By James Moore
The JFK conspiracy is not a theory and the president was not killed by a lone gunman. Evidence abounds that points to the CIA and elements of the mob. The mafia had angry grudges against the president, and his brother. When it lost control of Cuban casinos with Castro’s revolution, mafiosos expected JFK to invade and reclaim the island for capitalism. His failure to do so after the Cuban Missile Crisis was considered a betrayal. Further, the mob was disgusted with RFK. He had launched a national investigation into the Mafia even after his father had called on elements of the Chicago syndicate to make certain JFK got the votes he needed to carry Illinois on Election Day. Bobby’s inquiry into mob businesses when he became attorney general was an insult and stab in the back that required a response.
The story of the president’s murder, however, revolves around the axis of a single person. David Sanchez Morales, A Mexican American from Phoenix, was a CIA agent and assassination hit man, especially in Latin America. In 1954, Morales played a central role in the agency’s overthrow of the president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, who was nationalizing U.S. companies producing fruit in the country; he was also introducing land reforms to help peasants. Morales was credited, too, with helping capture revolutionary Che Guevara in 1965 and later acknowledged eliminating political figures while helping Augusto Pinochet depose Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973.
Known in the agency as “El Indio” for his dark complexion making him appear of Indian descent, Morales had the reputation of being a drinker who was unafraid of dangerous assignments. Although he was often described as a bully and intimidating because of his size and constantly wearing a pistol in the office, Morales was apparently dependable, regardless of his assignments, according to fellow agent Tom Clines.
“We all admired the hell out of the guy,” Clines told an interviewer. “He drank like crazy, but he was bright as hell. He could fool people into thinking he was stupid by acting stupid, but he knew about cultural things all over the world. People were afraid of him. He was big and aggressive, and he had this mystique. Stories about him permeated the Agency. If the Agency needed someone action-oriented, he was at the top of the list. If the U.S. government, as a matter of policy, needed someone or something neutralized, Dave would do it, including things that were repugnant to a lot of people.”
Morales, eventually, became a part of a CIA plan called “Operation Mongoose,” which had been authorized by Washington to assassinate Fidel Castro. The Miami station of the agency, known as JM/Wave, began training teams to infiltrate Cuba and kill the revolutionary leader of the island, whose politics were considered a threat to the U.S. Morales trained all the Cubans who went ashore at the Bay of Pigs and were killed by Castro’s troops. Eventually, he became the head of a special operation code named ZR/Rifle, which was set up to execute various plans for killing Castro. Morales, like most of the agents in the Miami station, was incensed when JFK pulled air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion and the exiles were slaughtered trying to take the beach.
After working for the agency all over the world and doing jobs like assassinating political leaders in Laos and Uruguay, Morales eventually reported in Miami to William Harvey. He, too, had been a CIA operative working to shape post-war geopolitics to serve the U.S. His reputation, also, had been as a chronic drinker and womanizer with a grudge against highly-educated people he described as “elites,” which pre-disposed him to not care for the Kennedys. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Harvey had sent three commando military teams into Cuba to prepare for an American invasion that never happened. When JFK discovered the operation in defiance of his orders, he fired Harvey from his role in Miami and he was sent to Italy, which he considered a demotion from important work on Cuba. Harvey was said to also hate Bobby Kennedy’s guts because he had shut down all the operations to take out Castro.
Harvey had been central to launching the CIA’s “Executive Action” program to eliminate Castro and other leaders with interests not aligned with the U.S. Even after he had been ousted from Miami, he continued to meet with mobster Johnny Roselli, and to hatch schemes to murder Castro. Roselli was a top operative of the Chicago mafia and had easy access to its connections and assets, which meant he could get people killed, if he chose not to do the job himself. Roselli, possibly a triggerman in Dallas, was close friends with David Sanchez Morales, and other assets, including Cuban exiles, working out of Miami.
Four drinking buddies, Morales, Roselli, and operatives Tony Sforza, Manuel Artime and Rip Robertson, all harbored anti-Kennedy politics, and were considered to be “vicious” men. CIA employee and U.S. Army Captain Bradley Ayers told an interviewer thirty years after the killing in Dallas that, “If anyone put together a sniper team to hit the President, Morales, Rip, Rosselli and Sforza would have done it.” When the House Special Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) began its work in the seventies, among the witnesses first subpoenaed were Sforza, Robertson, Artime, and Roselli. They never had to testify because, with the exception of Roselli, they were all discovered dead, and Ayers suggests it was likely Morales who eliminated his former confederates.
Roselli, however, had testified before Congress. He told the Select Committee on Intelligence Activities in 1975 about his relationship with the CIA and mob boss Sam Giancana and the work they had accomplished with the agency while planning a hit on Castro. Roselli also said that when Operation Mongoose was shut down by the Kennedys, the kill team for Castro had simply been “turned” and used to take out JFK in Dallas. One year after that testimony, Roselli was informed by Washington that he was expected to return for further questioning before the committee even after he had learned that “the Cubans were after him,” and that mob boss Santos Trafficante had put a contract out on his life. A July morning in 1976, he left his Florida home for a round of golf but never made it to the first tee. Roselli’s dismembered body was found floating in an oil drum in Dumfoundling Bay at Miami. Cause of death appeared to be garroting and his legs had been cut off and forced into the barrel with the remainder of his body.
According to CIA and military pilot Tosh Plumlee, testifying before Congress, Roselli was killed because he knew too much about the JFK assassination, JM/Wave and Operation Mongoose. Plumlee said he flew the mafia hitman out of Tampa, Florida on Nov. 21, 1963, and made stops in New Orleans and Houston before landing in the Dallas suburb of Garland at 6:30 the next morning. According to Plumlee, his superiors within the agency explained they were going to Dallas in an attempt to “stop the assassination of the president,” which was likely a cover story or effort at disinformation. Plumlee told members of congress he was on the “south knoll” of Dealey Plaza and observed the president’s assassination.
Just prior to his murder, Roselli was interviewed by Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson, who wrote that the mobster explained Jack Ruby’s murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. According to Anderson’s quotes of Roselli in his column published on September 7, 1976, the newspaper reported Roselli as saying, “When Oswald was picked up, the underworld conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive US crackdown on the Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald.”
Roselli appears to have met another contract killer in Dallas that morning as part of the crossfire team. Charlie Nicoletti, who worked for Sam Giancana and the Chicago Mafia, had also been involved in the plots to kill Castro. According to James Files, who claimed to have been the shooter on the Grassy Knoll, he had been recruited by Nicoletti to take part in the assassination, and they met in Dealey Plaza several days before to scout the best spots for sniper fire from three different directions. He told his version of events in a 2-hour taped interview in March of 1994 with Robert G. Vernon, who produced a 1996 video of the conversation entitled, “The Murder of JFK: Confession of an Assassin.”
“Mr. Nicoletti and I got out and we walked up and down the complete area of Dealey Plaza, we covered every corner, walked by the buildings, looked over several different things. We were just talking, having casual talk about the weather and everything. At about 10:30, Mr. Nicoletti asked me how would I feel in supporting him… in backing him up on this… and he told me I wouldn’t fire unless it became extremely necessary. I told Mr. Nicoletti, Jesus, I’d be honored to do anything to back you up. He asked me if you was to be outside here, where would you position yourself at in Dealey Plaza? I told him, I said well, from looking everything over and from walking it in the week I’ve been down here, I think I would choose up there behind the tree behind the stockade fence on the high ridge by the knoll up there.”
Files said he used a Remington Fireball with a mercury loaded shell to make the kill shot on the president’s head, and that Nicoletti, Johnny Roselli, and David Sanchez Morales, were firing from different locations in the rear of the motorcade and, most likely, from the overpass in front. Oswald, he insisted, had been recruited simply to place the Mannlicher-Carcano Italian rifle on the sixth floor of the book depository. Files’ detailed confession has been questioned by skeptics, including researcher Edward J. Epstein, who said he had found phone records that proved Files was in Chicago, and not Dallas on the day Kennedy was murdered. His story tends to not be given great credibility by expert investigators, and it’s possible one of the other three assassins were located behind the fence on the Grassy Knoll.
Morales’ participation in planning and execution of the killing, though, was spoken about by his boyhood friend from Phoenix, Reuben Carbajal, and his business partner, attorney Robert Walton. A prolific drinker, Morales tended to restrain himself even when drunk, but, according to Walton, one evening when the three of them were together, he began to complain about Kennedy and how he was responsible for the deaths of Cuban exiles and CIA operatives at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
“He flew off the bed on that,” Walton said. “I remember he was lying down and he jumped up screaming, ‘That no good son of a bitch motherfucker!’ He started yelling about what a wimp Kennedy was and talking about how he had worked on the Bay of Pigs and how he had to watch all the men he had recruited and trained get wiped out because of Kennedy.”
According to Walton’s description of that evening, Morales’ drunken rant about Kennedy lasted several minutes as he stormed around the room, until he abruptly stopped and sat silently on the edge of the bed. A few minutes passed before he softly spoke again.
“Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn’t we?”
Someone also took care of hit man Charlie Nicoletti. Shortly before he was scheduled to testify about the JFK assassination to the special U.S. House committee in the late seventies, he was murdered with several shots to the back of his head.
David Sanchez Morales died in 1978 after leaving Washington, possibly of poisoning. He told his friend Reuben Carbajal that something was physically wrong with him after he moved to Arizona. On May 8th of that year, he was hospitalized with his room guarded by sheriff’s deputies. His wife authorized his disconnection from life support, and refused an autopsy.
The truth of a conspiracy to kill JFK, though, will never die.
This article was originally published in Texas to the World.
James Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.
He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).
His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.
Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”
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