The Abort Team Story
A lingering tale of intrigue that requires seemingly needless complexity revolves around the claims of William Robert "Tosh" Plumlee. He claims a long employment relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The later years of his claims are not the subject of this inquiry, it is possible he later served the Central Intelligence Agency and was involved in the Iran Contra Scandal. However, Plumlee's claims related to the Kennedy assassination and serving the Agency years prior to it are within the reach of declassified files to feasibly verify or dismiss. Notable are the other seemingly mythical tales seeking to import Plumlee's story within their own speculations.
Filmmaker Bob Vernon presented the first notable appearance I discovered of the Abort Team claim in the record. He attended a public hearing of the Assassination Records Review Board and claimed that William Robert Tosh Plumlee was a CIA pilot that handled clandestine missions for decades. Plumlee prior testified before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and to the corporation propagating his claims Truth Truth Truth Incorporated. Plumlee states that Johnny Roselli (Fillipo Sacco), known to have worked simultaneously for the CIA and Mafia was among his boarding passengers November 22, 1963 on his way Dallas, Texas. Plumlee claims he was part of a CIA abort team to prevent Kennedy's assassination.
Seeking to test the story's reliability, the search began for any official mention of the abort team or Plumlee. One 1959 jailhouse interview states, "During the course of the above interview with Plumlee it was noted that he told a very confusing, illogical story with a complete lack of specifics, and that he has indicated that he has in the past used his imagination for the purpose of making his story more believable, that is, in that he has admitted making up names of persons allegedly contacted by him." This interview predates the assassination claims and is at least worth peripheral consideration regarding Plumlee's later statements.
Plumlee subsequently contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding US Customs Agents he believed were bribed to allow contraband. He made these allegations while he was incarcerated for check forgery in Ohio. The reporting agent states "Plumlee was vague in his allegations against the aforementioned individuals, stating that they appeared to turn their backs while planes loaded with arms took off from the airport. It appeared that he basing his statements in this regard upon hearsay or that he may possess additional information of a direct nature he would not divulge. Much of the information furnished by Plumlee was contradictory in nature and there were obvious discrepancies in the dates and places mentioned...Because of admissions made by Plumlee in connection with the Sutor case...It is quite probable that this information may be a complete fabrication or it may be that Plumlee is purposefully avoiding furnishing accurate information."
Bureau Special Agents Hickman and Gallie tried to clarify former claims made in an interview with Plumlee. During the interviews, Plumlee could not recall specific amounts he was paid for alleged weapons smuggling. Plumlee commented, "...he was so emotionally involved by his problems with his wife that he hardly knew what he was doing most of the time." Plumlee also had prior implied one Pete Sanchez was a person of interest, yet later "he stated in reality he could not attest to the fact that this was the person's true name. He was then asked whether this was the same man he had called Johnny Smith in discussing the case with Agents on a previous occasion and he said he believed it was." After relating his entire series of claims Plumlee told FBI agents "...he was sure no one would believe his story inasmuch as it was rambling, incoherent, and nonspecific, but he insisted that what he said was true, although because of his emotional problems and the many things he had on mind, he was unable to further clarify his story."
One general CIA review offered no files substantiating Plumlee's employment, two additional internal searches conducted by the Domestic Contacts Division and the Office of Security produced no files regarding Plumlee. This does not rule out that Plumlee was later used, but does affirm it is unlikely he was employed for the CIA in 1963 without any record existing of his connection. We should also consider the lack of a need for the proposed abort team, if a conspirator wished to end the plot he could simply withdraw the assassins. There is no need to use additional people who could expose the plot, especially to use someone like Plumlee who exhibits a history of contacting officials and making unproven claims.
Palm Beach County authorities jailed Plumlee for not returning an airplane he rented in May of 1963. Plumlee claimed to be a pilot at the Houston International Airport and presented this as a reference to the First Citizens National Bank of Houston. He also gave a prior bank reference that was unverifiable. If Plumlee had regular access to airplanes via an official group he likely would not be renting his planes, and would not invite official attention by abandoning them. Additionally quite unlikely is the use of someone who is frequently jailed and easily identifiable just months before the assassination.
June 1963 Plumlee told Deputy Sheriff Larry Yates he possessed thirteen thousand dollars hidden in a Miami locker. Yates had the locker found and inspected; officials reported a lone pair of binoculars in the locker. He further asserted "...CIA Agents and Cubans..." were constantly tracking him in Miami. Plumlee was "...known to the Miami FBI Office as an unreliable chronic complainant." Plumlee was also wanted in multiple other jurisdictions for fraud and passing bad checks. It is highly improbable that any plotter would use someone recently jailed, still legally wanted, and repeatedly contacting officials with unreliable information. Plumlee also later claimed to be a member of the CIA's Task Force W while he is verifiably in jail.
Subsequently, Plumlee serves another short term of imprisonment in Florida. This is just months before the assassination of President Kennedy. In a lengthy statement that alleged repeated illegal operations and associations with Johnny Roselli and various well-known exiles Plumlee states "...he did not see Roselli from 1963 to 1968." This prior legal statement contradicts his entire abort team story; it places him out of contact with Roselli during the year of assassination. It renders every related claim made highly improbable and disputed by substantial evidence.
Assassination Records Review Board Public Hearing, Dallas, November 18, 1994, p. 28
FBI, House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) Subject file, M-N, Joseph Raymond Merola, No Title, August 2, 1959
FBI, HSCA Subject file, William Robert Plumlee, IS-Cuba; Neutrality Matters, May 6, 1959
HSCA Segregated Central Intelligence Agency file, Memorandum on intensive search of files for House Select Committee on, HSCA Request, Box 8, February 10, 1978
HSCA Seg. CIA file, Memo on House Select Committee on Assassinations request, February 24, 1978
HSCA Seg. CIA file, HSCA Request dated 27-28; OLC 78-0070/23, multiple documents, February 21, 1978
FBI, HSCA Subject files, Q-R, John Roselli, No Title, Statement of William Robert Plumlee, August 31, 1976, pp. 1-4