A former Cuban exile anti-Castro militant told a conference audience Sept. 26 in a blockbuster revelation that he saw accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald with their mutual CIA handler six weeks before the killing and there would have been no anti-Castro movement in Cuba without the CIA funding.
David Atlee Phillips alias Maurice Bishop
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Antonio Veciana, the acknowledged leader of the Alpha 66 assassination squad of Cuban exiles in the early 1960s, made the statements in a dignified but emotion-laden manner at this year's major conference analyzing the Warren Commission report on murder of President John F. Kennedy Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. Alpha 66 is alleged to have tried to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro on two occasions, but Veciana, a onetime certified public accountant for a wealthy Cuban in the years before the revolution, has never been been charged with an attempt.
Separately, the general counsel of the last major government investigation into the killing issued a statement saying the CIA had deceived him and the rest of the public during the late 1970s inquiry into the validity of the Warren report. Former House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) General Counsel G. Robert Blakey spoke during the conference Sept. 26-28 organized at the Bethesda Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD by the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC).
Veciana said he is convinced the CIA organized the president's murder and that he saw Oswald meeting with a CIA official in Dallas because Veciana arrived at his meeting fifteen minutes too early. Veciana said he believes Oswald was a CIA operative whom the agency decided to blame for a killing it organized in a complex plot.
Veciana said his CIA handler was the late David Atlee Phillips, shown in a file photo above. Phillips was a high-ranking CIA official who used the cover named "Maurice Bishop" during his many meetings with Veciana. Earlier this year, Veciana confirmed to researcher Marie Fonzi, widow of his friend the author Gaeton Fonzi, that "Bishop" was "Phillips." But Veciana never previously answered questions in a public forum.
The CIA placed Phillips in charge of the CIA's Cuba operations after the newly created agency recruited him from newspaper work in 1950s. According to biographers, Phillips was a former actor born in Texas, and used hundreds of aliases in his CIA work. After retirement from the CIA Phillips organized thousands into the politically influential Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
Veciana, age 85 and just days short of his next birthday, spoke through a translator and with a son by his side. He said he was trained as a CPA and admired "Bishop" and the CIA deeply for many years.
Now, however, he wanted to set the record straight. He said he has come to admire also Kennedy, whom and he and Phillips once regarded as a "traitor" for allowing communist Cuban leader Fidel Castro to remain in power.
Blakey is shown in a file photo from his longtime work as a professor of law at Notre Dame University. He spoke Sept. 27 to reiterate his statement and answer questions. His committee issued a report in 1979 scrutinizing the original 1964 Warren report.
G. Robert Blakey
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The two admissions were part of an explosive agenda for the conference. I helped open it by describing why the 50th anniversary of the Warren report is a unique, historic opportunity to solve the nation's most important murder.
The assassination's ripple effects continue to the present because the CIA and its allies have increasingly operated as a nearly unaccountable secret government that poses a great threat to democracy now, just as the nation's first three Cold War presidents feared.
I amplified on that theme on Sept. 27 in an afternoon panel "Why Won't the Media Cover the Story?"
The remarks drew from my recent book research for Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters, which documents on the record how all recent presidents, including Barack Obama, were involved with CIA or FBI covert information gathering operations before they entered politics. These kinds of under-reported relationships foster the ascendancy of the nation's leaders -- including in business, politics, academics and the media -- in ways unknown to the general public.
C-SPAN covered the conference's opening, but has not yet announced its cablecast schedule.
Among the conference highlights, a team of professional actors provided a dramatic reading Sept. 27 of a long-secret transcript of a Commission meeting in January 1964 in which commissioners secretly addressed the threat that two newspaper reporters posed.