Our Pledge To You

News

Kennedy file revisits CIA plan to pay Chicago mobster to kill Castro

Sam Giancana at a federal grand jury crime hearing in 1965. | Sun-Times Library files

The newly-released batch of files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy includes a document revisiting a CIA-led plan to pay the infamous Chicago Outfit boss Sam “Momo” Giancana to hire someone to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The scheme is included in a document released Thursday from the 1975 presidential commission on domestic CIA activities that was overseen by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. The plan was previously revealed as part of the 2007 disclosure of a set of reports known as the “Family Jewels,” which were commissioned in 1973 to detail inappropriate or illegal actions carried out by the CIA.

In September 1960, the CIA enlisted Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent, to make contact with Giancana, who had connections with underworld gambling activities in Cuba, according to the newly released document.

As part of the project, the CIA agreed to pay $150,000 to those involved once Castro was killed. However, Maheu insisted that Giancana and another contact “emphatically stated that they wished no part of any payment,” the report said.

A plan was ultimately hatched to attempt to assassinate Castro by placing botulism pills in his food.

“Supposedly, the reason pills were used was that the syndicate personnel could not recruit personnel to undertake the assassination through gunfire because the chance of survival and escape was small,” according to the disclosure.

There may have been two attempts in 1961 to poison Castro, but some officials included in the report doubted whether any poison pills ever made it to Cuba, the report noted.

The operation continued until the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in April 1961, after which the CIA pulled the plug and the $150,000 offer was “definitely withdrawn,” according to the report.

On May 22, 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy received a memo from the FBI outlining the operation, the report said. Kennedy responded days later, noting that the CIA should never undertake such projects without first consulting with the Department of Justice. He added that it would now be difficult to prosecute Giancana, who was ultimately gunned down in his Oak Park home on June 19, 1975.

A second round of assassination plans involving a mafia contact were set in motion in the summer of 1962, but fizzled out by June 1963, according to testimony from the case officer in charge of the operation. Other officials included in the report gave conflicting accounts of this phase of the plan and the scope of the case officer’s operation.

The Chicago Sun-Times broke news of Giancana’s ties to the CIA in an Aug. 16, 1963 cover story, as noted in the report.

“It was a weird gangland spy case in which, government official said, CIA agents contacted Giancana in an effort to obtain Cuban intelligence after the Fidel Castro regime came into power in 1959,” Sandy Smith wrote in that Sun-Times story. “What the CIA accomplished — if anything — by negotiating with the 53-year-old Chicago rackets chief is one of many unexplained mysteries of matter.”

Over 54 years after that story, the picture is still coming into focus.

President Donald Trump initially withheld some of the JFK files, but by Saturday evening he tweeted that all the documents had been released.

“After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other Agencies, I will be releasing ALL #JFKFiles other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”