In a post-Watergate book, Haldeman disclosed, “It seems that in all those Nixon references to the Bay of Pigs, he was actually referring to the Kennedy assassination. (Interestingly, an investigation of the Kennedy assassination was a project I suggested when I first entered the White House. Now I felt we would be in a position to get all the facts. But Nixon turned me down.)”
Watergate expert and National Public Radio correspondent Daniel Schorr independently concurs with Haldeman that Nixon’s Watergate threat to the CIA about “the Bay of Pigs” was “about some deeply hidden scandal . . . an assassination or something on that order. It was supposed to involve the CIA and President Kennedy.” Schorr also says that, to this day, “Helms vows that he has no idea what dark secret Nixon was alluding to. But, whatever it was, it led Nixon into trying to enlist the CIA in an attempted obstruction of justice that became his final undoing.” Speculating separately, JFK assassination expert Jim Marrs— without knowing about Haldeman’s revelation—asks two perceptive questions about taped “Bay of Pigs” conversations between Nixon and his most trusted adviser: Could they have been circuitously referring to the interlocking connections between CIA agents, anti- Castro Cubans, and mobsters that likely resulted in the Kennedy assassination?
Another possibility, of course, is that the “Bay of Pigs” referred to the CIA assassination plots against Fidel Castro, which were not public knowledge at the time. Both Vice President Nixon and President Kennedy backed those plans. And the CIA’s Howard Hunt was an early advocate of Castro’s murder and a key player in all aspects of the Bay of Pigs invasion planning. Whatever the term meant, the usually unflappable Helms came unglued when Haldeman brought it up in the wake of the Watergate burglary.
At his meeting with Helms, when Nixon’s emissary brought up the Bay of Pigs, according to Haldeman, the CIA chief gripped the arms of his chair, leaned forward and shouted: “The Bay of Pigs has nothing to do with this! I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.” Haldeman said he was “absolutely shocked by Helms’s violent reaction” when he delivered Nixon’s message. Helms “yelled like a scalded cat,” said Nixon aide John Ehrlichman when Haldeman mentioned the Watergate trail might lead to “the Bay of Pigs.” Ehrlichman sat in on the meeting.
Why, logically, could the JFK assassination become known to Nixon and Helms and a few others as “the Bay of Pigs”? Perhaps because the cast of characters employed in the 1960 plan to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and kill Fidel Castro and the cast of characters employed in the plan to assassinate Kennedy in 1963 were the same.
When Nixon was vice president, he and then CIA agent Hunt were principal secret planners of the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs that failed so miserably when later ordered by President Kennedy. Nixon and Hunt were key leaders of an associated— and also ill- fated—plot to assassinate Castro. For that mission, potential assassins were recruited from Mob ranks, so that if any of their activities were disclosed, organized crime could be blamed.
Helms as then director of the CIA’s covert operations was a key participant in the Castro assassination plots. The plotters also enlisted the support of billionaire Howard Hughes. Like Nixon, Hughes despised the Kennedys and had strong links to both the CIA and the Mob. The mysterious and reclusive Hughes had made large, secret payoff s to Nixon and his brother Donald over most of Nixon’s political career.
Fronting for Hughes, Robert Maheu approached mobsters Johnny Roselli, Sam “Mooney” Giancana and Santos Trafficante. One report says fifteen professional killers ultimately made up the “ultra- black” Castro assassination team, consistent with a typical Mafia hit, as summarized by author David Scheim: “A mob murder is usually a methodical job, performed by a coordinated team of specialists. Up to 15 gunmen, drivers, spotters, and other backup personnel, plus several cars, are used on some jobs.”
Maheu, a former FBI agent employed by both the CIA and Hughes, had many links with Nixon. To mention just two: In 1956, Maheu ran a Howard Hughes–bankrolled spying operation to protect Nixon against Republican “Dump Nixon” forces trying to block Nixon’s renomination as Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president. Also while Nixon was veep, Maheu worked for Nixon on a “dirty tricks” operation against Greek oil tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
Sam Giancana confided to his brother, Chuck, in 1966, that the CIA had offered him $150,000 to hit Castro. “I told ’em I couldn’t care less about the money. We’ll take care of Castro. One way or another. I think it’s my patriotic duty.”
Giancana said CIA Director Allen Dulles had come up with the idea, and that two top CIA officials— Richard Bissell and Sheffield Edwards—were chosen to make the arrangements. And he said the agency made contact with him through Maheu. Giancana designated Roselli as the plan’s Mafi a-CIA go-between.
President Kennedy was elected to office before Nixon and the other planners had time to pull off the Bay of Pigs invasion.
The invasion took place on April 17, 1961 on Kennedy’s watch and was a resounding failure, one for which Kennedy publicly accepted full responsibility. Fifteen hundred Cuban exiles were quickly overwhelmed by some 20,000 Cuban troops. But, convinced the CIA had set him up, Kennedy fired CIA chief Allen Dulles—an old Nixon friend—and swore he’d dismantle the agency.
Mafia bosses, already enraged by Kennedy’s anticrime crusade in this country, were upset that their lucrative gambling casinos—shut down by Castro— would not be returning to Cuba.
Kennedy learned the identity of Howard Hughes operative—and onetime Nixon dirty trickster— Robert Maheu when he was told about the Maheu-arranged CIA-Mafia murder conspiracy against Castro. Hughes expert Michael Drosin reports that RFK was “shocked. Not about the failed attempt to kill Castro, which he and his brother almost certainly approved in advance, but about the CIA’s choice of hit men.