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From: "JFK News"
Soviets Knew Date of Cuba Attack

April 29, 2000

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I'm the first to recognize that I don't think that the CIA should run
paramilitary operations of the type in Cuba, I think we should limit
ourselves more to secret intelligence collection and operations of the
nonmilitary category." ALLEN DULLES

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Was President Kennedy informed of this leak?

"Kornbluh said there is no indication that Esterline or anyone else at the
CIA warned President Kennedy of the leak before the invasion took place."
PETER KONBLUH
---
Soviets Knew Date of Cuba Attack
By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 29, 2000; A04

Shortly after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, a top CIA official told an investigative commission that the Soviet Union had somehow learned the exact date of the amphibious landing in advance, according to a newly declassified version of the commission's final report.

Moreover, the CIA apparently had known of the leak to the Soviets--and went ahead with the invasion anyway.

In an effort to oust Fidel Castro, the CIA organized and trained a force of about 1,400 Cuban exiles and launched the invasion on April 17, 1961. Castro's soldiers easily repelled the landing force in less than 72 hours, killing 200 rebels and capturing 1,197 others in what became one of the worst foreign policy blunders of the Cold War.

The investigative commission, chaired by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, was established almost immediately and held a series of secret hearings at the Pentagon before sending a sharply critical report to President Kennedy in June 1961.

While portions of the Taylor Commission's report were made public on two previous occasions, in 1977 and 1986, many pages had been blacked out for security reasons by the CIA. The newly declassified version, in contrast, is nearly free of deletions and contains a wealth of new detail.

The National Archives released the document late Wednesday to the nonprofit National Security Archive, where senior analyst Peter Kornbluh has been working for years to prod the government to release all classified documents on the Bay of Pigs.

Kornbluh began demanding the full version of the Taylor Commission report in December after determining that the document, cleared for release by the CIA in 1996, had been lost by Pentagon officials.

"This document represents a case study of bureaucratic laxity when it comes to the declassification of important history," Kornbluh said yesterday. "I was told by the Kennedy Library [in December] that the Taylor report was sitting at the Pentagon--and had been for three years at that point."

When Pentagon officials could not locate the document, Kornbluh said, the whole declassification review process involving the CIA, State Department, Pentagon and other intelligence agencies had to be restarted by officials at the National Archives, where the process finally was completed just days ago...

Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott, a Pentagon spokeswoman, blamed the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts for sending the document in 1996 to the Defense Department's Office of General Counsel, rather than to a special declassification office. Abbott said she did not know what happened to the document after it arrived in 1996.

Documents found in Soviet archives previously indicated that the Russians had learned some details of the operation in advance, but the Taylor Commission report shows for the first time that the CIA knew about the leak and proceeded with the invasion nevertheless.

The revelation came in testimony before the Taylor Commission--blacked out in previous releases of the report--by Jacob D. Esterline, the CIA operations official who headed the task force responsible for coordinating the invasion...

"There was some indication that the Soviets somewhere around the 9th [of April] had gotten the date of the 17th," Esterline testified. "But there was no indication at any time that they had any idea where the operation was going to take place."

How the leak occurred is still a mystery.

In extremely candid testimony, Esterline called Tony Varona, one of two Cuban exile leaders working closely with the agency, "an ignoramus of the worst sort" who had "no conception whatsoever of security."

Referring to Varona and his cohorts, Esterline complained, "I've never encountered a group of people that were so incapable of keeping a secret."

For this reason, he explained, CIA planners told none of the Cuban participants when the invasion would actually take place until a briefing on April 12. Since the Soviets had by then already obtained the date, either through a source or a communication intercept, "we were able to isolate the fact that the leak could not have been Cuban," Esterline said.

Kornbluh said there is no indication that Esterline or anyone else at the CIA warned President Kennedy of the leak before the invasion took place.

The newly declassified report also shows that CIA Director Allen W. Dulles expressed doubt just three weeks after the invasion about whether the CIA should have any further involvement in paramilitary operations.

"I'm the first to recognize that I don't think that the CIA should run paramilitary operations of the type in Cuba," Dulles said. "I think we should limit ourselves more to secret intelligence collection and operations of the nonmilitary category."

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

nextMORE LINKS TO BAY OF PIGS REPORTS

nextDeclassified Bay of Pigs Documents


CIA Said To Know of Bay of Pigs Leak

...c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The CIA was aware that the Soviet Union found out the date of the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba more than a week before it took place, but went ahead with the operation anyway, newly declassified intelligence documents show.

Previously released Soviet documents indicated that Moscow had learned some details of the operation ahead of time, but the report from the Taylor Commission shows for the first time that the CIA knew about the leak and proceeded with the invasion, said Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst with the nonprofit National Security Archive.

Portions of the Taylor Commission report had been released in 1977 and 1986. The latest release, which shows newly declassified information, was supposed to be made public in 1996, but was only released recently following a bureaucratic snafu.

``There was some indication that the Soviets somewhere around the 9th (of April) had gotten the date of the 17th,'' Jacob Esterline, the CIA operations official who headed the task force responsible for coordinating the invasion, said during a May 1951 meeting.

``But there was no indication at any time that they had any idea where the operation was going to take place,'' Esterline added.

It is unknown exactly how the Soviets found out, but Esterline said it was not from the Cuban exiles since the exiles were not briefed on when the invasion would take place until April 12.

Kornbluh said there also was no indication that the CIA informed President Kennedy of the leak before the invasion took place.

The documents show that CIA director Allen W. Dulles, three weeks after the failed operation, questioned the agency's role in future paramilitary operations.

``I'm the first to recognize that I don't think that the CIA should run paramilitary operations of the type in Cuba,'' Dulles told the commission. He added that ``the Cuban operation has had a very serious effect on all our work'' and ``I think we should limit ourselves more to secret intelligence collection and operations of the nonmilitary category.''

According to Kornbluh, the report also shows that CIA official Frank Egan, who was in charge of the training camps in Guatemala, told the commission Castro had infiltrated four double agents into the camp.

Although CIA officials limited mail going into and out of the camp in the weeks leading up the official, Egan said the double agents apparently got information out to Castro.

The Taylor Commission report is the second government report made public on the Bay of Pigs. Kornbluh said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the third document, by a CIA historian, but it has yet to be released.

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