nominally closed down in the midst of Mexico's 1985 drug scandals.164

To this we should add that Nicaraguan security forces, to whom Alvarado reported, were also deeply implicated under Somoza in the international drug traffic. Indeed military intelligence officers from Mexico to Panama in this period recurringly exhibited the same pattern: involvement with each other, with the drug traffic, and with the CIA.165

Involvement with drug-trafficking was associated with other criminal activities, notably the smuggling of stolen U.S. cars. We shall see in Chapter Ten that Miguel Nazar Haro, a key DFS official who was also a CIA asset, was indicted in California as part of a a $30 million car theft ring.166

We have seen that Alvarado himself was part of this milieu. As CIA cables reveal, his reports on Communists for Nicaraguan intelligence reached the CIA through his superiors. And the man to whom he reported, Gustavo Montiel of Nicaraguan Military Intelligence, was accused years later of being behind a "massive car theft ring" in the 1970s, which was run by another undercover informant against subversives, Norwin Meneses Canterero.167 Norwin Meneses became the key figure in a Contra-drug connection exposed by Gary Webb; CIA cables released in connection with Webb's charges confirm that already in the Somoza era Meneses "was called the kingpin of narcotics traffickers in Nicaragua."168 Yet Meneses was able to move in and out of the United States with impunity in the Contra period. This immunity aroused suspicions in law enforcement circles that Meneses enjoyed CIA protection, just as undoubtedly the CIA intervened to remove Nazar Haro from the list of DFS agents indicted in California for car smuggling.169

It is highly unlikely that Scott and the other CIA Station officers were unaware of the corruption with which they were dealing, but of which their cables mention nothing. Indeed Scott was a personal beneficiary, having accepted from his friend Miguel Nazar Haro a Cadillac for his personal use.170

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