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The Anti-Latell Report (VI): Aspillaga Story

Aspillaga photo on Jaimanitas background
Aspillaga photo on Jaimanitas background
(Image by The Saturday Sun [Toronto], ca. 1998)
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According to Dr. Brain Latell, the story on Castro foreknowledge told by Cuban defector Florentino Aspillaga "was not publicly revealed" until the publication of Castro's Secrets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). This remark is quite problematic: Why did Aspillaga s account --which Dr. Latell named "Jaimanitas story" in his abovementioned book-- remain unpublished?

Dr. Latell heard the story straight from the horse's mouth in 2007, but the CIA had learned it two decades before, while debriefing Major Aspillaga, codenamed TOUCHDOWN, who after 25 years and 13 medals in the General Direction of Intelligence (DGI) defected from his third-rate post in Bratislava [Slovakia] to the West in early June 1987.

His case was included in Nigel West's Historical Dictionary of Sexspionage (2009) due to an incidental relationship. Aspillaga defected along with the teenage girl Marta Plasencia, who the CIA Station chief in Vienna, James Olson, thought was his daughter, but turned to be his girlfriend. The walk-in fits better in Olson's own definition: Aspillaga was a "let's cut a deal kind of guy." In return for handing over documents stolen from the DGI Station in Prague and being squeezed by CIA debriefers, he got a deluxe package of resettlement in the U.S.

Aspillaga furnished the key information that, if not all, most of the Cubans recruits by the CIA from 1960 onward were double agents working for Castro. That's enough for putting at rest the western spaghetti approach summed up by Lyndon Johnson: "Kennedy was trying to get Castro, but Castro got to him first." Castro simply dodged the attempts to kill him by penetrating both the CIA and the Cuban exile with agents who told him right back what his enemies were up to. He would have never risked everything to gain nothing else than a successor at the White House who offered no promise of more favorable U.S. policies toward Cuba.

Aspillaga s revelations were profusely reported, but "the Jaimanitas story" never came to light. During a June 1988 radio interview with the WQBA anchorman and now Mayor of Miami, Tomas Regalado, Aspillaga referred to Castro 69 times, but not even once to Kennedy. He even bit his tongue before Georgie Anne Geyer, who interviewed him in Washington, on April 14, 1988, for her book about "the untold story" of Castro (Guerrilla Prince, 1991).

Dr. Latell assures that Aspillaga "is convinced that Fidel had advance knowledge of the [JFK] assassination," but the CIA didn't bring him to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), although its expert Dr. Michael Kurtz, author of Crime of the Century (1982), was still asking for digging around "the so-called Cuban connection." The ARRB was created by law in the wake of Oliver Stone's film JFK (1991) for speedily declassifying the assassination records. More than four million pages were released, but not a single one from Aspillaga.

Twenty years after his debriefing, Aspillaga let slip an anecdote la carte for Dr. Lattel's book. On November 22, 1963, the hardly 16 year old Aspillaga was busy monitoring CIA communications from a listening post at Jaimanitas, a small beach town alongside to Marina Hemingway and near Castro's main residence, dubbed as Point Zero, seven miles to the west of Havana down town. Around 9:30 am (EST) this teenage counterintelligence rookie received the order "to stop all CIA work" and redirect the antennas "toward Texas." He must report back "if anything important occurs." A few hours later, he "began hearing broadcasts on amateur radio bands about the shooting of President Kennedy in Dallas." Aspillaga drew the conclusion that "Castro knew."

The "Jaimanitas story" is a suspicious narrative about electronic intelligence (ELINT) used to learn "anything important" that would be instantly available as breaking news. The radio amateurs allegedly heard by Aspillaga were at most chattering on what the media have already reported.

On November 18, 2013, Dr. Latell was the main speaker of the lecture "Castro and the Kennedy Assassination," sponsored by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami. He conclusively proved that having been a CIA desk analyst is not an insurmountable barrier to fail in assessing sources. He felt sure about "Aspillaga s most sensational revelation" after reading it in both the English and Spanish versions of his unpublished memoirs. Dr. Latell did not even realize that a (talking) source is an (English written) source is a (Spanish written) source.

An independent confirmation was at hand just by requesting Aspillaga s debriefing under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Dr. Latell abstained from this simple step despite the Reagan Rule "Trust, but verify." Ironically the CIA chose to engage in a conspiracy of silence. Instead of taking the road to clarification, the Agency Release Panel responded to a FOIA request by a third party on June 28, 2013, that "the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence" of JFK-related records in Aspillaga s debriefing.

Neither Aspillaga nor TOUCHDOWN brings any result by searching one after another, or both at the National Archives web site. Enter "JFK Assassination" in the search box and the first relevant result would be About JFK Assassination Records Collection . Click on it, then on JFK Assassination Records Collection Database , and finally on Standard Search . A "Kennedy Assassination Collection Simple Search Form" appears. Enter the terms "Aspillaga" (first line) OR "Touchdown" (second line) and no hit will be retrieved. If you repeat the sequence for another JFK-related Cuban defector, e.g. Vladimir Rodriguez-Lahera [AMMUG-1], 9 hits will be retrieved, one of them "Withheld."

Aspillaga, "the most valuable [DGI] officer ever to change sides," is not to be found on either side at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), where "approximately 1,100 documents are located in [its] protected collection and will be released in 2017 unless the CIA appeals to the President [against] disclosure," according to Delores Nelson, Chief of the Public Information Programs Division at the CIA.

Dr Latell simply covers up the real problem --what the CIA knew about Oswald-- by posing as academic issue what Castro knew about an imaginary Oswald who "felt a compelling need to help protect the bearded man he worshiped."

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Arnaldo M. Fernandez Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Former Professor of Law at the University of Havana Former Instructor of Journalism at the University of Miami Contributor to CTKA on the JFK assassination Contributor to History Today and The Miami Herald

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