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Antonio Veciana's Trained to Kill - Bill Kelly's Review

Antonio Veciana's Trained to Kill - Kelly's Review

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Spymaster "Maurice Bishop" (Left) and CIA Intelligence Officer David Atlee Phillips (Right)

Review of Antonio Veciana's Trained to Kill by William Kelly

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Trained To Kill - The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy and Che (Skyhorse Press 2017) by Former CIA Asset Antonio Veciana, with Carlos Harrison and a forward by David Talbot.

After decades of knowing for certain that David Atlee Phillips is the true identity of CIA spymaster "Maurice Bishop," Antonio Veciana finally comes clean and confirms this truth he had previously denied.

We knew Phillips was "Maurice Bishop" - as Veciana described him to Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi and journalist Dick Russell in the 1970s, by comparing that profile to Phillips' description of himself in his autobiography Nightwatch - 25 Years of Peculiar Service, - as there are over a dozen matches of specific times, places and events that certify his true identity.

These associations cannot be coincidences and serve what Sen. Richard Schweiker (R- Pa.) called the "fingerprints of intelligence," as Schweiker recognized a composite sketch of "Bishop" as David Phillips, someone who had testified before his Intelligence oversight committee.

Schweiker had hired Philadelphia investigative journalist Gaeton Fonzi as an investigator for the Schweiker - (Gary) Hart Sub-committee of the Frank Church Intelligence Committee, and Fonzi was subsequently hired by Richard Sprague, the first chief-council to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

Veciana told Fonzi about "Maurice Bishop," an American intelligence spymaster who recruited Veciana while he was working as a banker in Havana and then directed his anti-Castro activities for over a decade, including a number of failed plots to kill Castro.

While these plots are interesting, including one involving a bazooka that led to the arrest of the parents of Sylvia Odio, an important and significant fact that isn't mentioned by Veciana, and what he leaves out indicates that he knows more and this story is not yet fully understood.

Other missing items include the lack of photos, footnotes and an index, things I would have thought Pulitzer Prize winning co-author Carlos Harrison would have insisted on, but as with Peter Janney's Mary's Mosaic, they may be included in future editions, as this story has legs and will not die.

This is Veciana's basic concise story - told for the third or fourth time, even though it lacks the details Fonzi, Dick Russel and Anthony Summers bring out in their work, much of which confirm what Veciana says, but also reveals more of what we need to have a complete understanding of what happened at Dealey Plaza.

As naysayer Tracy Parnell has pointed out and John Newman will explore in the next volume of his multi-part serial Into the Storm, not all of Veciana's recollections add up, and he's given different dates for the same event, though such discrepancies are to be expected, especially from an eighty something year old octogenarian recalling things from a half-century ago.

But there is no doubt that Phillips is Bishop, the psychological warrior and CIA spymaster.

Parnell, while citing and discarding my research, and emphasizing Fonzi's inherent bias, suggests that a more thorough book be written about Veciana - he suggests Brian Latrell and Gus Russo, two of the hack writers who continue to promote the original cover-story for the Dealey Plaza Operation - that Castro was behind it. Dick Russell would be a more open minded and knowledgeable than CIA stooges and certifiable disinformation agents like Latell and Russo, who parrot and promote the party line. They still sow doubt the certifiable fact that Bishop and Phillips are the same man.

The clincher that ends the debate is Phillips' account of Operation Condor - fake documents that indicate the Soviets were behind a failed plot to kill Castro in Chile that Veciana had devised, just as the Dealey Plaza Operation contained the psych war twist that tries to blame Castro. That Condor incident led to Phillips being officially reprimanded and for Bishop losing trust in his agent, cutting off Veciana, albeit with a suitcase of cash as a parting shot.

At the time Phillips was head of the Western Hemisphere Division of the CIA, the number three slot, with access to millions of dollars in covert action funds, so a quarter of a million bucks in cash was like pinching sand, though he had probably started a bank account for Veciana when he first recruited him in Havana and paid him a monthly salary that just added up over time. And Veciana was considered a valuable agent - AMSHALE-1.

CIA analysis consider the bonafides of an agent based on the amount of new, verifiable intelligence he provides and Veciana pasts that test. He provides enough new names and characters, places, events and leads that can be followed up, some of which have been by the previously mentioned investigating authors - Fonzi, Russell and Summers.

The hook to Veciana's story is that his intelligence case officer - Bishop/Phillips, introduced him to Lee Harvey Oswald - the accused assassin of President Kennedy in Dallas a few months before the assassina tion.

The fact that Oswald was living in New Orleans at the time is used in an attempt to discredit Veciana or make it a case of mistaken identity, though Oswald's exact whereabouts at the time are unknown, he was attempting to penetrate another anti-Castro group - the DRE. And despite not having a drivers license he got around pretty good.

They met on the first Saturday in September in the lobby of the Southland Center, the tallest building in Dallas, and a place that Oswald was familiar with, as he had applied for a job there, and it was the location of the Mexican consulate. It was also the location of Robert and Marina Oswald's attorney, and the Sheraton Hotel, where the Secret Service White House Detail stayed and the location of the White House Communications Agency radio communications center. It was a bevy of assassination activity, and probably Oswald's original destination immediately after the assassination when he left the TSBD and walked eight blocks towards the Southland Center before changing his mind and boarding a bus going back in the other direction. He then got a cab and took that five blocks past his rooming house and walked back, practicing the same trade craft Phillips gave Veciana.

Phillips was already there talking to Oswald, who Veciana was introduced to, but Oswald never said a word. They looked for a coffee shop, and stopped a young couple heading for the observation tower on the roof, and they said there was a diner around the corner, and Oswald left Phillips and Veciana to discuss their work. But after the assassination the girl recognized Oswald, the accused assassin, as one of the three men she encountered, and told her mother, but they never came forward out of fear.

Veciana too, recognized Oswald as the man Phillips introduced him to, but didn't press the issue, never mentioning it again, until he was questioned by Fonzi.

But as with the Odio incident, it matters not at all if it was Oswald or look-a-like or an imposter, or even if Oswald was a shooter or a patsy. Either way these incidents remove the assassination from being the act of a deranged loner and clearly define it as a covert intelligence operation - one planned and conducted by an intelligence agency network.

While most automatically say it was the CIA, or KGB, or Cuban G2, we really are only identifying the MO the Modus Operandi, and need to outline the network more clearly so it can be positively identified.

Phillips, Veciana and Oswald all fit the Criminal Personality Profile of a COP - the Covert Operational Personality, a trait they share with E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Jerry Patrick Hemming, Tosh Plumely, et. al., in which they were trained in and practice what Allen Dulles called "the crafts of intelligence." They are assigned a code name, pseudo name, use post office boxes, cut outs, safe house apartments, codes, invisible ink and case officers. But all intelligence agencies utilize the same techniques, so that is not a clue, though it narrows down the suspects.

When Phillips recruited Veciana in Havana in 1959 he had officially resigned from the CIA as an intelligence officer, went undercover as a civilian contract agent, and opened his PR business under his own name. When he recruited him he instructed Veciana to contact Sam Kail, an official U.S. Army liaison officer stationed at the US Embassy in Havana. So maybe Phillips, while contracted to the CIA, was also working with Army Intel when he recruited Veciana.

Veciana's bonafides as a responsible agent are established by the confirmable information he provides, leads that can and have been independently confirmed.

For instance Veciana claims "Maurice Bishop" worked out of a Havana office in a building shared with a mining company (Moa Bay) and a Berlitz language school near the Hotel Nacional, where the David Phillips Public Relations Agency was located.

Philips told him to take a cab and get out a block away, just as Oswald did in the wake of the assassination to avoid surveillance. Then, at a nearby apartment Bishop's accomplice Dick Melton gave Veciana a lie detector test and truth serum and after he was approved, they then gave him a crash course in psychological warfare, propaganda and covert trade craft, just as Paul Linebarger taught it to a generation of CIA cold warriors at the Center for International Studies.

Later, in Miami, Phillips had Veciana sign a loyalty oath in the presence of two other men in an office in the Pan American Bank building.

Now that's interesting as Castro gun runner Robert Ray McGowan (who was also solicited by both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby), said he was paid in cash for his Cuban gunrunning activities - cash bound by Pan Am Bank wrappers. And Jack Ruby deposited cash in the Pan Am bank in Miami from the Fox brother's Havana casino. So there's some interesting shenagans going on there and Fonzi was on to it as the Pan Am bank is mentioned as a CIA outfit in a transcript of Fonzi's interview with CIA weapons specialist Mitch Werbell. While Werbell's mention of the Pan Am Bank as part of CIA operations in the transcript, Fonzi's tape recording has mysteriously been erased, - the Dealey Plaza Cleanup Crew at work in the National Archives.

Vechina also claims that while he established the violent terrorist group Alpha 66 at the suggestion of Phillips, the CIA didn't fund it, and recently released records indicate Alpha 66 had associations to ONI and Army Intelligence - specifically the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI), an intelligence network run out of the Pentagon.

So while Veciana believed he worked with Phillips and the CIA, Alpha 66 was not an officially sanctioned National Security Council (NSC) operation like those run out of the JMWAVE station in Miami, but it was being monitored and possibly run by the Army Intel out of the Pentagon.

That the Dealey Plaza Operation also stemmed from the same ASCI network is reinforced by the facts that 1) Colonel Sam G. Kail of ASCI was stationed in Havana at the time Vechina was recruited by Bishop when Phillips was there running his fake PR front; 2) Havana Hilton Hotel (where Manalo Ray also worked and Castro made his HQ) manager Colonel Frank M. "Brandy" Brandstetter of Dallas reported to the same ACSI office; 3) deMornschiltz reported to Col. Kail and Dorothe Matlack of ASCI in DC on his was to Haiti; 4) an Army colonel from ASCI (Col. J.D. Wilmeth) visited Marina at Ruth Paine's home in Irving a week before the assassination to determine their situation; 5) Dallas Police Department Captain (Col.) George Laster Lumpkin, who drove the pilot car in the motorcade and was supposed to be on the lookout for any trouble. Lumpkin invited his Army Reserves commander Lt. Col. George Whitmeyer to accompany them, stopped at Houston and Elm to tell the traffic cop there (as well as the Sixth Floor sniper just above them) that the motorcade was approaching, and then suspiciously tipped off homicide Captain Will Fritz that Oswald was a suspect.

It is worth noting that most of Lumpkin's Special Services bureau cops were US Army Reserve officers (including Ganaway and Stringfellow) whose commanders reported to ACSI.

So it seems pretty clear that if any specific intelligence agency had a tight net on what was going down it was not the CIA but US Army Reserve Intelligence - the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI).

That Oswald was with Veciana and Phillips does not mean Oswald was CIA or that Phillips was the mastermind of the Dealey Plaza Operation. Phillips was a psychological warfare officer and may have assisted in promoting the cover story that Castro was behind the assassination, as he tried to do with the Nicaraguan agent (Gilberto Alvarado) - and Veciana's relative in the Cuban government, attempting to blame the Dealey Plaza Operation on Castro, a psych war operation that continues today.

If Oswald was set up to take the rap for what happened at Dealey Plaza, so was Phillips.

Fonzi was good but not perfect, as his book The Last Investigation and 70 page Washingtonian Magazine indictment of Phillips is belittled by the fact that Phillips was working for Washingtonian at the time and Fonzi could have walked down the hall and talked to him but didn't.

My goal wasn't to just figure out who killed JFK but locate them, slide up next to them at the bar and find out why and how they did it.

After the Washingtonian article came out, I looked up David Atlee Phillips, found his phone number listed in the public phone directory and called him. He answered and we had a pleasant conversation. He denied being Bishop or knowing Oswald though he acknowledged his friendship with Dallas radio owner Gordon McClendon.

Congressional investigator Kevin Walsh did get the chance to slip up on a bar stool next to Phillips and share a few drinks in July 1986, during which Phillips said "My private opinion is that JFK was done in by a conspiracy, likely including American intelligence officers."

David Atlee Phillips, in an unpublished manuscript he called The AMLASH Legacy, he wrote:

"I was one of the two case officers who handled Lee Harvey Oswald. After working to establish his Marxist bona fides, we gave him the mission of killing Fidel Castro in Cuba. I helped him when he came to Mexico City to obtain a visa, and when he returned to Dallas to wait for it I saw him twice there. We rehearsed the plan many times: In Havana Oswald was to assassinate Castro with a sniper's rifle from the upper floor window of a building on the route where Castro often drove in an open jeep. Whether Oswald was a double-agent or a psycho I'm not sure, and I don't know why he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the CIA did not anticipate the President's assassination but it was responsible for it. I share that guilt."

Now, as we delve further into the millions of pages of released JFK assassination records, we can look forward to reading David Phillips' 600 pages of CIA operational files and learn more about these things, and once we have the full and complete picture of what really happened at Dealey Plaza, decide what to do about it.

William Kelly is co-founder of the Committee for an Open Archives, COPA, and founding Secretary of CAPA Citizens Against Political Assassinations ( He can be reached at

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"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
"Thus the CIA did not anticipate the President's assassination" Given what Phillips asserts he does not know in the preceding sentence, that is a curiously strong statement of "fact?" ::bowtie::
Thanks much for posting this William, always enjoy sharing and reading your work..

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