Antonio Veciana was a founder of the anti-Castro exile group Alpha 66 and claims prior meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald and "Maurice Bishop" before President Kennedy's assassination. Veciana latest claim is, "Maurice Bishop, my CIA contact agent was David Atlee Phillips. Phillips or Bishop was the man I saw with Lee Harvey Oswald on September 1963."i While some advocate this claim they seemingly are unaware that multiple important aspects of the claim have transformed over time.
According to official files Antonio Veciana initiated three noted contacts with the Central Intelligence Agency in December 1960ii, July 1962iii, and April 1966..." Each contact was to request aid in the assassination of Fidel Castro. One Agency document states "Officers listened to Veciana, expressed no interest, offered no encouragement and never recontacted him on this matter." However, the Agency deceived investigators when it stated, "There has been no Agency relationship with Veciana." Prior investigators affirmed a CIA operative paid Veciana at least once directly in 1962.iv Yet none of these verified contacts is the later claimed meeting in Dallas.
Veciana asserts collaborating with Maurice Bishop for more than a decade, "To the best of Veciana's recollection Maurice Bishop first approached him in Havana in 1960" Bishop "had advised in his anti-Castro and anti-Communist activities". Veciana claims "...Bishop had guided him in planning assassination attempts on...Castro in Havana in 1961 and in Chile in 1971; that Bishop had directed him to organize Alpha-66 in 1962"and largely credits Bishop for the group's operations and strategy.v He asserts during 1961 Bishop met with him in Cuba and "decided the only thing left to be done was... an attempt on Castro's life..." and Bishop then ..."urged him to leave because, he said, Castro's agents were becoming suspicious of Veciana's activities."vi
Veciana purports "...he met Bishop more than 100 times", now consider each of the alleged visits requires verifiable travel records and financing.vii Phillips would have to be absent over a hundred times, absences officials would note and yet Veciana never listed the specific dates. Veciana alleges Bishop was in Dallas, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Caracas, Lima, and La Paz in South America. However, verifiable documents locate Phillips in the United States and Mexico when some of Veciana's claims would place Bishop abroad.viii ix
David Atlee Phillips first was a contract agent for the Agency in 1952, a contract employee in 1954, and participated in the Agency overthrow of Guatemala's national leadership during Operation PBSUCCESS.x xi Phillips remained a contract employee in 1955, became a staff Employee in 1956 while "visiting" Cuba, and he was a Staff Agent in 1958.xii xiii In 1959, he was a covert agent in Cuba and later was moved to the Agency's Mexico City Station and became its Covert Action Chief in March of 1963. "In October 1963 David A. Phillips is added to the Cuba Section as the senior officer responsible for both FI (Foreign Intelligence) and CA (Covert Activities) activities."xiv Agency files locate Phillips undertaking Mexico City Station operations during September, October, and November 1963.xv xvi xvii This is during the later asserted period of time Veciana places Bishop in Dallas.
Veciana purports Bishop organized all the meetings with a phone call or using an unidentified third person and claimed meeting Bishop with two unidentified men in an overly elaborate signing ceremony. These alleged other participants are unnamed and unproven. Veciana claims a compromised operation to assassinate a Communist official ended his association with Bishop but other peripheral considerations might also have influenced Veciana's identification of Phillips. "Antonio Carlos Veciana...was arrested Miami 24 July 1973 for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. Veciana was a contract employee with USAID from 1970 to July 1972 at La Paz."xviii Thus, while the Agency and its front later used Veciana, none of these confirmed instances verifies his unsubstantiated Phillips identification. Veciana additionally claimed in conversations with HSCA investigator Gateon Fonzi that "he received in excess of 250,000 in severance pay from Mr. Bishop in 1973."xix
It is quite unlikely the Agency would pay a small fortune to a compromised operative because just a portion of that amount funded proven operations and exile groups yearly. The Agency offered substantially less to Mafia leaders seeking to ensure Castro's assassination and The House Select Committee states, "The committee's interest in the relationship between Antonio Veciana and Maurice Bishop is, of course, predicated on Veciana's contention that he saw Bishop with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas a few months before the assassination."xx Additionally, "Veciana could not specifically pinpoint the date of that meeting with Bishop. He believed it was late August 1963."xxi Unfortunately, Lee Harvey Oswald was still in New Orleans during that period. Veciana states he never spoke with the person he claimed was Oswald in Dallas, he cannot recall if Bishop introduced the man by name and It was also a brief time he observed this person. In his latest version of the story, Veciana claims the meeting occurred in "September" and Veciana would too claim his prior legal problems were Bishop's fault. xxii
Veciana's assertions bothered some officials due to his release on a prior narcotics conviction. He "...claimed the case against him was so well fabricated that the Federal prosecutor actually believed he was guilty." Veciana "...said he believed that in some way his legal problems were related to his previous association with Bishop, although he did not know exactly how."xxiii Even Veciana's closest associates confirm that Veciana believed the "CIA framed him." Yet no verifiable evidence supports his beliefs and Veciana later decides, "Castro agents, not Bishop, were responsible for his drug arrest."
During its investigation the CIA located "One Maurice R. Bishop, aka Morris Bishop...Bishop is the leader of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Grenada. He travels in and out of the U.S. and has had closed meetings in the U.S. known to the FBI. Bishop disclosed that the NJM has links going into Cuba and indicated the NJM is receiving assistance from Castro, but it is of a rather cautious nature. According to his file, Bishop is not associated with CIA."xxiv Veciana also prior offered that Bishop's first name might be Morris, John, or Jim.xxv
Additional "Morris Bishop" claims emerge from a Jack Anderson newspaper column featuring the Cuban "Mr. X" who the Agency believed was Veciana.xxvi The Agency claimed it employed no person using the name Maurice Bishop, yet multiple employees had the actual surname Bishop. These include Whit Moore Bishop whose assignment in August of 1963 is classified. James Clarence Bishop served in the Office of Logistics and resigned December 14, 1960. An unlikely possibility is a consultant Fred Margeson Bishop who was born in 1890 and is feasibly too old, while Office of Finance employee Frank Patrick Bishop was stationed at Agency headquarters. Eugene Edward Bishop was a clerk at Agency Headquarters in 1963, Donald Gerst Bishop had red hair but that does not fit physical description of Veciana's assertion.xxvii
One employee named Bishop born in 1940 and hired in 1965 is likely too young to fit the Maurice Bishop description., while another employee named Bishop was also located at Agency headquarters until July 1964. One additional Bishop located was in the Office of Communications but his location is redacted in 1962.xxviii The Agency even checked its informants and produced a Morris Bishop, he was an elderly Cornell college professor and merely source of political information for Agency. xxix xxx xxxi Yet none of these examples matches the Morris or Maurice Bishop proposed by Antonio Veciana.
During the HSCA Investigation Director of Central Intelligence John McCone testified he knew or had known a Maurice Bishop. McCone additionally stated he believed this Bishop was an Agency employee but McCone could later not verify what official group Bishop served or any specific operation he undertook.xxxii xxxiii Agency covert operative Balmes "Barney" Nieves Hidalgo also testified seeing Bishop "two or three times..." however this was a different person than David Atlee Phillips. Hidalgo served in the Agency with Phillips between "...1960 and 1964" and affirmed Phillips was not Bishop.xxxiv xxxv Thus, people in the Agency remembering someone named Bishop is wholly possible without anyone identified being Veciana's Bishop.
Agency Inspector General Scott D. Breckenridge discussed possible ideas on the Bishop issue with Congressional investigator Chuck Berk. "I told Berk...that the first story came out in the press about a CIA man in Dallas, Texas, there was no name. Later Jack Anderson quoted the name as 'Morris Bishop'. At the time I speculated that the person who made the allegation, when pressed had to come up with a name and produced this out of thin air. I suggested that this theory could be tested by going to the original source, which we could not do...I said that the second theory is that if there was a man using the name Morris Bishop he could be a representative of the US Army."
Breckenridge continued, "I said that Alpha-66 was not a CIA supported operation; that I understood that it was supported by the Army. I observed that Veciana (who had contacted CIA on various occasions for assistance in a assassination plot against Castro) showed on the inter-Agency Registry as US Army asset. I showed Berk a copy of the memo...from the Inspector General to the DCI...I told Berk that this memorandum had been reviewed by members of the HSCA staff but that they probably had not focused on it at the time."xxxvi "We are convinced there was no such employee and I have the Office of Personnel and the Office of Security to collect for me information on all Agency employees during the 1960s whose last name was Bishop. I intend to compile a portfolio of photographs for the two gentlemen in question (John McCone and Balmes Hidalgo) to review to see if they can identify any of those persons."xxxvii
David Atlee Phillips was also not the only person labeled Maurice Bishop. "For the past several weeks, a story has been making the rounds in Dallas and has been reported...that one 'Morris Bishop' met with Lee Harvey Oswald and an unidentified Cuban in the Dallas DCD office one month or so before...Kennedy's assassination. This story alleges that James Walton Moore of the DCD Office who used this alias and offered Oswald money to assassinate President Kennedy."xxxviii Veciana does not usually mention the previous varying allegations because they would impeach his current story.
James Walton Moore served as the Chief of the CIA Domestic Contacts Service Field Office in Dallas. After his graduation from college "Jim joined the FBI as a Special Agent....he reported on pro-Communist elements...directed a US Government panel to interview aliens and US citizens returning home to ensure that enemy agents were not slipping in the US as refugees or foreign businessmen."xxxix Moore later joined the Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor agency to the CIA. Moore also had prior trained infiltration agents; he "recruited and trained Chinese agents to infiltrate Japanese lines". In 1946, Moore was "placed on Special Funds, with the Central Intelligence Group, remaining in Shanghai as an Intelligence Officer."xl By 1963, Moore led the Dallas CIA Field Office gathering intelligence and conducting operations.
Bob Sirkin of WFAA TV in Dallas "called the office on 16 March (1977) and asked to talk to Jim Moore. He...wanted to come by with a camera crew and interview Moore concerning his knowledge and connection with George de Mohrenschildt...Moore declined...17 March Sirkin again called and said...Moore referred him to Dennis Berand...Moore was asked if the name Morris Bishop meant anything to him..." Sirkin replied "...it was being reported around town that Morris Bishop was an alias being used by Jim Moore. An unidentified Cuban reported meeting with a CIA agent named "Morris Bishop" and Lee Harvey Oswald in "the 505 N. Ervay Building" roughly a month before President Kennedy's assassination. The original name allegedly is provided to the press by an unnamed Cuban was not Maurice but “Morris Bishop". Additionally problematic is Oswald being located in New Orleans and allegedly Mexico City when the Dallas meeting was purported in various media outlets. Sirkin later reported on the story but left Moore out of the report.xli
In April of 1977, a reporter attempted to force a response to the Bishop charges but Moore refused. When the broadcast aired, Bill O'Reilly interviewed recent widow Jeanne de Mohrenschildt and she alleged that Moore and her late husband George had discussed employing Lee Harvey Oswald. O'Reilly alleged Moore knew Oswald based on his review yet one Agency internal memo regarding the allegation states, "... Mr. Moore has stated that he was never asked by Mr. de Mohrenschildt for advice concerning Oswald. We find no indication that there was ever any contact between Oswald and Mr. Moore." xlii xliii
Moore "...has denied ever hearing the name Morris Bishop or ever being involved with Oswald. Mr. Moore has served continuously as an overt employee in the Dallas field office of the Domestic Contacts Service since 1954". He also served "...a one year assignment to DCD Headquarters in Washington in 1972 to 1973." The document states "Antonio Veciana had testified recently...on the alleged Morris Bishop involvement in the Kennedy assassination...According to the Jack Anderson column...Veciana is stated to be the 'unidentified Cuban'...The only trace on the Morris Bishop turned up...a contact with a Morris Bishop in 1964 who was on the faculty or Cornell University...born in 1893..."xliv
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) pursued a photographer for taking pictures of J. Walton Moore because "...House Select Committee Investigators are checking on an allegation that Mr. Moore might have been involved in a conspiracy plot to assassinate President Kennedy." The photographer informed the Bureau that from the "...information he has is the House Select Committee Investigators are talking to an individual who stated he met with an individual having Mr. Moore's description prior to the assassination of President Kennedy. The meeting probably had to do with Moore or a man fitting Moore's description meeting with the House Committee's source to talk about the assassination of President Kennedy, or to actually commit the assassination."xlv That story may sound familiar because it is nearly the exact story Veciana submitted regarding David Atlee Phillips. The unnamed Committee source with every similar detail contained in Veciana's claim is likely the same person, and when the evidence changed so too did Veciana's story. The Agency feared its active operative's picture would face media circulation. So was either of the men accused really Maurice Bishop?
Bishop might have been a pseudonym or alias used to conceal an official employee or asset.xlvi Yet when the House Select Committee reviewed Veciana’s claim they found no evidence to substantiate that Bishop was J. Walton Moore or David Atlee Phillips. "The Committee conducted numerous interviews of other key anti-Castro associates or former associates of Veciana, not only as part of its efforts to locate Bishop but also to further aid in assessing Veciana's credibility. Generally Veciana's reputation for honesty and integrity was excellent...Still, not one of his associates--neither those who worked with him in anti-Castro activity in Cuba nor those who were associated with him...said they were aware of any American directing Veciana or anyone who had the characteristics of Maurice Bishop." "Nevertheless, there were many aspects of Veciana's story that the evidence does corroborate."xlvii Indeed, many of the claims about Alpha-66, associating with the Agency, undertaking illegal activities, his proposed assassination plots, and knowing many infamous anti-Castro exile leaders are true. I would not question Veciana's zealotry to removing Castro or serving the interests of various associated groups. However, many important aspects of his Bishop story rely solely on his varying claims and require substantiation.
Responding to the Bishop allegation David Atlee Phillips testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). "He said he never used the name Maurice Bishop. He said he did not know of anyone in the CIA who used the name...he said he had seen Antonio Veciana only twice in his life, the second time the morning of his hearing before the Committee when Veciana, who had testified earlier emerged from the hearing room while he, Phillips, was in the hallway. Phillips said the first time he met Veciana was at a meeting of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers in Reston."xlviii At the meeting, investigators presented Phillips by name to Veciana for a brief questioning. After speaking with Phillips Veciana was asked by a Congressional investigator if David Phillips was Maurice Bishop and Veciana said he was not.xlix l
Veciana later noted Phillips had a similarity to Bishop but reaffirmed "David Atlee Phillips is not the person he knew as Maurice Bishop" during legal testimony before the House Select Committee.li Veciana's is but one of many declaring allegations while seeking to connect Oswald with an official agency on little but his most current version alone. He provided multiple names, suspects, and details without substantial evidence and the Select Committee concluded offering, "No corroboration was found for Veciana's alleged meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald."lii
The Select Committee further stated additional problems with Veciana's allegations "First, Veciana waited more than 10 years after the assassination to reveal his story. Second, Veciana would not supply proof of the 253,000 payment from Bishop, claiming fear of the Internal Revenue Service. Third, Veciana could not point to a single witness to his meetings with Bishop, much less with Oswald. Fourth, Veciana did little to help the committee identify Bishop. In the absence of corroboration or independent substantiation, the committee could not, therefore, credit Veciana's story of having met Lee Harvey Oswald."liii Substantial evidence supports a feasible conspiracy, but it does not support the evolving story asserted by Veciana
i. Kennedys and King (formerly CTKA), Statement of Antonio Veciana, November 22, 2013, kennedys and king.com
ii. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated Central Intelligence Agency file, Microfilm Reel 17, Ruiz-Webster, Cable: Antonio Veciana, Asst MGR of Banco Financiero, December 9, 1960
iii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Antonio Veciana and Alpha 66, Box 14, July 26, 1962 pp. 1-2
iv. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, No Title, March 15, 1978
v. HSCA Report, Volume X, Section III, Antonio Veciana Blanch, March, 1979, p. 37
vi. Ibid, pp. 38-39
vii. Ibid, pp. 39
viii. HSCA, Seg, CIA file, Biographic Profile of David Atlee Phillips, Box 51, June 5, 1974, p. 1
ix. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Dispatch of Operational Monthly Report, 1-30 November 63, Box 38, December 11, 1963
x. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm, Reel 14: Phillips - Raikin, Biographic data sheet: David Atlee Phillips, (n.d.)
xi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Mr. David Atlee Phillips, Employment as CIA Staff Officer, Box 45, July 14, 1954, pp. 1-4
xii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel: 14, Phillips-Raikin, David Atlee Phillips, Passport file review, July 13, 1959, p. 1
xiii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Agency Service of David Atlee Phillips, Box 51, June 16, 1966
xiv. Central Intelligence Agency, Russ Holmes Work file, Mexico City Station History, November 16, 1978, p. 231
xv. HSCA, Seg, CIA file, Biographic Profile of David Atlee Phillips
xvi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Microfilm Reel 47: Mexi and Dir cable, Cable for Director 79075, October 29, 1963
xvii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Operational: AMPALP-1, Box 32, October 21, 1963
xviii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 15, Cable- Info on Antonio Carlos Veciana and Associates, August 17, 1973
xix. Executive Session of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, March 9, 1977
xx. HSCA Report, Vol. X, p. 40
xxi. Ibid pp. 40, 41
xxii. Kennedys and King, Statement of Antonio Veciana
xxiii. HSCA Report, Vol. X, p. 42
xxiv. HSCA, Seg, CIA file, Traces on Morris Bishop, May 6, 1977
xxv. HSCA, Numbered Files, No Title, Schweiker Leads and Information, December 14, 1976
xxvi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Memo on searching of files on Antonio Veciana and "Morris Bishop" for, Box 11, April 14, 1977
xxvii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, List of Agency personnel named Bishop, Box 59, (n.d), National Archives and Records Administration Record Number: 104-10146-10204
xxviii. Ibid, NARA RN: 104-10146-10198
xxix. HSCA Seg. CIA file, Biographic Data on Morris (Maurice) Gilbert Bishop, April 4, 1964
xxx. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Morris Gilbert Bishop, April 5, 1977
xxxi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Memo on CIA Activities in Dallas prior to Kennedy Assassination, May 2, 1977, p.3
xxxii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, No Title, Insert for McCone, March 15, 1978
xxxiii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, Anti-Castro Activities and Organizations LHO knew in New Orleans, Update of McCone Statement, p. 29
xxxiv. Ibid, Insert for Balmes Hildalgo
xxxv. HSCA, Security Classified Testimony, Balmes Nieves Hildalgo, pp. 30-32
xxxvi. CIA file, Russ Holmes Work file, Memo: Discussion with HSCA investigator on Maurice (Morris) Bishop, October 6, 1978
xxxvii. CIA file, Miscellaneous Series, Memo: Morris Bishop, September 20, 1978
xxxviii. HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Recent Activities in Dallas concerning the Domestic Contact Di, Box 55, May 6, 1977
xxxix. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 44, Security File on James Walton Moore, Recommendation for Career Intelligence Medal, August 24, 1977
xl. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Moore, J. Walton [A government file that reflects that the subject was commissioned as Ensign in the U.S. Navy...], November 13, 1953
xli. HSCA, Miscellaneous Series, Breckinridge Files (HSCA), Media Inquiry Into Disappearance of George de Mohrenschildt, March 18, 1977
xlii. HSCA, Seg CIA file, Microfilm, Reel 5: Conte - de Mohrenschildt, Folder L, George De Mohrenschildt, April 13, 1977
xliii. CIA file, Russ Holmes Work file, Was J. Walton Moore connected with CIA, Wash (sic) he connected with the Oswald case?, (n.d.)
xliv. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Recent Activities in Dallas..., Box 55
xlv. Federal Bureau of Investigation, JFK Headquarters file 62-109060, Additional releases, Part 3 0f 3, April 6, 1977
xlvi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, 180-10140-10072, March 2, 1978
xlvii. HSCA Report, Vol. X, p. 42
xlviii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Staff Notes, Anti-Castro activities and organizations and LHO in New Orleans, March, 1979
xlix. HSCA Report, Volume X, pp. 46-47
l. HSCA Report, Section 3, p. 136
li. HSCA Report, Vol. X, p. 49
lii. HSCA Report, Vol. X, p. 52
liii. HSCA Report, Section 3, p. 137