tv Cuba and the CIA CSPAN January 4, 2015 3:10pm-4:01pm EST
american history tv is featuring austin, texas. learn more about other stops on c-span's city's tour on www.c-span.org/localcontent. you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. >> tonight, janet markey president and ceo of the national council of la raza, on the state of hispanics in america, immigration reform, and her personal story. >> i have had the great privilege of experiencing the american dream in this country. born in kansas. my parents actually came to this country in the very early 1950's. my parents came from mexico with no money and very little education.
my dad had an eighth grade education, my mom, a fifth-grade education, and yet, they believed in the promise of this country. they worked really hard and sacrificed, as so many latinos and hispanics have done in this country, because they wanted that better future for their children, and they believed in the promise of this country. they talked us important values that have been our guide for our lives, me and my siblings, my six brothers and sisters. they taught us the importance of family, faith, community hard work, sacrifice, honesty integrity. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's "q&a."
next on american history tv, researcher peter kornbluh discusses president kennedy's attempts to open up negotiations with cuba. he discusses the issues involved with establishing reliable dialogue in negotiations. he is co-author of "back channel to cuba." this is about 45 minutes. >> thank you. i'm here to introduce peter kornbluh, whom i have just met. i have just gotten a copy of his new book, coming out on october 1 on wednesday. i don't think you can buy them here. your local bookstores will have them, and amazon i presume.
thank you. my name is brenda brody. i've been on the board since 2005. we can't identify the exact year. that is as close as i can get. the national security archive, it was the first organization to be known publicly as nsa. his organization is what i call the good nsa. the other nsa is the national security agency who was into our private phone calls and read our mail, and are a core component of our secret government that has done everything possible to fight and to my requests for access to their historic records. peter kornbluh has for decades been in the forefront of filing requests and occasionally legal suit to obtain declassification and release of highly classified and hidden documents.
the role of the good nsa is chasing our store records, trying to pry open the hidden hands of the bad nsa, and most of the covert agency is, and our national archives that have layers of classification and secrecy. peter kornbluh has been responsible for major projects at the good nsa and has extracted records. this is my definition of a hero. vital records have been obtained of the nixon kissinger overthrow of the chilean government in 1973 and, and his book was entitled "a declassified dossier on atrocity and accountability."
they read like an outline of a novel. he has obtained documents after the u. s. attempt to overthrow the cuban government. in 1998 he wrote a book that was a page turner for researchers entitled the bay of pigs declassified. the secret report of the invasion of cuba. here is the sequel, brought soon to television soon. >> i hope. though it took years, he has extracted four of the five volumes of the most important cuban history, politics,
strategy, that led to the disaster that was the day of figs. this history was written by a cia historian who has had access to many but nowhere near all of the documents generated by key components and the groups government that they works worth. these volumes confirm the most important decisions about the development to oust fidel castro, some of the most important word made by a small group of officers within the cia working from angleton shop, from the navy and elsewhere in the pentagon. capby the late 1970's i have been cramming on cuban history and came across the meant i spent more time within my husband or my children, william pauley. i have gotten to know him better than better than the women in his lives.
he was a cheat, fraud, traitor and much more, and a brilliant man. he became ambassador to peru and brazil and uses titles to meet greet, and squeeze the most important men everywhere. he played his connections with very top republicans, including president eisenhower to get himself up to his propellers and top-level planning. he was involved in cia plan to overhaul the democratic election government inquiry mullah.
-- in guatemala. president truman seems to pull them up short and it was held over until the brothers arrived with the eisenhower, nixon administration. like most people, -- like most people here, here we go. hold on. like most people here i also am totally dependent on documents. it wasn't until peter kornbluh obtained volumes of the volumes that are historical commentaries on the bay of pigs written by cia historian but i confirm the powerful physicians pauley held and the roles he played in intelligence operations in the bay of pigs. these are gold mines for everyone with any historical interest from the end of world
war ii to now. in these volumes it is clear he had materials withheld from him that he recognized simply where he was played by managers and others were you was deliberately lied to. this is why cia continues to refuse to turn over volume 52 peter kornbluh -- volume 5 to peter kornbluh. there are pages in the same volumes that are sam draft that have been declassified and released. what are they hiding? another historian has attacked five that to diminish volume five in the event it is ever released. contrary to rumors floating that it was a cia think events, i don't think so.
55 realized they knew what was held and he didn't think it was pretty. everyone here let's give peter kornbluh the presence they deserve for working so hard for all of us and send letters asking why they are ignoring request that volume five should not be good classified and released. we do know this is accurate because they sent a letter to jim that says so. with nothing further. peter is going to talk about what happened from the document viewpoint in cuba. [applause] >> i'm delighted to be known as the good nsa as opposed to the
bad nsa. we realize the name of our organization when it is reduced to an acronym is confusing. many people here national security archive and believe that we are the library of the cia. i have to tell them we are the antithesis, the good nsa. we have a revolutionary slogan. documents are death. that distinguishes me quickly from anybody thinking that i am undercover cia posing as an archivist. i'm going to talk about the bay of pigs and the efforts to get that material declassified through a question-and-answer between me and brenda. what i wanted to talk about this
morning is the chapter on kennedy in the new book. back channel to cuba. and his back channels to cuba. you will find the book contains more be jealous that any other place on this rather fascinating history. the kennedy assassination has intrigued us all. it intrigues me as a historian of u.s. cuban relations for many reasons. one of which is that this ministry that efforts to reject the fidel castro is so counter to the known image of him giving the green light to the bay of pigs invasion, pushing through his brother for operation mongoose.
the flipside of the coin national security council documents for further to the suite approach has always intrigued me. most intriguing thing about the kennedy assassination is the historical coincidence, although some don't think it is and when citizens, of the moment john f. kennedy was killed, there was a cia officer in paris meeting with a high level mall in the cuban military attempting to pass him a poison pen to assassinate fidel castro. at that same moment kennedy had an emissary in cuba, a french journalist meeting went a french journalist, meeting with fidel castro at a safe house, having lunch with him, fresh fish. an aide says turn on the radio the president has been shot in dallas.
the mission to pass what he called a message fees from jfk to fidel castro was aborted. it is intriguing that called on us to think through what really happened. for many years, almost 30 years jean daniel story was the only one known about kennedy's efforts to approach catch drove -- castro. he wrote about it only a few weeks after kennedy was killed. he had a front-page story. he wrote an article in the new republic in which he detailed his role as a special envoy.
over the course of time we were able to get a kennedy administration file declassified, special contacts with cuban leaders revealed a set of efforts to reach out and communicate with castro about changing the contours of relations in the wake of the cuban missile crisis. let me go back to what we remember. the political climate of the day . we have the bay of pigs invasion. the trade embargo and its aftermath. robert kennedy overseeing assassination attempts and all sorts of coordinated pressures. then there were the famous efforts to overthrow fidel castro. out of these efforts of aggression came the first opportunities for contact and a rebuilding of the broken bridges that destroyed bridges and u.s. cuban relations.
publicly we had an overt and covert nastiness against cuba, particularly in the aftermath of the bay of pigs. in the aftermath of the missile crisis some of kennedy's aides noted that the missile crisis ended badly for fidel castro and his relationship with the soviet union. he had been willing to sacrifice his own country for the socialist bloc and their right to defend themselves. here nikita khrushchev had not talked to him that he would secretly swapped them for u.s. missiles in turkey. the issue was whether he would be so angry at the soviets, and he was very angry, that we might see that opportunity and entice him to come back to us.
there was a shift in kennedy's thinking. it was helped by the fact he started negotiations with the cubans to free the bay of pigs prisoners. i went to make george bundy, before he passed away, and i asked him why did kennedy reach out to the cubans? he said there was this bridge but the soviet union. kennedy was a smart guy. he thought he could explore bringing cuba back into the western orbit and he wanted to see what could be done. we had no department of peaceful directory we only had a department of dirty tricks. the issue was how do you do this?
what mechanism? it was too sensitive to have an open meeting with fidel castro. how did you do this? the answer became through the man who was negotiating the release of the bay of pigs prisoners. james donovan, a famous new york lawyer. he conducted what kissinger would call shuttle diplomacy. he kept flying back-and-forth meeting with castro, starting in the early fall of 1962, a break in the action during the missile crisis, and a flurry of shuttle diplomacy in 1962 which resulted in a trade of $62 million of food and medicine for the actual prisoners. at the moment that the prisoners are being loaded onto a series of planes, the cia called o'donovan said we have three agents in castro's jails from
the technical services division. they are planting eavesdropping devices, in the ceiling of the new china news agency being built in havana. wayne smith remembers is because he was there when they were arrested. they were -- they bungled the operation. they rented an apartment above the actual agency and were drilling holes in the ceiling and planting these devices. the cubans threw them in jail. there were 25 other americans within rounded up after the revolution for subversion activities.
they were in cuban jails also. the cia said get these guys out. donovan said will you release these prisoners along with the bay of pigs prisoners and castro said no but if you come back in january we can start to talk about that. that was the beginning of talks between cuba and the united states under the kennedy administration. donovan came back in january and march, in april, to negotiate the release of these americans. castro thought they were all cia. three of them actually were bona fide cia agent. eventually donovan arranged a prisoner swap for cubans arrested in the united states, including one who had shot a nine-year-old girl in the back and killed her and had been convicted and put in jail. 427 americans. in these talks castro said how
would we restore normal relations with the united states of america? donovan said, mr. premier, do you know how porcupines make love? [speaking spanish] what is that? the answer was no common he didn't know. donovan said very carefully. that is how you and the united states will begin to discuss restoring relations. i will help and do the best i can with that. donovan came back with this message that kennedy was interested. -- that castro was interested in better relations.
curiously, the bureaucracy went into overdrive for instructions for him. they wanted him to go back to cuba until castro if he severed his relations with the soviet union and made it clear he was pulling his asians out of west -- agents out of western america we could talk. this proposal were brought to the president of united states. this document is the key document. when i found this in the kennedy library i felt that it was the most important documents of the kennedy administration. the president overruling his aides on these restrictive instructions and saying we want to have better relations with the diaper he don't give him preconditions he is not going to meet. let's be more flexible. i'm interested in making this happen during let's go forward. it is quite an interesting document. there was an eight in the national security council who
deserves tremendous credit. he personally wanted to see better relations with cuba and cap peppering bundy with these wonderful memos. bundy was passed these on in meetings with the president. basically bundy concluded as he told the president that castro is not inconceivable. castro is high in the regime and may find advantage in a shift away from the dependence on moscow. the united states and cuba are on strictly economic terms and have much to gain from reestablishment of relations. at the highest level, even though 90% of the national
security bureaucracy was against this. some feelers started to go forward. this is the pivotal memo koran chase wrote where he basically said we haven't really looked -- we have explored the nastiness and the pressures, but we haven't explored the suite approach that may entice castro back to us. it won't be a headline that u.s. accommodates. it will be castro ejects soviet union from western hemispheric. u.s. brings cuba back into western orbit. this was the then he put on it. he cast the baton being an intermediary to extraordinary reporters from abc news. it was a woman named lisa
howard. anybody remember seeing her? she was the most famous female journalist of her time. she was the first female correspondent for abc news. the first to have her own new show. she has been called the first barbara walters. her whole scheme was to find powerful world leaders and interview them, and make headlines with that. her first was with nikita khrushchev when he came to the u.n. then she set her sights on fidel castro and pepper the human mission in new york to let her go to cuba the camera to -- camera crew. he had not given any major interview since 1959. she finally got permission to go in april of 1963.
as wayne smith will tell you, it is hard to get to him. after being there and waiting for three weeks, she went to donovan who was there and said please broker an introduction. he went to castro and said there is a beautiful lawn dish of a reporter, i highly recommend that you spend some time with her. castro gave for this interview before he flew off to mask all -- moscow. he spent some time talking to her privately. when she came back, she shared what he said privately with the cia. they were waiting for her at the airport when she landed. they debriefed her. they immediately sends -- sent a memo to the president's, if you look in the corner to your right , that was the mark that
kennedy's secretary wrote. in the original document is in blue ink. it is striking. this is the debriefing report from lisa howard. she made it clear, fidel castro feels we could have better relations with united states. we need an intermediary. i will volunteer to do this. he is willing to work on this. that was his first. how many have seen this before? this is fodder for some of the issues of motivation when it comes to the cia and kennedy. the cia oppose this idea. john mccone made his feelings
felt immediately. the memo went the day before this on may 1. he called his office and issued an edict, sent everybody in the white house this one paragraph letter saying we don't like this idea because if it ever lead it would undermine everything we have been working towards. all the exiles would accuse us of the trail. they would call us epocrates the whole kit and caboodle. don't go there. key officials, william atwood, a deputy u.s. ambassador, lisa howard, worked with the cuban ambassador at the u.n. to start
passing messages back-and-forth. lisa howard got impatient and organized the first episode of cocktail diplomacy between cuba and the united states. it was interesting for me in my research. and cuba i -- he said the united states approached us and asked us to engage in this diplomacy. of course we interviewed, and they said cuba asked us, reached out to us. both artists saying -- both are saying we were approached. this extraordinary woman who wanted to see this movement in u.s. cuban relations said the united states wants to talk to you. the opportunity is that my house
tonight at a cocktail party. she went and said cuba wants to talk to you. get permission to come to my house and meet with carlos under the guise of a cocktail party. that is what they did. they went off in the corner. they talked. bill atwood said the cia was basically running the cuba policy. you could fly secretly down to cuba. this started in the fall of 1963 eight countdown of the diplomacy.
there is an extra ordinary audiotape on november 5 of bundy going into candies -- kennedy's office. the cubans have reached out to out would and they have offered a secret meeting in cuba. should we send him? kennedy says we could but we have to privatize him. we have to create denial. take them off of payroll so that if he went to cuba we can say he went on his own. that was the classic discussion for using back channels. there is a law of episodes of that exact sonority out in this book, people who could be plausibly denied if it was leaked that he went. this is on the website of the national security archives. it is extraordinary.
i couldn't play it here. atwood did a chronology of his meetings and phone calls with the cubans. the date of this summary is so extraordinary. he's clearly written this and sent it over before he gets the news that the president has been shot in dallas. that is the most extraordinary thing about this history. this buildup of momentum in the last three weeks of the presidents wife -- president's life. he often rises bundy to proceed, atwood goes to lisa's apartment, and get on the phone. her apartment had become communication central. the agree there is going to be a meeting.
cuba is going to send an agenda to the united nations. kennedy decides he would prefer to have a preliminary meeting at the united nations. he needs to know what the agenda is. all of these events start to file a, including 2 events in the last several hours. kennedy gives a big speech to the press corps on cuba in which he issues subtly the conditions. if cuba did this and this, we can live with the cuban revolution. it was intended to send a message not just other things were going on. jean danielle goes carrying this message. he meets with fidel for the first time.
they have a second meeting on the 22nd. they continued to talk about this. and they meet, having animated conversation. fidel is positive about kennedy's message, talking about how kennedy be the most famous president in history because he would be the one that understood the socialist bloc and the capitalist bloc could live together and coexist on equal footing in a peaceful way, and not any way of aggression. this raises all sorts of questions of what if. lisa howard went back to cuba in february of 1964.
fidel talked to her, talk on camera about the issue of kennedy. later he would tell the sons of her work in it being it is unfortunate things happen as they did in the president could not do what he wanted to. it is dramatic history, a history that is relevant to the kennedy administration. its relevance is for all of you to determine. if you want as many details as you could find on it, the kennedy chapter is now available. thank you. [applause]
go ahead, david. david, step closer. >> david kaiser. professor, i have researched this a lot myself. i would be delighted to be able to say that i found what you did , but it isn't really what i found. it is a question of interpretation. i want to take a second to get it across. you started with those remarks of kennedy's in march.
in april, the president had a documented change of heart as a result of a crisis in laos, and he said why are we easing up in cuba when christophe is screwing us on laos? that got a covert action and new group good -- new cuban groups. that got that going again. the other thing i want to mention is i would have loved to say that this was a success because william atwood was a personal friend of my family's. but the data on how his proposal was received, it shows me something else. allow me to quote. when be initiative was brought before the group on december 5
those present agreed it would be better for atwood to return to private life before meeting with castro and suggested he flight to mexico city to meet with tom as man -- thomsas mann. on november 12, bundy telephoned atwood after speaking with the president. i call this afternoon and told him i was conveying this message or only, and the president hoped he would report it did not seem practical to send an american official to cuba and we would prefer to visit where atwood would be glad to see him. >> i did say that.
>> david, you are very limited. >> i think the evidence is, and it is followed up, in fact they didn't actively want to pursue this at this time. that it was being held as an option to pursue sometime down the road, and the planning for the assassination of castro, some makes of events that would enable them to bring the overthrow of castro about was continuing a page that the highest levels. >> i can only say what actually happened in those final days that of course in the bureaucracy, and 90% against this. robert kennedy tended to save big -- to say other things in private. he was cautiously open to the initiative with cuba.
the president is on tape saying let's explore how we could do this safely. the safety steps were left not just send somebody off without knowing what we are going to talk about. let's get an agenda sent up, have a preliminary meeting in new york, and see how we go from there. atwood takes those instructions and a telephone call on the 19th of november. they need to know what the cubans want to talk about. there are alternatives. the amazing irony and sadness for this history is at the moment he is assassinated castro's agenda is being flown a
to new york, to document -- documents i have not been able to recover yet. it is one of those pivotal pieces of evidence we need to see what the cubans were ready to talk about. there is no doubt that the assassination of the president stop a series of efforts on both sides to move toward some type of official face-to-face meeting to discuss their differences. >> peter, you mentioned george bundy in your remarks. do you have any knowledge that george bundy might have had prior knowledge of president kennedy's assassination?
>> i have no idea that. >> given the extraordinary presentation yesterday, it dawned on me the question i did not get to ask. if it did take place, what were the ramifications? it would have been gone. we are all speculating of course. if -- [indiscernible] would there've been a split in the cuban government? what is your opinion? what would have changed? >> che guevara was castro's first emissary to talk to a u.s. official and had his famous discussion with good when in 1961. che said thank you for the bay
of pigs. you turned us into an equal. here is a box of cigars. we have an article from the book coming out, cigar aficionado. cigar diplomacy. how castro used them as a weapon of keys. you can read about the story there. the idea there was a huge difference of opinion between the fidel and che guevara is not accurate. it is something that lisa howard and her reports played up when they came home. it is not clear that they themselves had any in depth knowledge of the relationship. there were more hardliners who were opposed to any effort to improve relations theory fidel castro held all the cars and power in cuba at that time.
certainly almost all the way up to 2006 when he was forced to retire from illness. if he had wanted to do this he would have. i don't think it would have ended his regime in any way. i think it would have validated revolution. >> we need to make the most efficient use of time. go ahead. >> i wanted to ask if you had anything on the background of the arrest of the cuban officials in new york. i ask because they were supposedly doing a terror plot to blow up macy's and bloomingdale's? they were going up to military facilities. >> i welcome the researchers in the room who spent a lot of time
looking at those records. they are fascinating. it is a perplexing issue. were these guys arrested for no good reason and charged falsely? or, did castro send these guys that had arrived in october, did he send them as part of his contingency planning on the missile crisis? he was worried the united states was going to attack cuba. and perhaps wanted to put in place kind of an effort in new york to respond. they arrived at in on time october 1962. amidst great tensions with the united states. they were quickly arrested.
in the context with the missile crisis that makes it difficult to know, we're just going to arrest people coming from cuba that might be terrorists, or whether they actually had some plot. >> i just wanted to expand on your answer to george monday having it man's -- having advance knowledge. i agree with your response and i would add if you look at the drafting process which bundy spoke about, it is clear even though they were thinking of escalating in vietnam in various ways he put language in there that he thought his boss president kennedy, could have proved. he didn't expect it president to be dead.
he was running a document on the 21st that john kennedy would be alive to see. >> just a point about the business of perhaps having addressed dr. kaiser's point about to track. governments are always pursuing 2, 3, 4 tracks. the fact that you can document something was being done doesn't mean something else wasn't being done at the same time. >> mcgeorge bundy told me he had a word for it, and multi-tracking, something similar to that. he acknowledged they were looking at cia operations.
truth be told, they were limited. it was supposed to distance the cia and let them go off and do their own thing so that we would be less involved. the fault is that kennedy wanted to explore a different route. that was under serious exploration at the moment he was killed. >> can i ask one question? >> sorry. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. british and american naval
forces clashed for two and a half hours in cumberland day near plattsburgh, new york. the battle was the culmination of six days of conflict. up next, we travel to plattsburgh where the author of "the final invasion" takes us on a two are of key locations to tell the story -- tour of key locations to tell the story. >> i am at the battle of plattsburgh museum. it has been an army post ever since the war of 1812. the most important item is this painting. it shows the culmination of the battle, when the royal navy had finally closed with the americans, and they fought it out only 300 yards apart for an hour and a half. there were some 90 guns firing at the same time. the nose was so disorienting
that the sailors were unable to figure out what was going on, and they began to load the canons one ball after the other after the other until they had so many cannonballs that the balls rolled out of the end of the barrel. another case where they put too much powder in, and the cannon exploded. battlefield. at the very end of the naval battle, the british struck their colors. that was seen by general provoke sitting up on the hill. when he saw that happen, he lost the battle. without the navy, without the ships to take his army south, there is no point going on any longer. so, he recalled the army and the next day, they left and went back to canada and the battle is over. he planned to comment fight agai