David Atlee Phillips,
|During my recent interview of MR. JAMES J. PLAINE of
Houston, Texas, MR. PLAINE informed me that he had been contacted by a MR. WHITE of
Freeport Sulphur in regards to a possible assassination plan for Fidel Castro.
- New Orleans District Attorney (NODA) Memo from Andrew Sciambra to Jim Garrison, dated 10/9/68
|A memo in the GUY BANISTER file indicates that there is information which reports that DICK WHITE, a high official of Freeport Sulphur, and CLAY SHAW were flown to Cuba probably taking off from the Harvey Canal area in a Freeport Sulphur plane piloted by DAVE FERRIE. The purpose of this trip was to set up import of Cuba's nickel ore to a Canadian front corporation which would in turn ship to the Braithwaite nickel plant. The plant was built by the U.S. Government at a cost of about one million dollars. - New Orleans District Attorney (NODA) Memo from Sciambra to Garrison, dated 10/9/68|
|One man whose name we first thought to be WHITE apparently is WIGHT, Vice President of Freeport Sulphur who reputedly made the flight. Currently an effort is being made to locate WIGHT, who lives in New York. Despite the fact that the original source of this information was JULES RICCO KIMBLE, a man with a record, this lead keeps growing stronger. From the very outset it had been reported that the flight had something to do with the import of nickle following the loss of the original import supply from Cuba. Recent information developed on WIGHT in a separate memo indicated that he is now on the Board of Directors of the Freeport Nickel Company, a subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur. - NODA Clay Shaw Lead File note, no date|
|[Ken] Elliot then changed the subject and stated that he has a lot of information that he could give to the D.A. but that unless he was assured that he would not be publicly brought into the investigation or be served, he would not come forward. He stated as an example that SHAW and two other persons either purchased or attempted to purchase a nickel ore plant in Braithwaite, Louisiana, after the company was closed because of broken trade relations with Cuba. At this time DAVID FERRIE flew SHAW and his two partners to Canada in an attempt to receive the ore from Cuba but through Canada. - NODA Memo from Sal Scalia to Garrison, 6/27/67|
|Cogswell says the Bishop sketch resembles the former president of a Moa Bay subsidiary, Freeport Sulphur of New Orleans. Cogswell doesn't remember the name of that officer, but says he knew he had very powerful connections and came from Texas. - HSCA Outside Contact Report dated 7/6/78, Gaeton Fonzi's interview of James J. Cogswell III.|
|Mr. Phillips stated that he "probably" did have some contacts with someone or some persons associated with the Moa Bay Mining Company, but he did not recall any specific names. He also "must have" had some contact with Freeport Sulphur people. "I was fairly socially active at the time and the name of the company is familiar to me." - HSCA notes from an HSCA interview with David Atlee Phillips, dated 8/24/78.|
The quotes at left [above] should raise some serious eyebrows. Could an American-based multinational corporation such as Freeport Sulphur, now Freeport McMoRan, have been involved, however peripherally, in anti-Castro activities in the sixties? Could Freeport have provided cover to employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, employees such as David Atlee Phillips? Could we have imagined there would be a company connecting both Phillips and Clay Shaw, the man Jim Garrison charged with being part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy?
The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the late '70s pursued this strange lead. It seemed more than mere coincidence that both Clay Shaw's name and that of Phillips' purported alias, Maurice Bishop, would show up in conjunction with a little publicized company known then as Freeport Sulphur. Interestingly, in the last few months, Freeport has been making headlines in the Los Angeles Times, Texas Observer, The Progressive and the Austin Chronicle due to allegations of human rights abuses and environmental degradation.
The HSCA suppressed the files surrounding the investigation of David Phillips's alleged connection to Freeport Sulphur's Cuban subsidiary, the Moa Bay Mining Company. The document quoted at left, referencing David Phillips and Freeport Sulphur, has been quietly circulating through the research community, although it had been technically unreleased. The secrecy surrounding David Atlee Phillips and every document, interview, tape and reference to him must end. He is a key suspect, having been fingered by several as the Maurice Bishop that Antonio Veciana saw talking to Oswald in Texas. As the reader will see, the connections here are too compelling to go unexplored. The Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) must make every effort to secure the remaining pieces of the investigation of the Freeport Sulphur-David Phillips connection, as well as all documents and testimony relating to the identity and role of Maurice Bishop/David Atlee Phillips in the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.
Bill Davy, in his well-documented monograph Through the Looking Glass: The Mysterious World of Clay Shaw, put forth the first public information on Freeport Sulphur's peripheral relation to a key figure in the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy. Here, we flesh out the information surrounding this company, as it hosts a startling set of heavy hitters whose policies crossed swords with those of President John F. Kennedy in significant ways.
Probe is not going to state that Freeport Sulphur was in any way involved in the planning or execution of the Kennedy assassination. But this is a company that connects the CIA, the Rockefellers, Clay Shaw and David Phillips. The company had serious clashes with Castro over an expensive project, and with the Kennedy administration over matters of great monetary significance to Freeport. Allegations of a Canadian connection with New Orleans, and Cuban nickel mining and processing operations fit neatly into Shaw's reported activities. And this is a company which had at least one director reportedly talking about killing Castro.
Because this is such an important story, and there is so much to it, this article has been broken into two parts, the second of which will be in the next issue of Probe. There is no quick way to tell this story, as the history and players all need backgrounds to put the nature of the implications in the fullest possible context. So we go back to the beginning.
Freeport Sulphur was born in Texas in 1912. The company later moved the headquarters office to New York. Originally, the principal business was mining sulphur. By 1962, Freeport Sulphur was the nation's oldest and largest producer of sulphur. In 1962, the fertilizer industry used 40% of the sulphur produced in the world. Other business segments that use sulphur in the production process are chemical, papermaking, pigment, pharmaceutical, mining, oil-refining and fiber manufacturing industries. For most of this period, Freeport was headed by John Hay Whitney.
In 1927, Payne Whitney, one of America's richest multimillionaires, died, leaving his only son and future Freeport president an estate valued at over $179 million. At the young age of 22, John Hay Whitney became one of the country's richest men. Nonetheless, "Jock," as the press later called him, took a job at Lee Higginson and Co. on a salary of $65 a month. There, he made a fateful friendship with another onetime Lee Higginson employee named Langbourne Williams. Langbourne's father had originally founded Freeport Texas, then lost control of the business. Langbourne enlisted Jock's boss at Lee Higginson-J. T. Claiborne-to help in a proxy fight for control of Freeport. Claiborne urged the young Jock to join their efforts. Jock did-to the tune of a half a million dollars. By 1930, the Claiborne-Williams-Whitney team had won control of Freeport.
Without Jock Whitney's influence-and of course, money-the future of Freeport may have been gravely different. The Whitney family fortune was legendary not just for its size, but for the power that the Whitneys wielded with it. Republican Whitney money, for example, founded The New Republic. Carroll Quigley, in Tragedy and Hope, has written:
The best example of this alliance of Wall Street and Left-wing publication was The New Republic, a magazine founded by Willard Straight, using Payne Whitney money. . . . The original purpose for establishing the paper was to provide an outlet for the progressive Left and to guide it quietly in an Anglophile direction. . . . The first editor of The New Republic, the well-known "liberal" Herbert Croly, was aware of the situation. . . Croly's biography of Straight, published in 1914, makes perfectly clear that Straight was in no sense a liberal or a progressive, but was, indeed, a typical international banker and that The New Republic was simply a medium for advancing certain designs of such international bankers, notably to blunt the isolationism and anti-British sentiments so prevalent among many American progressives, while providing them with a vehicle for expression of their progressive view in literature, art, music, social reform, and even domestic politics. . . . The chief achievement of The New Republic, however, in 1914-1918 and again in 1938-1948, was for interventionism in Europe and support of Great Britain.
Put another way, the Whitney family was accustomed to covert uses of corporate institutions, and especially the media.
The Whitneys had also been powerful within the government. Whitney's grandfather, for example, had served under President Grover Cleveland as Secretary of the Navy. Jock Whitney himself followed the path of his predecessors, joining with Nelson Rockefeller in 1942 to take charge of American WWII propaganda in Latin America through the Rockefeller-controlled Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA). Due to the confluence of interests and the similarity in substance, at one time, there was talk of merging the Rockefeller-Whitney CIAA operation with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). Nelson Rockefeller, however, did not wish to relinquish his fiefdom, and the merger never happened. (The history of Nelson Rockefeller's Latin American operations are well detailed in the book Thy Will Be Done, by Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett.)
Whitney himself had significant ties to the OSS and the CIA. During World War II, Whitney had been temporarily detailed to "Wild Bill" Donovan of the OSS. During this time, he was captured by the Nazis, but escaped in a daring jump from a moving train.
Whitney was second cousin to the famous CIA officer Tracy Barnes, known in the agency as Allen Dulles's "Golden Boy." Barnes eventually headed the CIA's Domestic Operations Division long before it was legal for the CIA to operate domestically. Whitney and Barnes became friends while both were attending the Army Air Corps' intelligence school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Another lifelong Whitney friend and business associate was William H. Jackson, who briefly served as second in command at the newly formed CIA as Deputy Director under Walter Bedell Smith.
Perhaps it was these associations, or perhaps it was his relationship with the CIA-involved Nelson Rockefeller which persuaded Whitney to collaborate with the Agency on several occasions. For example, the Whitney Trust was financed in part with money from the Granary Fund. The Granary Fund was a CIA conduit.
Another of Whitney's many companies, the Delaware corporation Kern House Enterprises, housed the CIA front company Forum World Features, a foreign news service used to disperse CIA propaganda around the world. Forum writer Russell Warner stated that Forum World Features was "the principal CIA media effort in the world." As for Kern Enterprises, in The Cult of Intelligence, by John Marks and Victor Marchetti, chapter five begins with a comment about Delaware corporations.
"Oh, you mean the Delaware corporations," said Robert Amory, Jr., a former Deputy Director of the CIA. "Well, if the agency wants to do something in Angola, it needs the Delaware corporations."
By "Delaware corporations" Amory was referring to what are more commonly known in the agency as "proprietary corporations" or, simply, "proprietaries." These are ostensibly private institutions and businesses which are in fact financed and controlled by the CIA. From behind their commercial and sometimes non-profit covers, the agency is able to carry out a multitude of clandestine activities-usually covert-action operations. Many of the firms are legally incorporated in Delaware because of that state's lenient regulation of corporations, but the CIA has not hesitated to use other states when it found them convenient.
The present incarnation of Freeport Sulphur, Freeport McMoRan, is incorporated in Delaware.
In keeping with the Whitneys' long-standing British proclivities, Forum World Features was run with the "knowledge and full cooperation of British Intelligence." Whitney's friendliness with the British ultimately led to his appointment as Ambassador to Great Britain in 1957. At that time Whitney also controlled, as publisher and later as Editor-in-Chief, the New York Herald Tribune. Whitney worked media deals with Katherine Graham of the Washington Post, and Graham held a 45% share of the New York Herald Tribune's stock, with an option for 5% more upon Whitney's death.
Whitney's solid Eastern Establishment credentials, as well as his cooperation with the CIA, make his long tenure at Freeport Sulphur-both as Director and eventually Chairman of the company-rather interesting. It was Whitney who pushed for diversification of Freeport Sulphur into other concerns. The first diversification move Whitney put through was the purchase of the Cuban-American Manganese Corporation and its manganese reserves in Cuba. Manganese oxide production there ran from 1932-1946, at which point the reserves had been exhausted by the war effort. In late 1943, Freeport opened its Nicaro Nickel Company subsidiary in Nicaro, Cuba. Through its Cuban-American Nickel Company subsidiary, Freeport also developed another subsidiary: Moa Bay Mining Company.
By the early '60s, Freeport had divisions and subsidiaries that were diverse and profitable. Freeport Oil Company, a division of Freeport Sulphur, racked up $1,122,000 in 1961, over and above its $772,000 earnings the year before. Freeport International, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur, set out to explore and develop new industrial ventures overseas in Europe, Australia, India and elsewhere. With one other company, Freeport Sulphur shared equally in a 95 per cent share in the National Potash Company, whose earnings in 1961 were triple that of the previous year.
A company with the diverse assets of Freeport Sulphur, with the ability to provide cover to agents worldwide, would naturally be of intense interest to the CIA. Not surprisingly, there have been allegations of CIA involvement with the Moa Bay Mining Company, Freeport's Cuban nickel mining subsidiary.
According to Cuban lawyer Mario Lazo, whose firm represented Freeport Sulphur in Cuba, the Nicaro project was conceived just two months after Pearl Harbor. The strange Cuban nickel-cobalt ore required a special extraction process. Freeport had developed a new chemical process-and Washington approved the financing-to aid the development of nickel (used in the manufacturing of steel) for the war effort. The Nicaro nickel plant cost American taxpayers $100,000,000. At one point, the plant produced nearly 10% of all the nickel in the free world.
New Orleans became home to a special plant Freeport set up just outside the city to process the nickel-cobalt ore. When the Moa Bay Mining project was conceived, Freeport Nickel, a wholly owned Freeport Sulphur subsidiary, put up $19,000,000 of $119,000,000 to develop the Cuban nickel ore. The rest of the money came from a group of American steel companies and major automobile makers. (Freeport's pattern of putting in a small portion of total cost is a recurrent one.) $44,000,000 of the original funds went into Louisiana for the development of the New Orleans nickel processing facility at Port Nickel.
In 1957, two things happened that allowed Freeport to develop nickel not just through the government-owned Nicaro nickel plant, but for itself. The first was a break on taxes, won through negotiations with Batista, for the proposed Moa Bay Mining Company. The second was a government contract in 1957 in which the U.S. Government committed itself to buying up to $248,000,000 worth of nickel. Both of these would lead to public criticism of Freeport in the years to come. The tax break led to charges that the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba and Langbourne Williams of Freeport Sulphur made a special deal with Batista. (See the box on page 19.) The contract would eventually lead Freeport into a Senate investigation and a confrontation with President Kennedy over the issue of stockpiling.
During the Church committee hearings, Senator Richard Schweiker's independent investigator Gaeton Fonzi stumbled onto a vital lead in the Kennedy assassination. An anti-Castro Cuban exile leader named Antonio Veciana was bitter about what he felt had been a government setup leading to his recent imprisonment, and he wanted to talk. Fonzi asked him about his activities, and without any prompting from Fonzi, Veciana volunteered the fact that his CIA handler, known to him only as "Maurice Bishop," had been with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas not long before the assassination of Kennedy. Veciana gave a description of Bishop to a police artist, who drew a sketch. One notable characteristic Veciana mentioned were the dark patches on the skin under the eyes. When Senator Schweiker first saw the picture, he thought it strongly resembled the CIA's former Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division-one of the highest positions in the Agency-and the head of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO): David Atlee Phillips.
In an HSCA interview of David Phillips, an unnoted committee member wrote-in a document circulated throughout the research community-the following:
When asked about his relationsip [sic] with Julio Lobo, he became a bit upset and said he thought he had covered that adequately in his deposition. He says as far as he can recall he met Lobo only one time, perhaps it was even in Madrid and not Havana, he doesn't recall, and he had no substantial dealings with him.
Julio Lobo was a Cuban banker and sugar king who later lived in Spain. He was also Veciana's employer at the time Veciana first met Bishop. He gave funding to the DRE, set up by a man named Ross Crozier for the CIA as part of the operations against Cuba. Crozier says he did not, however, set up the New Orleans branch and that that was run by Carlos Bringuier. Crozier, referred to as "Cross" by the HSCA, was one of the people who identified David Atlee Phillips as Maurice Bishop. With this established, Phillip's next recorded comment immediately after being asked about Lobo is significant:
He [Phillips] wanted to know if Veciana's story about Bishop is still being considered and if any decision about his being Bishop had be [sic] conclusively arrived at. He said he doesn't like living under the fear and tension of possibly being called before the television cameras and having Veciana suddenly stand up and point his finger at him and say that he is Bishop and that he saw him with Oswald.
Why would Phillips be so worried if there was no chance he was Bishop?
Veciana, in his earliest interviews, spoke of receiving his intelligence training in an office building in which a mining company's name was displayed and which also housed a branch of the Berlitz School of Languages. Could that mining company have been Nicaro Nickel, or Moa Bay Mining Company? And in one of those curious coincidences that infest the Kennedy assassination, Steve Dorrill, a writer for the British magazine Lobster, noted that in Madrid, a recent director of the Berlitz School of Languages was CIA officer Alberto Cesar Augusto Rodriguez, who was also the man responsible for the photographic surveillance of the Cuban Embassy at the time of the "Oswald" visit there. Recall that the CIA sent the Warren Commission pictures of a man who could never be mistaken for Oswald as evidence that Oswald had been to the Cuban embassy.
Probe recently interviewed a former CIA pilot who knew Veciana from the Miami area and reported that Veciana was a guy whose word among the exile community was "as good as gold." Fonzi felt that Veciana-by that time well out of prison and eager to get back into anti-Castro action-might lie out of loyalty to his greatest benefactor, "Maurice Bishop." Veciana gave indications that Phillips was Bishop, but refused to identify him as such. (For yet another identification of David Atlee Phillips as Maurice Bishop, see the sidebar at right.)
Perhaps because of the following account, David Atlee Phillips was questioned by the HSCA about his possible relationship with both Freeport Sulphur and Moa Bay Mining Company. While working for the HSCA, Fonzi interviewed James Cogswell III, in his home in Palm Beach, Florida. Cogswell presented Fonzi with various leads he felt were important to the case, one of which was the following:
Cogswell says the Bishop sketch resembles the former president of a Moa Bay subsidiary, Freeport Sulphur of New Orleans. Cogswell doesn't remember name of that officer, but says he knew he had very powerful connections and came from Texas.
When Phillips, who came from Texas, was asked about Freeport, the HSCA staffer noted this response:
Mr. Phillips stated that he "probably" did have some contacts with someone or some persons associated with the Moa Bay Mining Company, but he did not recall any specific names. He also "must have" had some contact with Freeport Sulphur people. "I was fairly socially active at the time and the name of the company is familiar to me."
Note that Phillips did not deny an association, but left it to the investigators to find more. Steve Dorrill reported in the Lobster article mentioned previously that one of the pilots of the Moa Bay Mining Company was Pedro Diaz Lanz, a hotshot pilot who defected from the head of Castro's air force and subsequently befriended both Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt, both of whom have also been closely associated with David Phillips. Another employee of the Moa Bay Mining Company, Jorge Alfredo Tarafa, listed Freeport Nickel Company, Moa Bay Cuba as his place of employment from 9/21/59 to 4/8/60 on his job resume. Tarafa was identified as a delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Front (FRD) in New Orleans, headed by Sergio Arcacha Smith. The FRD was the group that E. Howard Hunt set up with exiled Cuban leader Tony Varona to sponsor anti-Castro activities.
Probe has turned up a long lost transcript of a deposition of a person whose name would be instantly recognized by anyone who has studied the Kennedy assassination. It is our hope to reveal the source of this deposition to the ARRB if and when they come to the West Coast.
In this deposition, we find the following startling information. Picking up where the witness was telling how Sergio Arcacha Smith, one of Garrison's original suspects in the Kennedy assassination planning, had invited the witness to a meeting in Guy Banister's office:
Q: Did you go alone to that meeting?
A: As I recall, I did, yes.
Q: Who was there?
A: Mr. Banister, Mr. Arcacha Smith, and Mr. Phillips.
Q: Do you know his first name [meaning Phillips]?
Q: Had you seen him before?
Q: Was he a Latin?
Q: What was his interest in the meeting?
A: He seemed to be running the show.
Q: Telling Banister and Arcacha Smith what to do?
A: His presence was commanding. It wasn't in an orderly military situation, you know. It was just they seemed to introduce Mr. Phillips.
Q: How old a man was he?
A: I would say he was around 51, 52 [Note: the speaker is young.]
Q: Was he identified as to his background?
Q: Were hints dropped as to his background?
A: Just that he was from Washington, that's all.
Q: Did you assume from that he was with the CIA?
A: I didn't assume anything, I never assume anything. . . .I think someone mentioned something about this conversation isn't taking place.
The project that Banister and Arcacha and Mr. Phillips were working on, according to the witness, was to be a televised anti-Castro propaganda program, something that would have been in the direct purview of David Phillips as chief of propaganda for Cuban operations at that time.
Unfortunately for Freeport's board (see Board members on page 24), the Moa Bay Mining company was short-lived in Cuba. With $75,000,000 invested in that operation, one can see how vital the special tax exemption leftover from Batista's reign was to Freeport's Moa Bay operation. And since the deal was negotiated under Batista's regime, one can also see how this must have stuck like a craw in the throat of Castro's revolutionaries as they took control of Cuba in 1959. The Castro government wanted to end the special tax exemption. Freeport wanted to keep it. By March of 1960, Freeport Nickel (parent of Moa Bay Mining, subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur) threatened the Cuban government with an ultimatum: If their special tax status was revoked, the Moa Bay and Nicaro nickel facilities would be shut down.
Freeport knew that Cuba needed the jobs and even partial income that Freeport's nickel operations provided. Freeport must have thought it could bluff this one through, largely due to the particular quality of the Moa Bay ore. The ore was an unusual combination of cobalt and nickel, elements which needed to be separated through a highly complex chemical process, handled at that time by Freeport's New Orleans processing plant. Industry observers were quoted as saying the best thing Cuba could do was to negotiate a compromise, because Cuba could not afford to build the kind of plant Freeport owned. Even the instructions for the process were not kept in Cuba.
Deliberations with the new Cuban government fell apart in August of 1960. According to an "unimpeachable source" in the New York Times, the Cuban government felt negotiations should be suspended because of the tense situation between Cuba and the United States. Cuba performed what they characterized as an "intervention," a temporary measure of stepping in and taking control of the mining facility, rather than outright nationalization. This was reported as Cuba trying to leave the door slightly open for some sort of negotiated settlement. But Freeport considered the takeover a battle cry and wanted to invoke international law to protect its rights to the plant.
Cuba ended up retaining the plant, and the United States ending up attempting to invade Cuba under the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. One of the planners of the Bay of Pigs, as well as an advocate for assassinating Castro, was Admiral Arleigh Burke. Burke later become a director of Freeport Sulphur.
During New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's investigation of Clay Shaw, evidence developed that connected Shaw to Freeport Sulphur. James Plaine of Houston, Texas, told Andrew Sciambra, one of Garrison's assistants, that a Mr. "White" of Freeport Sulphur had contacted him regarding a possible assassination plan for Fidel Castro. Plaine also said that he distinctly remembered either Shaw or David Ferrie talking about some nickel mines which were located at the tip of Cuba. Corroboration for an association between Shaw, Ferrie and "White" came from a witness whose CIA file has only been seen by the CIA and HSCA: Jules Ricco Kimble. Kimble told Garrison's office that "White" had flown with Shaw in a plane believed to be piloted by David Ferrie to Cuba regarding a nickel deal. Another source, a former New Orleans newscaster, told Garrison's team that Shaw and two other persons were attempting to purchase, or had already purchased, an ore processing plant in Braithwaite, Louisiana in the aftermath of the U.S. Government's decision to break off trade relations with Cuba. He said that Ferrie had flown Shaw and two partners to Canada to attempt to arrange for the import of Cuban ore through Canada, as Canada was continuing its trade with Cuba.
The New York Times of March 8, 1960, confirms that the Freeport Louisiana special ore processing plant was to be shut down:
Freeport Nickel Company, known in Cuba as the Moa Bay Mining Company, confirmed yesterday that it was closing down operations at its $75,000,000 nickel-cobalt mining and concentrating facilities at Moa Bay in Cuba's Oriente province.
The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur Company, said a recently passed Cuban mining law together with "other Cuban developments" had made it impossible to obtain the funds necessary to continue operations.
Robert C. Hills, president of Freeport Nickel, said the company had invested $44,000,000 in related refining facilities in Louisiana. These facilities also will be made idle, as a result of the Cuban situation, he indicated.
In this light, the most significant Garrison memo is one which says that Freeport Sulphur, Shaw and "White" were together going to buy the Braithwaite plant (built with U.S. government money) to process ore that would be purchased through a Canadian front company, and then shipped back to the Louisiana plant for processing.
Garrison finally found the key to "Mr. White," and wrote it up for the Clay Shaw lead file under the heading "Shaw's Flight to Canada (or Cuba) with Ferrie:"
One man whose name we first thought to be WHITE apparently is WIGHT, Vice President of Freeport Sulphur who reputedly made the flight. An effort is being made to locate WIGHT, who now lives in New York, by a contact of Mark Lane's. Despite the fact that the original source of this information was JULES RICCO KIMBLE, a man with a record, this lead keeps growing stronger. From the very outset it had been reported that the flight had something to do with the import of nickel following the loss of the original import supply from Cuba. Recent information developed on WIGHT in a separate memo, indicates that he is now on the Board of Directors of Freeport Nickel Company, a subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur.
Charles A. Wight was Chairman of the Executive Committee and a Director of Freeport Sulphur, according to his Who's Who in America entry from 1954-1955. Yale educated, he had previously been a Vice President for Bankers Trust Company, first in the London office from 1931-1935, then in the New York headquarters office 1936-1948 (see the sidebar at right for a curious Bankers Trust link to the Bay of Pigs operation.) The 1963 Moody's guide lists Wight as Vice Chairman under Langbourne Williams. Wight was a key person at Freeport Sulphur. He was still with the company when the HSCA looked into it, in 1977.
It would be hard to imagine that Freeport, under the circumstances, did not work any deals with members of the CIA in an attempt to find a way around its-in the words of its president-"Cuban situation." One should recall here that John McCone, former CIA director and at the time a board member of ITT, told a Senate committee quite frankly that yes, he had discussed getting rid of Allende in Chile, when ITT's properties were at risk due to nationalization efforts. Corporate leaders voicing concerns and urging "executive action" against leaders in other countries is neither new nor, unfortunately, particular shocking. Witness the recent report (Washington Post 1/30/96) where members of the CFR were complaining openly about provisions prohibiting actions supportive of coup attempts against foreign leaders and calling for the lifting of existing restrictions on the CIA.
Given the evidence that Freeport's Wight may have been pursuing a Castro assassination plot, we cannot overlook this item from Peter Wyden's book Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story. According to the CIA's own Inspector General report, Johnny Rosselli was one of the CIA's mobsters involved in Castro assassination plots. According to Wyden, at one of his earliest meetings after having taken on the task of getting rid of Castro, Rosselli told his Cuban contacts that he represented Wall Street financiers who had "nickel interests and properties around in Cuba." Was Rosselli ever paid by or through Freeport Sulphur or any of its subsidiaries? Or had he just been given the reference as a cover? Had he pulled nickel interests out of a hat? Only more file releases on Rosselli can hope to answer those questions.
In Thy Will Be Done, there is another startling implication of a Freeport/anti-Castro/CIA collaboration:
Castro was targeted for assassination as early as December 11, 1959, by Nelson's old friend from the CIAA days, J. C. King, now the CIA's Chief of Clandestine Services in the Western Hemisphere. Even before Castro had forced Fulgencio Batista to flee Havana, King and Adolf Berle had met to ponder the fate of Freeport Sulphur Company's mining project at Nicaro, in Oriente province. Now the Nicaro deposits and sugar plantations were facing nationalization. It was clear to King that a "far left" government existed in Cuba. "If permitted to stand," he wrote CIA Director Allen Dulles, it would encourage similar actions against American companies elsewhere in Latin America. One of King's "recommended actions" was explicit:
"Thorough consideration [should] be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro. None of those close to Fidel, such as his brother Raul or his companion Che Guevara, have the same mesmeric appeal to the masses. Many informed people believe that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the present Government."
Which brings us to a crucial point. Freeport Sulphur is a company Wall Street considers a "Rockefeller" company. There are numerous Rockefeller ties to the board of directors (see the sidebar at right). There is a significant tie that led to the stockpiling investigation. And Adolph Berle and J. C. King, as well as John Hay Whitney, were all very closely tied to Nelson Rockefeller himself. So the revelation that J. C. King and Adolph Berle were conversing about the fate of a Rockefeller-controlled company is significant, credible, and highlights the ties between these players and the CIA, where J. C. King-and in later years David Atlee Phillips-presided as Chiefs of the Western Hemisphere Division. In a strange twist of fate, Rockefeller's good friend King was the authenticating officer on a cable giving authority to kill Castro's brother Raul. Interestingly, Whitney's cousin and friend Tracy Barnes sent the cable rescinding the original order a couple of hours later.
Already reeling from its losses over Castro's appropriation of the Moa Bay plant, Freeport found itself under attack from a new quarter: a Senate investigation into stockpiling surpluses, requested by President Kennedy himself.
In 1962, President Kennedy asked Congress to look into the war-emergency stockpiling program, stating it was "a potential source of excessive and unconscionable profits." He said he was "astonished" to discover that the program had accumulated $7.7 billion worth of stockpiled material, exceeding projected needs by $3.4 billion. Kennedy also pledged full executive cooperation with the investigation, mentioning specifically $103 million in surplus nickel.
The Senate pursued an investigation into stockpiling surpluses. Special attention was paid to three companies in which the Rockefeller brothers had substantial holdings: Hannah Mining, International Nickel, and Freeport Sulphur. A December 18, 1962 headline in the New York Times read "U.S. Was Pushed into Buying Nickel, Senators Are Told." The article opened with this:
A federal official told Senate stockpile investigators today that the U.S. Government got a bad deal in a 1957 nickel purchase contract with a potential $248,000,000 obligation.
John Croston, a division director in the General Services Administration, testified that he had strongly opposed the contract with the Freeport Sulphur Company.
But, he said, officials in the agency "knew that the contract was in the bag from the beginning." Pressure for it, he said, came from the Office of Defense Mobilization, then headed by Arthur S. Flemming.
Dr. Arthur S. Flemming was regularly a part of the National Security Council under Eisenhower. Right after Ike's election, in November of 1952, Dr. Flemming served with Ike's brother Milton on the three-member President's Advisory Committee on Government Organization, headed by Nelson Rockefeller. Perhaps it was his friendship with Nelson that caused some to accuse Dr. Flemming of some arm-twisting on Freeport's behalf. The New York Times (12/19/62), reported:
The subcommittee was told yesterday by officials of several Government agencies that they opposed the contract because they felt the need for nickel was exaggerated.
These officials said, however, that Dr. Arthur S. Flemming, then head of the Office of Defense Mobilization, was determined that the contract be signed.
One witness said Mr. Flemming had indicated that competition aginst the International Nickel Company, the giant in the field, should be encouraged.
But what Flemming apparently didn't know, or hadn't shared if he did, was that both Freeport and International Nickel Company (INCO) shared some of the very same investors: the Rockefellers.
Croston said he had opposed the contract with Freeport from the beginning, stating "there was no real shortage of nickel at any time" and that cobalt "was running out of our ears." Freeport's earlier 1954 contract with the government caused the U.S. to spend $6,250,000 to help build that special Louisiana nickel-cobalt ore processing plant so necessary to the Cuban mining operations. Another contract obligated the government to buy up to 15,000,000 pounds of nickel at a premium price, as well as 15,000,000 pounds of cobalt.
The committee's head, Senator Stuart Symington, reported that it was John Whitney who exerted his influence from Freeport's end to get the government contract for the nickel.
Freeport's Chairman, Langbourne Williams, defended the contract, claiming the contract had saved the Treasury money, and had not been entered into for the purposes of stockpiling, but rather to increase nickel production capacity. He contended that the government ended up not having to purchase any nickel under the contract because Freeport had been able to sell to other buyers the nickel and cobalt produced at Moa Bay before Castro took it over.
But the controversy flowed over into 1963, and Press Secretary Pierre Salinger stated that the Kennedy administration planned to make stockpiling an issue in the 1964 campaign. As we know, JFK didn't live long enough to fulfill that promise.