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A well-connected Ivy League patrician, Bissell had schmoozed his path up the CIA ladder to become the head of clandestine activities, an area where his only notable success was an American role in the assassination of the Dominican dictator, Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo.(Bissell’s agents had smuggled weapons to the conspirators in frozen meat carcasses, via an acquaintance of mine in Santo Domingo nicknamed Wimpy.) Many of his other activities were focused on bizarre plots to kill Castro, including exploding cigars. The culprit, whose smooth talk had assured the White House of success, was summoned to the Oval Office, where the president remarked: “In a parliamentary government, I’d have to resign, but in this government, I can’t.” Bissell was through. There was outrage in the country and he could not leave some 1,200 prisoners, whose fate was ultimately his responsibility, to rot in Cuban prisons.But two other events help to explain why Khrushchev gambled that his bold plan to install missiles in Cuba would succeed without provoking a nuclear war—thereby conferring upon the Soviet Union a major strategic advantage. Shortly after dawn on Monday, April 17, 1961, a ragtag paramilitary force of more than 1,400 Cuban émigrés struggled ashore at a swamp-encircled inlet on Cuba’s south coast. The invasion was an unbroken chain of disasters and its swift defeat became the most humiliating debacle of Kennedy’s extraordinary presidency.Kennedy had inherited a plan that had the blessing of President Dwight D.However, the level of trust was understandably low.
They clearly needed more help—and urgently—otherwise it is unlikely that they would have sought eyes-on-the-ground covert intelligence help from an ally which did not even have a professional foreign intelligence service. Returning to Ottawa, he shared with me his newly acquired trade secrets. It seemed to me that any alert security patrol would want to investigate a stranger, even in a look-alike Russian plaid shirt, lurking around military installations. The owner, an American who owned a small factory, was leaving and had offered the residence to his friend, the Canadian ambassador, to use as he saw fit.
NATO called these Soviet short-range artillery rocket systems FROGs (Free Rocket Over Ground). State Department official in Washington points to a suspected missile launch site on an aerial reconnaissance photo taken near San Cristóbal, Cuba, west of Havana, in October 1962.
They had a range of about 80 kilometres and could be tipped with small nuclear warheads. The existence of surface-to-air missiles (SAM), Komar-class guided-missile speedboats, and the continued presence of thousands of Soviet troops intensified the need for more ground-level intelligence. government specifically asked if Canada would send an officer to our embassy in Havana who the CIA could task with monitoring Soviet military movements and sites as well as Soviet and Eastern European merchant shipping to and from the island. I was concluding my first posting at our embassy in the Dominican Republic and I had Spanish. My briefing in Ottawa was short, since there was not a lot they could tell me. At the end, I was thanked for taking on the assignment and then presented with a gift—a small, sophisticated camera with telescopic lenses. in Havana, I was accommodated in an attractive bungalow in what had been the upper-bourgeois suburb of Cubanacan.
With this information plotted on a map, I would set off in my Volkswagen Beetle, almost invariably on back roads, and drive as close as I could to a site perimeter—not too close, but close enough to sketch and take notes.
Sometimes the camp was too well hidden or the approach road led only to the camp gate, alerting even the most gullible of Soviet guards to my intentions.