In the annals of the Cold War, no operative is more misunderstood, and marginalized than the CIA's William King Harvey.
According to Cambridge Professor Christopher Andrew, the leading historian of the services Harvey worked for, especially the Agency and the KGB, he was nothing more than the faceless husband of Libby Harvey, the spouse who Soviet spy Guy Burgess, Kim Philby's unwanted house guest in Washington, produced a pornographic cartoon of during a drunken party. Robin Winks, author of Cloak & Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961, avoided Harvey like the plague in its research and writing. There is no mention of the Agency officer in Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's The CIA & American Democracy. The only real exception among respected works is Mark Riebling's The Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA, but even here, he concentrated his description on Harvey's independent efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro, something Attorney General Robert Kennedy, it seems, finally stopped on June 20, 1963 when Harvey attended a farewell lunch with Johnny Rosselli, Sam Giancana's recruiter of anti-Castro hitmen, at Tino's Continental Restaurant in Georgetown.
Even more controversial books on operations Harvey was involved in have little to add. Jonathan Vankin & John Whalen have nothing new about Harvey in The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, though they did discuss CIA's efforts to control human behavior through chemical and psychological means, to get Castro, and to help succeed somehow in getting rid of JFK, RFK, MLK, and a few others. Anthony Summers, in The Kennedy Conspiracy, after discussing Harvey's efforts to assassinate Castro despite the opposition of the Kennedy brothers, added information about his apparent efforts to recruit through the Corsican Mafia in Marseilles Thomas Davis, Christian David, and Lucien Sarti as JFK assassins, it seems, when Harvey took up his new assignment in Rome. According to this unpursued information, the conveniently dead Sarti killed the President with a single, exploding bullet to the head, and Giancana suffered ultimately a similar fate at the Mafia's hands for his role.
Only Noel Twyman, in Bloody Treason: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, vastly expanded this claim and several others by Summers, contending that JFK stripping of Harvey's power to carry out assassinations resulted in his becoming the chief planner of the President's assassination, organizing no less than three hit squads for the job - an Agency one, a Mafia one, and the French one - an operation for which he was ultimately obliged to kill Giancana himself to keep secret. Peter Dale Scott, especially in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, has preferred to see Harvey as simply the fall guy for darker forces in the intelligence services, particularly Director Hoover and CI Chief James Angleton, the Mafia's Santos Trafficante, and Carlos Marcello, and anti-Castro activists, especially John Martino and Rosselli.
In going from this "rags to riches" context when in comes to the JFK conspiracy in particular, and Harvey in general, though, the reader has no clearer indication of who exactly killed the President, much less an understanding of what Harvey's actual role in this killing, and several other operations was. While critics of the Warren Commission may enjoy an alternative explanation of the President's assassination in which it is portrayed as a turkey shoot in which all his enemies participate, it, in the final analysis, is no more helpful than the original cover up. In sum, it seems that a history of Harvey would be helpful, and perhaps in the process, the reader can gain a better understanding of all kinds of CIA special operations, especially its involvement in key assassinations.
William King Harvey, the son of a successful Indianapolis attorney, was born during WWI, and followed in his father's footsteps, attending Indiana University Law School, and setting up practice in Maysville, Kentucky after an unsuccessful attempt to enter local Democratic Party politics. While there, Harvey met his wife-to-be, the pretty Libby, but his failure at the Bar had him joining the FBI in December 1940. During WWII, Harvey attempted to put together double-agent cases in New York against the Nazis, including a successful one in which William Sebold ran a secret shortwave radio station on Long Island, but Director Hoover refused to sanction it for long, and others at all for fear of losing control of events and Bureau publicity, especially when the Dusko Popov Affair turned so sour. Popov was a British-German double agent who came to warn Washington about Japan's plan to attack Hawaii, but Hoover was only interested in his sexual exploits with the ladies, considering his revelations as little more than money-making schemes.
After the war, Harvey's efforts were even less successful, and recognized, though he was the agent who developed turncoat Elizabeth Bentley's leads about communist infiltration. Harvey was responsible for Hoover writing a Top Secret Report for President Truman about 12 Soviet agents, including AssistantTreasury Secretary Harry Dexter White, Truman's own assistant Lauchlan Currie, and the State Department's Alger Hiss, in the government, requesting that the Director reactivate Bentley as a communist double agent to develop more names, an enormous opportunity in light of the defection of GRU cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko in Ottawa. Hoover would have none of it, however, preferring to publicize Bentley's allegations at the expense of his pet enemies, the spies' superiors, and William Donovan's OSS. Consequently, Harvey, instead of catching a host of atomic spies, starting with Klaus Fuchs, and leading Cambridge traitors, Donald Maclean and Burgess, was reduced to pursuing rag-tag groups of dedicated communists, and fellow travellers, like the Joseph Katz, and Gregory Silvermaster groups, of which White and Currie were members.
By late 1947, Harvey was so demoralized by the process that he failed to show up for work one morning because of being in a drunken stupor, leading to his transfer back home to Indianapolis, and to his finding new employment with the CIA. While he had the highest hopes that the new agency, especially its Office of Policy Coordinaton, would fulfill its potential, its largely unsuccessful cowboy operations around the world, especially in Eastern Europe and the USSR, increasingly left something to be desired, primarily because of Soviet spying by Philby. Harvey, who was running Staff C's foreign mail-opening program (HT/LINGUAL), and was under instruction not to upset Hoover, was prepared to believe that homosexual Carmel Offie, an OPC deputy director, was the source of the leaks, thanks to a file the Bureau had prepared on him.
When OPC director Frank Wisner still refused to fire Offie, Harvey, thanks to his FBI connections, especially with his former subordinate Robert Lamphere, was brought into the Venona program behind Hoover's back to determine who the real moles were. While the Bureau was still pursuing Bentley's domestic leads with the new technology, Harvey wanted to determine who the decrypts "Homer" (Maclean), "Hicks" (Burgess), and "Stanley" (Philby) were in coded KGB and GRU messages, especially after the traumatic dinner party at the Philbys' on January 19, 1951. Hardly had Harvey commenced his inquiries than Maclean and Burgess were flushed from cover, fleeing to Moscow on May 25th. Then, after the Bureau had officially supplied CIA with the decrypts, as Harvey had requested, he zeroed in on Philby, formally accusing him of being a Soviet agent two weeks later. Hoover, though, to protect the Bureau's inflated image, was no more eager to prosecute Philby than the Agency had been to pursue Offie. In the meantime, Philby was withdrawn to Britain, and obliged to resign from MI6, resuming a newspaper career.
Harvey had no more to show for his next important effort, the famous Berlin Tunnel Operation, despite all the hoopla by Anglo-American intelligence. After Stalin's murder, when the West was caught flatfooted by the uprising in East Germany in June 1953, and was unaware of the power struggle in Moscow, Harvey was made station chief in Berlin, "...running agents, digging tunnels, and taking the battle to the Soviets wherever possible." (Peter Wright, Spycatcher, p.147)
Harvey was most eager to take advantage of what MI6, GRU double agent Pyotr Popov, and the Post Office's Wright had done since 1949 with a 70-foot tunnel up to Vienna's Imperial Hotel, tapping Red Army communications (Operation Silver), and two years later, a joint CIA-MI6 effort had resulted in the construction of a 600-yard tunnel into East Berlin for the same purpose (Operation Gold). Unfortunately, by this time, Popov, who had just been reassigned there, had been reclaimed by the KGB; Wright, now with MI5, and the KGB's most important spy, had been brought into the project to improve its technical capabilities; and MI6's George Blake, another Soviet spy, became aware of its existence. Wright's knowledge let the Soviets know just what, how, and why the West was looking for. The Soviets leaked Khrushchev's secret speech to the Twentieth Party Congress to make it seem he was a faint-hearted liberal, but veiled what they wanted during the Suez Crisis, and the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution.
It was only several years later, when Harvey was deeply involved in another Wright-induced, wild-goose chase - the assassination of Fidel Castro - that he learned how wasteful and pointless the Berlin Tunnel operation had been. In 1959, Wright had sicked CIA on Cuba, and in September 1960, Robert Maheu, another former FBI agent, had cleared with DCI Allen Dulles and DDP Richard Bissell the use of Mafia hitmen against Castro. Harvey was immediately given overall control of the program, and he twice planned, with the assistance of its Technical Services Divison and a Sam Giancana cutout, but without success poisoning Castro, finally settling to coordinate his assassination with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Without the President supplying sufficient support to the anti-Castro rebels, and without E. Howard Hunt keeping from the Cuban dictator what CIA had in store for him, though, the plans came to nothing.
In October 1961, Wright was back in Washington to prime again the hopelessly dry well. To get Harvey back on board, the MI5 technical specialist discussed its RAFTER capability, what the KGB had, but CIA didn't, in a way which made the forced defection of CIA spy Michael Goleniewski crystal clear. The Polish intelligence officer knew that Blake worked for the Soviets, and threatened to blow the rest of Gordon Lonsdale's network sky high. Thanks to London's failure to inform CIA that the KGB was closing in on Goleniewski's HF radio transmissions, it was he who was sacrificed rather than Lonsdale's other important agents, starting with Wright.
Once Harvey finally calmed down enough to see Wright for dinners at James Angleton's and at a restaurant, though he still called him an "untrustworthy motherfucker", he so stressed the need of assassinating Castro that Harvey was soon working again with the Mafia on the project (ZR/RIFLE), behind the President's back, as part of the whole CIA anti-Cuban effort (Task Force W) in Operation Mongoose. The high point in this effort occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis when Harvey, contrary to Attorney General Robert Kennedy's order, dispatched a commando team to Cuba to kill Castro.
When JFK settled the Missile Crisis without the overthrowing of the Cuban regime, and ordered a domestic crackdown on anti-Castro forces the following April, Harvey was at the end of his tether about what to do, deciding to kill JFK instead. While the luncheon in June with Rosselli has been portrayed as a farewell sendoff for Harvey, actually it was a test to see if Hoover would make a fuss if he continued to contact Mafiosos. When the Director indicated that he would not, Harvey knew that he could continue to deal with the Mafia as long as he was not clearly involved in commiting a domestic crime, what would force the Bureau to get involved. Once Lee Harvey Oswald had not been successfully hypnotized to assassinate the President by rapid induction in July, Harvey, taking advantage of the newly created Domestic Operations Division, began planning operations against Cuba, and the President which would backfire on the Soviets.
To create a process which would not get the Bureau involved - what had happened when Chicago mobsters openly discussed in Miami murdering union boss Frank Esposito in 1962, obliging the FBI to use the bugged information to prevent it - Harvey created a set of coded terms, "Cleopatra Movie", "Little Egypt", "Twist Board Craze", etc., centered around advertised acts at Jack Ruby's (aka "Sparky" Rubenstein for his youthful deliveries of Iskra) Carousel Club in Dallas, and other Mafia-infested clubs around the country, to set in motion forces which would threaten the President, kill him, and make it look as if Havana had done it for Moscow.
Ruby, who had been Giancana's man in Dallas since 1947, used alleged difficulties with American Guild of Variety Artists employees to call important Mafiosos, especially Barney Baker, Dave Yaras, Irwin Weiner, Lenny Patrick, Lewis McWillie, and Rosselli, and to travel to important cities like Miami, New York, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and LA, to set operations in motion. When JFK visited these cities, thanks to Ruby's prodding, security was increasingly heightened because of threats, what reached absurd proportions in Miami just before the assassination, and JFK was bound to relax in Dallas, especially because of Nixon's actions. The only problem with these Mafia covert operations was the use of "Little Egypt", the code word for attacks on Castro, since there was actually a belly dancer with the same name, and she threatened court action with the slimy clubs which falsely advertised her performances.
In this context, it was easy for Giancana's assassination team of Richard Cain, Chuckie Nicoletti, and Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio to kill the President, while a decoy team in the nearby railroad marshalling yard confused authorities as to who were the perpetrators. The trouble was that Cain had not test fired the rifle that Larry Crafard, who had come to Dallas under the cover of making movies, and who, once cleaned up, and wearing his false teeth, impersonated Oswald on several occasions, had delivered to the Book Depository, and, consequently, Texas Governor John Connally was accidentally wounded seriously.
Cain and Nicoletti, when they were making their getaway, needlessly murdered Dallas policeman J. D. Tippitt, running into the acquaintance accidentally, and fearing that he suspected them of killing the President and wounding the Governor. In short, Ruby, who had been waiting in the ad office of The Dallas Morning News to place more coded messages for Harvey's ongoing operations in the next day's edition after JFK had been cleanly disposed of, was forced to cancel the ads, and close his club, grinding everything to a halt.
For Harvey, this meant making it appear that Oswald was not a friend of Castro's through the Fair Play for Cuba Committee's Gilberto Lopez, and a student of KGB "assassation specialist" Valeri Kostikov - a false legend that the CIA in Mexico City had put together by ordering him around - but the most unlikely acquaintance of Ruby's, explaining why he had to murder him. In the process, Harvey was as stretched out as the Pentagon's Haig, having to forget about Joe's Hyde's U-2 plane's "downing" too, all the impersonations of Oswald, Martino's Russian military defectors who would conveniently claim that Khrushchev still had offensive missiles in Cuba, and the American military responses primed to settle scores finally with Castro.
Harvey's U-turn was best illustrated by Hal Hendrix, the reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis, foregoing reporting the assassination in Dallas so that he could be with Haig's Operation Americas, only to see it suddenly reduced to defensive maneuvers on Colombia's Atlantic coast. Harvey was ultimately reduced to making CIA "Oswald free", an apparent agent the KGB had recruited through his wife, Marina.
While Harvey ultimately made a miraculous comeback through his direction of the Manchurian Candidate assassinations of MLK, RFK, and Governor George Wallace, as I have already tried to show in my article "Mind Control Experiments and The Deadliest Secret of the Cold War" in Issue Eight of Eye Spy! magazine (pp. 50-55), the JFK assassination solved nothing important for the plotters, as it left Castro's Cuba more secure than ever, explaining why he went into an alcoholic tailspin over it. When Harvey's latest achievements came under threat as Nixon's Presidency was crashing, he moved dramatically to stop the hemorrhaging - seeing to Cain's murder.
Giancana and his hitmen, especially the boss's former driver and courier, and now FBI informant, were constantly shooting off their mouths about killing the Kennedy brothers, and "the nigger", a considerable exaggeration of their role, and in the wake of Watergate, this loose talk had to be stopped. On December 20, 1973, two masked men, one carrying a walkie-talkie, and the other, wearing a black and a white glove to indicate his connection to the Mafia, and Agency, a sawed-off shotgun, walked into Chicago's Rose's Sandwich Shop.
The man with the walkie-talkie asked the party on the other end several times: "Who's got the package?" (Sam and Chuck Giancana, Double Cross, p. 351) When the reply finally came back, "Here comes a guy now; maybe he's got the package", which the walkie-talkie man repeated, the masked man with the shotgun walked up to the package-less Cain, and blew his head off.
While investigators have discounted everything the Giancanas have had to say about Sam, Paul Hoch even questioning the book's publication, this incident alone, which is a matter of public record, justified its appearance. The gloves indicated the highest sanction for the killing, the references to "the package" was to recall the oversight about "Oswald's rifle", and the walkie-talkie prop was to remind Cain of all the dressed-up accounts, involving former DD Charles Cabell, the Agency command center in a Dallas hotel, and the messages to all the hitmen with walkie-talkies, he had spread around about the assassination. When I received an account of the murder in another package, full of clippings of what had happened to stool pigeons, from a nice, anonymous source in Chicago, after I had written a series of articles on the JFK assassintion for The National Exchange, I took it most seriously, talking at length to a CID investigator of the Thames Valley Police about my concerns.
Harvey's concerns just grew, however, as Frank Church's Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigated the Agency's most criminal activities. By this time, Giancana had learned that Harvey had had more in store for him at Dallas than he had planned. Sam, still forced to remain in Mexico, and his Corsican assassins were being set up, with Oswald, as Castroite assassins of JFK while his underlings actually carried it out. The thing which really opened Sam's eyes was the five-part series that Wallace Turner had in The New York Times, straddling the assassination itself, stating that the Mafia chieftan was about to do something drastic to the Kennedys because of his plight with the Bureau, the Nevada Gaming Commission, Frank Sinatra at the Cal-Neva Lodge, etc. Giancana also knew that JFK's killers had lied to him extensively about what had happened, what had helped induce him to see that Cain was murdered.
In sum, when Giancana agreed to testify before the Church Committee on June 19, 1975, Harvey knew that he had to act quickly or else risk all being lost. That every night he visited Giancana at his Chicago home to discuss his upcoming testimony. Harvey set the Mafioso completely at ease by appearing without his famous .45 automatic pistol, what he always carried, and what he had to do if he hoped to see him alone. When Giancana, while cooking a meal, indicated that he would tell what he knew to Church's people, Harvey pulled out a sawed-off .22 pistol, just purchased in Miami, from between his buttocks, where he usually carried a backup .38, and shot him through the back of the head. To make the message plain, Harvey then shot him six times around the mouth to make it look like a Mafia killing. The Agency had its own code of honor, and Harvey was not going to be anybody's fall guy.
The toll had been too much for Harvey, though, dying from alcoholism a year later without anything substantial to show for his efforts, ultimately meaningless murders which neither got rid of Castro and communist Cuba, nor saved Nixon and South Vietnam.