Posted 1 hour 9 minutes ago
Target: Cuban President Fidel Castro (Reuters: Claudia Daut)
The CIA worked with two of America's most-wanted criminals in a botched attempt to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro in a "gangster-type action" in the early 1960s, according to documents released by the CIA.
The CIA declassified hundreds of pages of long-secret records that detail some of the agency's worst illegal abuses during about 25 years of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying and kidnapping.
The documents are known in the CIA as the "Family Jewels," and some describe the agency's efforts to persuade Johnny Roselli, believed to be a mobster, to help plot the assassination of Castro.
A CIA official at the time, Richard Bissell, in August 1960 approached Col. Sheffield Edwards of the agency's Office of Security to determine if Edwards "had assets that may assist in a sensitive mission requiring gangster-type action," according to the documents.
"The mission target was Fidel Castro," one memo said.
Roselli was believed by the CIA to have been a high-ranking member of the crime syndicate and who controlled all the ice-making machines on the Las Vegas Strip.
He was approached by a go-between, Robert Maheu, who reckoned Roselli had connections leading into Cuban gambling interests.
The story Roselli was to be told was that several international business firms were suffering heavy financial losses in Cuba as a result of Castro's action and they were willing to pay $US150,000 for his removal.
"It was to be made clear to Roselli that the United States government was not, and should not, become aware of this operation," a document said.
In documents that often read like a cheap detective novel, the story is outlined: The pitch was made to Roselli at the Hilton Plaza Hotel in New York and Roselli was initially cool to the idea. But the contact led the agency to two top mobsters, Momo Salvatore Giancana and Santos Trafficant, who were both on the US list of most-wanted men.
Giancana, who was known as Sam Gold, suggested firearms might be a problem and said using a potent pill that could be slipped into Castro's food or drink might work.
Eventually, six pills of "high lethal content" were provided to Juan Orta, identified as a Cuban official who had been receiving kickback payments from gambling interests and who still had access to Castro and was in a financial bind.
"After several weeks of reported attempts, Orta apparently got cold feet and asked out of the assignment. He suggested another candidate who made several attempts without success," the document said.