Posted: October 27th, 2022

Two assignments

this is for two assignments, instructions are attached.  articles are additional sources for assignment labeled “INTL 402 assignment 2” 

Forthis assignment, instead of looking at an intelligence problem, you will look at an intelligence failure. Bay of Pigs Invasion.

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Please note, that your topic does not have to focus on US intelligence, it can look at the failure of another country’s intelligence agencies. Also note, that this is not intended to be a critique of any presidential administration past or present. Instead this is an analysis of the analytical pitfalls that led to the intelligence failure. This paper should include the following elements:

· Title page

· Introduction with strong thesis statement

· Background and analysis of the intelligence failure

· Assessment of which analytical techniques learned in this class could have prevented the failure: Analysis of Competing Hypotheses

· Conclusion

· Bibliography

Friedman, Uri. (2012). “The Ten Biggest American Intelligence Failures.” Foreign Policy, (Jan 3). 

The Ten Biggest American Intelligence Failures

General Requirements

1. Document Format:

a. MS Word document

b. One-inch (1″) margins

c. Times New Roman font

d. Twelve (12) pitch

e. Double spaced

f. This assignment should be 6-8 pages. This does not include your cover page and bibliography.

g. No pictures

H. italicize all journal titles and use title case for all titles

2. Citation Format: The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). As stated in the Academic Integrity Briefings, information taken directly from another source must be placed in quotations and cited following the CMS format contained in the week one “lessons” folder. You must cite all other information from your sources, even if you do not quote directly. DIRECT QUOTING SHOULD BE KEPT TO A MINIMUM.

3. Grading is based on the assignment rubric.

4. You must use 5 scholarly sources in completing this assignment.


Barrett, David. “The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and the Kennedy Administration’s Off-the-Record Briefings for Journalists.” Journal of cold war studies 21, no. 2 (May 1, 2019): 3–26.

Carroll, John S. Bay of Pigs: How Groupthink Led to a Military Failure, n.d.

Chapman, Robert. “Revisiting the Bay of Pigs: Jim Rasenberger:The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of PigsScribner, New York, 2011, 460 P., $32.00.” International journal of intelligence and counterintelligence 25, no. 1 (March 2012): 178–184.

Domínguez, Jorge. “The Bay of Pigs ‐ by Jones, Howard.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 31, no. 4 (October 2012): 535–537.


The midterm assignment is not a paper, but a project.

The purpose of this assignment is for you to demonstrate not your analytic ability (for you should be able at this point to do the appropriate thinking) but rather your ability to set up a problem, identify what you need, and how you would solve the problem using a structured method. You are given a list of 7 intelligence questions and you are expected to respond to 4 of them for this project.

Your submission should be in table form and not exceed two pages per intelligence problem. Each table should list the primary intelligence problem (given below). In your table, you must break down the primary problem into its components, then listing Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIRs) / Essential Elements of Information (EEIs) for each component question. PIRs may be considered “general statements of intelligence need” or generalized questions about the operating environment (Curtis E. Lemay Center 2015). The PIRs should then be the driving force for your more specific EEIs. You should identify the analytic methods you would recommend using to analyze the information to answer the overall question. Finally, you need to explain why those methods are appropriate.

Your submission will be graded using the following rubric (see rubric chart below):

1. break the intelligence problem into component questions,

2. articulate Priority Intelligence Requirements and Essential Elements of Information,

3. identify intelligence analysis methods that you recommend to address the problems (based on the type of information you identify and the nature of the question),

4. provide a textual explanation of why you chose the methods you did and what you can expect by using the methods,

5. completion of 1-4 above for 4 of the 7 problems listed below, and

6. demonstration that you have read, understood and used the required readings

(NOTE: any submission which does not pursue the purpose of this assignment–structuring an intelligence question for analysis–will be considered “off-topic” and will be assessed a zero).

A few important thoughts:

No one method can stand alone as an adequate method. It takes looking at the problem from more than one approach to get a meaningful view of the solution to the problem. You should list the methods that you would recommend and, in a few words, identify what the method would achieve. (You may choose whatever format you think works best to communicate these ideas.) Further, the questions below are broad and general. If you need to make assumptions to help you address each problem please document your assumptions (this is more important than you may at first think).

Feel free to draw on any method you are aware of and if you have questions on this please reach out, that’s what I’m here for. If you are concerned that I may not recognize your method, please provide a footnote explaining.

It is not possible to list all PIRs/EEIs so it is impossible to be complete given the time available for this assignment. However, I will evaluate your selection of component intelligence questions, intelligence requirements, and the centrality of the methods you recommend in addressing the core nature of the problem.

Be sure that it is clear which methods address which subproblems.

For example:

Problem: The US has become aware that the Pakistanis have provided missile technology to Yemen. This point is confirmed. However, it is unclear what the Yemenis are intending to do with the technology. What is the outlook for this development?

Subproblems: What technology was transferred? What threats does this pose to the region, and does this change the regional balance of power? What is the likelihood that Yemen will reexport this technology to substate groups or states that pose a threat to US interests?

List associated PIRs/EEIs

Then identify what methods you would use to answer the problem and subproblems and explain why these methods are the best and most appropriate to answer the questions(!).

You must select 4 out of the following 7 problems to address for this assignment:

1) To what extent is Iran influencing policymaking by the Lebanese government and political leadership?

2) A car struck a prominent Russian opposition leader while she was crossing a busy London street. Who is responsible?

3) China is developing a new all-weather stealth combat aircraft. To what extent has its performance, design, and capability been a result of espionage against the United States?

4) The US is considering dramatically expanding anti-Russian propaganda operations in the Ukraine and Eastern/Central Europe. How is Vladimir Putin likely to respond?

5) The government of Djibouti is considering restoring diplomatic relations with Iran, which were cut in 2016. What potential threats does this pose to US intelligence operations stationed in or supported by US installations in Djibouti?

6) The US is considering a covert operation to destabilize the government of Venezuela with the hopes this would provoke the downfall of the current regime. What are the risks to such an operation and what might be the unintended consequences of such an operation?

7) What are the expected social, economic, and consequent political effects of COVID-19 on India currently and in the coming year?

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at

International Journal of Intelligence and

ISSN: 0885-0607 (Print) 1521-0561 (Online) Journal homepage:

Revisiting the Bay of Pigs

Jim Rasenberger: The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed
Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs

Scribner, New York, 2011, 460 p., $32.00

Robert D. Chapman

To cite this article: Robert D. Chapman (2012) Revisiting the Bay of Pigs, International Journal of
Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 25:1, 178-184,

DOI: 10.1080/08850607.2012.623008

To link to this article:

Published online: 08 Dec 2011.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 2023

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Citing articles: 1 View citing articles


Revisiting the Bay of Pigs


Jim Rasenberger: The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion

of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs

Scribner, New York, 2011, 460 p., $32.00

On the one hand, we are a
people convinced of our own
righteousness, power, and
genius—a conviction that
compels us to cure what ails
the wor ld . On the other
hand, we are stalked by deep
insecurities: our way of life is
in constant jeopardy; our
enemies are implacable and
closing in.

—Jim Rasenberger

I worked in the Bay of Pigs task force
and looked forward to reading Jim
Rasenberger’s remarkably detailed
The Brilliant Disaster, which is based

on long-hidden Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) documents.

The Bay of Pigs operation played a
major role in the 1960 presidential
campaign between Richard M.
Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The
American people, although armed
with nuclear weapons, were fearful
of a growing Communist presence in
Cuba, and the candidates played
upon their fears.

Cleverly, Kennedy drew first blood:
‘‘We must attempt to strengthen the
non-Batista democratic anti-Castro
forces in exile, and in Cuba itself,
w h o o f f e r e v e n t u a l h o p e o f
overthrowing Castro.’’ Since such a
program of sorts already existed,

Robert D. Chapman, a retired Central Intelligence Agency operations officer, saw
extensive duty in a variety of overseas assignments, including Cuba at the time of
the 1958 revolution. A lawyer before entering the CIA, he became a consultant to
the private insurance sector upon his retirement from government service.

International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 25: 178–215, 2012

Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0885-0607 print=1521-0561 online

DOI: 10.1080/08850607.2012.623008



Nixon had but one choice, which was
to protect its security by speaking out
against the United States openly
aiding anti-Castro forces inside and
outside Cuba.
Later, as the Bay of Pigs operation

unfolded, and Kennedy became more
uncer ta in of i t s consequences ,
Rasenberger writes, ‘‘Kennedy had
himself mainly to blame for his
predicament. He had backed himself
into a corner with his anti-Castro
statements during the campaign,
tenaciously and profitably exploiting
the issue of Cuba and the previous
administration’s missteps.’’
CIA Director Allen W. Dulles

appointed Richard Bissell to direct
the operation. An Ivy Leaguer,
Bissell was socially one of the elite
Kennedy crowd. Previously, he had
supervised building the U-2 spy
plane. His team completed the
project in record time at an under-
budget cost of $1 million per plane.
He made a name for himself as a
doer .1 He was also a snake oi l
salesman who, if he believed in
something, could convince all who
The plan to invade Cuba had a

dead ly , fundamenta l f l aw . I t s
planners reasoned that the Cuban
people, learning of the invasion,
would rise up and oust Fidel Castro.
Against all logic, they envisioned
that an unarmed people would rebel
aga ins t a 30 ,000 -man army , a
people’s militia of 200,000, and a
national police force. That is not
what unarmed people do. From the
very beginning, the conceptual flaw
was fatal.

Kennedy’s advisors, reputedly the
cream of Washington society and the
brain trust from Ivy League colleges,
fell for the plan hook, line, and
sinker; there is no other way to put
it. There were several exceptions.
One was presidential aide Arthur M.
Schlesinger, Jr. and the other, U.S.
Senator J. William Fulbright (D–
Arkansas). Schlesinger doubted, but
when the showdown came, he voted
in favor of the invasion. Fulbright
was adamantly opposed. He said, ‘‘If
one has faith in the human values of
the United States, and if that faith is
supported by vigorous and intelligent
action, then there is no need to fear
compet i t ion from an unshaven


The original landing site for the
invasion was the City of Trinidad. The
community had a strong anti-Castro
sentiment, and importantly, it also had
an escape hatch for the invading force.
Thus, if the plan failed, the invaders
had a route to escape to the nearby
Sierra Escambray Mountains where
they could exert ‘‘continuing pressure
upon the regime.’’ Kennedy ruled out
the Trinidad site. ‘‘Too spectacular,’’
he told Bissell. ‘‘It sounds like D-Day.
You have to reduce the noise level of
this thing.’’ In other words, find a new
The order stunned the planners.

Only a few days were left to find a
site that would satisfy the President.
Eventually, they selected the Bay
of Pigs, which was perhaps the best



of a bad lot. It was 80miles west of
T r i n i d ad and t h e E s c amb r a y
Mountains . Probably, no more
isolated location could be found in
Cuba which so permitted a ‘‘reduced
noise level.’’ On the negative side, it
was surrounded by a swamp, with
the only road going straight into
Castro’s army. If the invasion failed,
no escape was possible.
In the meantime, Castro possessed

military tactics to fight a guerrilla
force. He had learned from experience.
During the 1958 revolution, the Cuban
military’s strategy was to encircle the
mountainous area in order to contain
Castro’s guerrilla force. Little attempt
was made to engage the guerrilla force
in battle. But the army’s tactic did not
In 1961, rather than containment,

Castro’s approach was to instead
pursue every guerrilla group, no
matter how large or small, until
every guerrilla was caught and killed.
No seed was left from which a larger
force could grow.
Years later, after his capture in the

ill-fated Bolivian adventure, Ernesto
‘‘Che’’ Guevara was debriefed. He
inadvertently mentioned that every
guerrilla captured by Castro’s army
h a d b e e n s h o t , m om e n t a r i l y
forgetting that he, too, was now a
captured guer r i l l a about to be
e x e c u t e d . H e s m i l e d i n
acknowledgment of his mistake.
In retrospect, whether the brigade’s

landing site was Trinidad or the Bay
of Pigs made little difference. Even if
the U.S.-supported invasion force
‘‘faded’’ into the mountains, no
escape was possible as Brigade 2506

was no match for Castro’s army.
The exile force would be attacked
and pursued until it was destroyed.
And, as history shows, Kennedy
wou ld neve r consen t to the i r
evacuation by U.S. hel icopters
because their use would show the
‘‘American hand’’ that he had tried
so hard to conceal.


Brigade 2506 had been promised that
the sky over the Bay of Pigs would
be theirs. The CIA planners knew
this was essential. Without air cover
the invasion was doomed.

On 15April 1961 the first planned air
strikes began. Eight B-26 bombers took
off from a Nicaraguan airf ie ld.
Disguised as Cuban Air Force planes,
they were supposedly piloted by air
force defectors. Their mission was to
bomb and strafe three airfields to
destroy as many planes on the ground
as possible. Any planes left unscathed
would be dealt with in follow-up
strikes. The reported result of the
initial bombing was optimistically
exaggerated. Aerial photographs
showed that more planes were left
undamaged than first reported.

Problems quickly arose. Adlai E.
Stevenson, the U.S. Ambassador to
the United Nations, was never fully
briefed on the air strike, and he
vigorously contended that it was the
action of defectors from the Cuban
Air Force. When informed of the
t ruth of the operat ion , he was
mortified and threatened to resign.
He telephoned Secretary of State
Dean Rusk, not knowing that his call



would set in motion a blow to the Bay
of Pigs which would seal its fate.
Rusk called the President, who on

being told that additional air strikes
were coming up, said ‘ ‘I ’m not
signed on to this.’’ No D-Day air
strikes. The following morning,
presidential aide McGeorge Bundy
informed CIA officials that the air
strikes were off ‘‘until they could be
conducted from a strip within the
beachhead.’’ But the airstrip at the
Bay of Pigs was not long enough to
accommodate the Agency’s planes.
Thus, Bundy’s statement was rather
preposterous, but it maintained a
united presidential front. Rusk said
air strikes were not that important—
the supply ships could be unloaded
under cover of darkness. Reasoning
by intelligent men was gone.
On a Sunday afternoon, Jacob

Esterline and Jack Hawkins, the top
CIA planners, called on Bissell at his
home. They believed that with all the
administration’s shenanigans and
backtracking, they could not continue.
The operation was bound to fail, and
the administration would allow it to
f a i l . T h e y t h e n o f f e r e d t h e i r
resignations. Bissell asked that they
stay with him until the end, and they


D-Day was 17 April. As Brigade 2506
m a d e i t s w a y t o s h o r e , t h e y
encountered another problem. An
undetected coral reef tore the hulls of
the landing craft and forced the
invaders to wade to shore. Doing so
c o n s um e d t i m e a n d e n e r g y .

Equipment and ammunition were lost.
The timetable fell apart as the supply
ships with equipment and ammunition
hung offshore.
Jim Rasenberger gives a blow-by-

blow description of the fighting on
the beachhead.
With morning light the Cuban Air

Force arrived. On Castro’s direction,
before attacking the invaders, the
planes were to sink the supply ships
t o l e a v e t h e i n v a d e r s o n t h e
beachhead with little ammunition
and no chance for resupply.
Repeated requests for U.S. air

power to ass i s t the br idgehead
d e f e n d e r s w e r e d e n i e d b y
Washington. Brigade 2506 fought
valiantly, more valiantly than I had
ever supposed, to the very end. Then,
as prisoners, they were inhumanely
Castro took enormous credit for the

victory. Lost or ignored was the fact
that he had beaten an army of fewer
than 1,500 men with a force of at least
20,000 and had taken heavy casualties.
Castro and the Communist world
claimed he had beaten America.


The afternoon of the defeat, Kennedy
was greatly distraught. He called his
father, former Ambassador Joseph P.
K e n n e d y , s e v e r a l t i m e s . A s
Rasenberger puts it, ‘‘The proud
family patriarch found the effort of
buoying Jack’s morale exasperating.’’
He lost his patience and snapped at his
son, ‘‘Oh, hell, if that’s the way you
feel, give the job to Lyndon,’’ meaning
Vice President LyndonBaines Johnson.



Kennedy was furious with former
President Dwight D. Eisenhower,
according to Rasenberger, ‘‘not only
with the original plan but with the
men who came with it. ‘‘My God, the
bunch of advisers we inherited,’’ he
complained to his wife, Jacqueline.
‘‘Can you imagine being President
and leaving behind someone like all
t h o s e p e op l e t h e r e ? ’ ’ B u t h e
subsequently met with Eisenhower.
Rasenberger comments that if

Kennedy ‘‘was hoping for presidential
camaraderie or a fatherly pat on the
back, he was in for a rude awakening.’’
Eisenhower peppered him with hard
questions as though Kennedy were a
student. Were there changes to the
plan? Why was the air strike called off?
After the men were at sea? Then,
finally, Eisenhower said, ‘‘I believe
there is only one thing to do when you
go into this kind of thing, it must be a


Publicly, Kennedy accepted the blame
for the Bay of Pigs. As James Reston
of the New York Times reported, ‘‘He
is taking full personal responsibility
for the Government’s part in the
adventure.’’ As Rasenberger puts it,
‘‘Kennedy’s self-deprecation only
barely masked his resentment against
those he believed had led him astray.’’
He also notes that ‘ ‘anonymous
sources in the White House were
feeding the press stories of how the
CIA ‘sold’ them the plan; how the
Joint Chiefs of Staff had signed off
on it; how the president had been
ill-advised, duped.’’

Kennedy appointed retired General
Maxwell D. Taylor to investigate
what went wrong and to lead the
inquiry. In addition to Taylor, the
members of the group, known as
the Cuban Study Group, included
Allen Dulles, Admiral Arleigh Burke,
and Attorney General Robert F.
Kennedy, the President’s brother and
closest confidant.

I was assigned to escort members of
the ‘‘Frente,’’ the Cuban politicians
who were to govern a free Cuba, to
the meet ing room. Ins ide were
Taylor, Dulles, and Burke, dressed in
dark suits, ties, sitting erectly. Robert
Kennedy was slumped in a chair,
with shirtsleeves partly rolled up, tie
loosened, and his heavy brogue shoes
on top of a mahogany table. No one
doubted who was in charge.

‘‘The proximate cause of the failure
of the [operation] was a shortage of
ammunition,’’ the Taylor Report
conc luded . Th i s shor tage was
partially attributable to a tendency
common among troops for ‘‘poor
ammunition discipline.’’

I’ve always thought that such blue-
ribbon panels are contrived to make
certain that no blame falls upon the
President. I also found it strange that
so many of the advisors he had
criticized so harshly over the Bay of
Pigs should then follow him into
Vietnam, particularly Secretary of
Defense Robert S. McNamara.

Following the Bay of Pigs disaster,
o n 2 9 A p r i l 1 9 6 l , K e n n e d y
descended into the Vietnam War. He
began by ordering four hundred U.S.
Army Special Forces (Green Berets)
to South Vietnam. ‘‘Though the



number was still very small,’’ notes
Rasenberger, ‘‘Kennedy had crossed
a bridge of sorts—a bridge that
would end in a quagmire.’’ He came
to believe that the conflict between
the Commun i s t s i n the Nor th
and the Ngo Dinh Diem government
in the South was just the place to
make a stand against further Red
gains in Southeast Asia.


Meanwhile, in August 1961, a strange
event took place. Richard Goodwin, a
Kennedy adv i sor , a t t ended an
Alliance for Progress conference in
Montevideo, Uruguay. While there,
‘‘Che’’ Guevara, then still a high-
profile Cuban official, called him,
wanting to talk privately. Guevara
to ld Goodwin tha t the Cuban
revolution was irreversible, but he
proposed a modus vivendi between
Cuba and the United States.
Rasenberger writes that Guevara

s a i d ‘ ‘Cuba c ou l d no t r e t u r n
Am e r i c a n – o w n e d p r o p e r t i e s
expropriated during the revolution but
was willing to provide compensation
for them. Cuba could also agree not to
forge any military or political alliances
with the Eastern bloc, and to refrain
from fomenting revolution in Latin
Ame r i c a . I n r e t u r n f o r t h e s e
concessions, the United States would
lift its trade embargo and pledge to
stop trying to overthrow the regime.’’2

But, shortly after Goodwin’s return
to Wash ing ton , t h e Pr e s i den t
appointed him to a task force whose
express purpose would be Fidel
Castro’s overthrow.


The Kennedy brothers were obsessed
with killing Castro and pushed the
Agency to find the means to do it.
The Agency soon tired of the task of
the relentless pressure the Kennedys
exerted. Rosenberger reports:
‘‘Everyone involved in Mongoose

[the code name for the operation to
kill Castro] knew it was a Kennedy
operation,’’ said CIA veteran, [the
late] Sam Halpern. ‘‘This did not
have anything to do with the United
States of America; it had to do with
the Kennedy name, the Kennedy
escutcheon. That reputation was
blemished in the Bay of Pigs, and,
goddamn it, they were going to get
‘even.’ ’’


Rasenberger states, ‘‘History recalls the
CubanMissileCrisis as JohnKennedy’s
finestmoment, and for good reason . . . .
No doubt Kennedy ’ s f i rm and
measured performance during the
crisis owed something—as Arthur
Schlesinger pointed out—to the
valuable lessons he had learned during
the Bay of Pigs.’’ I think this is a
misrepresentation of facts.
When the 1962 Missi le Cris is

occurred, John and his brother
Robert had lost al l trust in the
intelligence and military institutions
and secreted themselves in the White
House. They had no contact with
others and no longer received current
intelligence reports. Believing they
could do better than anyone else,
they conducted secret negotiations
with the Soviet ambassador and the



KGB’s Washington chief. One report
stated that they failed to see a cable
from the embassy in Moscow that
the Soviet missile force was not on
an alert status.
A s a r e s u l t o f t h e e n s u i n g

negotiat ions, the United States
withdrew its Jupiter missiles from
Turkey , the reby a l i ena t ing an
important ally, much to the anger of
the Defense Department. Second, the
United States agreed that it would not
invade Cuba and that the Soviets
could station troops on the island, and
in return, the Soviets withdrew their
missiles from Cuba, ending the crisis.
When Soviet leader Nikita S.

Khrushchev returned to the USSR,
he was asked if he had been too soft
in his negot iat ions . He repl ied
(paraphrased), ‘‘What have I lost?
I’ve secured a socialist state in the
Caribbean protected by the United
The nation’s press was and has been

overly kind to the Kennedys.
Perhaps the Kennedys realized

what they had done because the
operation to kill Castro continued at
full clip.


Jim Rasenberger correctly observes:

What h i s to ry some t imes
overlooks, though, is the role
John Kennedy p layed in

creating the missile crisis in the
first place. Starting with the
Bay of Pigs and continuing
through a succession of covert
(but none too secret) actions
against Castro’s government,
K e n n e d y s u c c e s s f u l l y
convinced Castro that the U.S.
gove rnmen t i n t ended to
destroy him—which of course
it did. Before the Bay of Pigs,
one might have reasonably
dismissed Castro’s concerns
about American aggression as
paranoid; afterward, to deny
them was absurd.

All the while, Khrushchev questioned
why the mighty United States should
be afraid of little Cuba with its four
million people?

Robert D. Chapman, ‘‘Spies Above the
Earth , ’ ’ Internat iona l Journal of
Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Vol.
24, No. 2, Summer 2011, pp. 401–406.

L i s a H o w a r d , a n A m e r i c a n
Broadca s t i n g Company (ABC)
reporter, interviewed Castro in April
1963 and brought back information of
his interest in rapprochement with the
United States, but she was stonewalled
by the White House . Robert D.
Chapman, ‘‘Ghosts of Cuba Past,’’
International Journal of Intelligence
and CounterIntelligence, Vol. 19, No.
2, Summer 2006, pp. 368–376.



Book Reviews

Jones, Howard (2008) The Bay of Pigs, Oxford University Press (Oxford),
xviii + 237 pp. $15.95 pbk.

The swift and decisive defeat of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-sponsored
Cuban exile Brigade 2506 at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 has long exemplified how
very smart and highly trained government officials, with vast resources at their disposal,
at times adopt shockingly ill-designed and miserably implemented policies that generate
disastrous results, sharply contrary to their own interests. No US decision maker, and
no US agency, ever looks good in scholarly accounts of the Bay of Pigs debacle.

© 2012 The Authors. Bulletin of Latin American Research © 2012 Society for Latin American Studies
Bulletin of Latin American Research Vol. 31, No. 4 535

Book Reviews

Howard Jones re-tells this well-known story. He writes with admirably clarity,
informing the reader who may be encountering this fiasco for the first time as well
as enlightening scholars with nuggets of insights. Jones does not hesitate to render
judgment on events, processes, decisions or decision-makers. He does so firmly yet also
fairly, with a much more nuanced combination of sharp critique and mitigating context
than is typical for publications about this event. The lessons he draws are apt and
judicious, yet he also notes that the Kennedy and Johnson administrations disregarded
nearly all of them as they persevered in pursuing failed policies toward Cuba.

Jones organises the book as a good narrative. He gives the background (Chapter 1),
spends considerable time on plans and the many changes they undergo (Chapters 2
and 3), the political process that rendered an ill-conceived policy hopelessly doomed
to fail (Chapter 4), the battle itself at the Bay of Pigs displaying a superb eye as a
riveting military historian (Chapters 5 and 6), and concludes with the immediate and
medium-term aftermaths (Chapter 7 and epilogue).

With the benefit of four decades of prior scholarship and open US archives, Jones
provides a comprehensive and well-documented account of these topics regarding US
policy. He synthesises and confirms the story and delves carefully but forthrightly into
matters where the evidence still remains murky or where testimonies and recollections
are contradictory.

Jones’s most effective interpretative endeavour links, more persuasively than previous
scholars, the Bay of Pigs to the numerous, hapless, politically obtuse and morally repro-
bate attempts to murder Fidel Castro. He suggests that the CIA leadership proceeded as
it did because it expected to arrange for Fidel Castro’s assassination before the invasion
brigade’s landing, thereby facilitating the overthrow of the headless regime. He shows
several plausible connections between two unsuccessful policies that aimed towards the
same end.

Regrettably, the Cuba side of the story was not incorporated well. Consider two
issues. First, what did Fidel Castro know and when did he know it? Jones tells us, ‘Not
that the invasion was a surprise; [. . .] Castro was well aware of its imminence if not its
location [. . .] he could read the newspapers’ (p. 102). Yet, on that same page, Jones says
rightly that Castro ‘had not yet managed to organise his defence units by the time of the
attack’ (p. 124). Jones should have drawn a different inference, which declassified Cuban
documents confirm. Up to just days before the invasion, Castro thought there would
be multiple infiltration parties but no invasion; thus he had dispersed Cuban forces to
protect many points across the country. And, because Cuban troops had been scattered,
it took a while to deploy them at the Bay of Pigs. So, yes, the invasion was a surprise.

Second, Jones echoes the received wisdom that the Cuban domestic opposition was
hopeless (pp. 20, 59, 142, 144). But, if that were true, why does Jones write, ‘Castro
had clamped down on dissidents days before the invasion, putting a hundred thousand
in prison’ (p. 110). That’s a lot of for a country with some 6 million people (in fact,
the number of arrests in the weekend between the bombing of Cuban airfields and the
landing of the brigade was probably closer to 20,000, which is still a lot). These num-
bers meant not that a popular uprising would co-occur with the Brigade’s landing – the
conventional wisdom is right on that point – but that there was an alternative for Cuba’s
history in which the domestic opposition could have been more significant. Neither the
exiles nor the Kennedy administration understood that; the impact of their dual failure
devastated the domestic opposition.

The Bay of Pigs invasion failed for many reasons, but I find this combination of
ineptitudes the most persuasive: ‘Logistics posed a potential nightmare. The dispersal of

© 2012 The Authors. Bulletin of Latin American Research © 2012 Society for Latin American Studies
536 Bulletin of Latin American Research Vol. 31, No. 4

Book Reviews

trucks [. . .] ensur[ed] confusion over transportation. The planes lacked sufficient fuel.
[. . .] The Cuban brigade had no bridging capabilities for transferring the equipment
from the ships to the beach, no floodlights for the night-time operations, no supply
distribution plan, and no maintenance materials other than hand tools’ (p. 54). The
invaders landed in a swamp, far from mountains to which they could retreat as
guerrillas, and in the end had no air cover. No wonder Brigade 2506 failed.

Jorge I. Domínguez
Harvard University

© 2012 The Authors. Bulletin of Latin American Research © 2012 Society for Latin American Studies
Bulletin of Latin American Research Vol. 31, No. 4 537

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The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and the Kennedy
Administration’s Off-the-Record
Briefings for Journalists

✣ David M.



The U.S.-sponsored intervention in Cuba in April 1



1, aiming to overthrow
the government of Fidel Castro, was the most spectacular, publicized, and
bungled covert action in the then fourteen-year-old history of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as the three-month-old history of John F.
Kennedy’s presidency. Significant failures had occurred under President Harry
S. Truman (such as sending East European exiles back into their home coun-
tries to provoke uprisings, an effort that failed miserably but went unpub-
licized at the time) and under Dwight D. Eisenhower (including trying to
overthrow Indonesia’s Sukarno and instead having an agency aircraft shot
down and an operative captured, but with only modest attendant publicity
to the CIA’s role in the operation). The much publicized U-2 event in


was not a covert action but an intelligence-gathering operation, albeit a highly
secret and intrusive one. By contrast, the Bay of Pigs venture was an actual un-
successful attempt to overthrow a government, for which—following inten-
sive, worldwide attention to the operation—President Kennedy publicly took

The story of how the CIA trained and sent 1,


00 anti-Castro Cuban
exiles to their native land, of how Kennedy held back U.S. air support, and of
how Castro’s forces emerged triumphant has been well- and extensively told
by many writers. This article does not recount that history; instead, it traces a
never chronicled off-the-record encounter between leading officials from the
Kennedy administration and more than


0 journalists in Washington, DC,
just days after the failed incursion. The article then poses the question of why
the briefings have remained a non-event in histories of the Bay of Pigs, the
CIA, and the Kennedy administration.

Journal of Cold War Studies


, No. 2, Spring 2019, pp.



, doi:








© 2019 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology



A few aspects of this encounter are remarkable. First is that it happened
at all. Several department heads who played key roles in planning, approving,
or directing the operation went before the journalists one at a time and—to
varying degrees—talked about what went wrong and who was to blame. That
such an event, spread over two business days, could occur under government
leaders’ presumption that their remarks would be kept secret seems remark-
able, at least from the vantage point of nearly six decades later.

Second, the remarks of the participants—among them, President
Kennedy, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles, and Secretary
of State Dean Rusk—did remain mostly secret, despite having been made in
the presence of those 200-plus journalists and despite the contradictions that
emerged, with the DCI laying blame for the failure on the White House and
the military, and with Secretary Rusk chiefly blaming the CIA. The president
spoke to their finger-pointing while declining to engage in it. One can search
at length, but in vain, for a press account of these off-the-record briefings
in the literature on Kennedy, Bay of Pigs, and the CIA. Nor are substantial
records of the event available in a single archive.

In 20


, I titled a presentation on this topic, “The Best Document I
Never (Quite) Found.” After learning years earlier of the occurrence of the
off-the-record briefings that followed the Bay of Pigs (in a CIA memoran-
dum noting that angry blood-letting had ensued) and after finding that they
had not been described by any published histories, I spent considerable time
searching at the National Archives in suburban Washington, DC, the John
F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, and elsewhere for records of it. I
was eager to find transcripts or detailed notes of the event because everyone
familiar with the story of Bay of Pigs has heard about the extensive finger-
pointing and backstabbing among U.S. policymakers after the event, but has
heard about that phenomenon only secondhand. A lengthy transcript of such
remarks would be a fascinating find.

Eventually, after many days at the National Archives, where I found other
useful, if less spectacular documents, I opened a regulation-size archive box
and saw a State Department folder labeled “Foreign Policy Briefing Confer-
ence of the Daily and Periodical Press, April




, 1961.” Those off-the-
record briefings had an official name, it turned out. Alas, unlike folders in the
box with transcripts of subsequent briefings, this folder’s contents were min-
imal. Clearly, it had once held the transcript of the entire event, but all that
remained was the beginning of the transcript, featuring a list of all the partici-
pants and the time and day of their appearances, plus the welcoming remarks
of Rusk and a transcript of his later interactions with the journalists. Neither


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

box nor folder contained any record indicating the fate of the rest of the
transcript. I held hope, though, that I might find it at the Kennedy Library,
and, indeed, I did one day open a folder containing President Kennedy’s re-
marks and his answers to the print journalists.1 Unfortunately, no other tran-
scripts or extensive notes of what was said at the two-day event were to be

Only by piecing together some other fragments of evidence, mainly a few
memoranda and some brief mentions in newspapers after the off-the-record
briefings, did I develop a glimpse of that encounter.

Speaking On-the-Record about “That Unhappy

As the Cuban exiles were dying on the beaches of Cuba or being rescued
by U.S. forces or captured by Castro’s forces, President Kennedy spoke with
diverse advisers, none of whom had a good solution to the operation’s collapse.
The event was over by 19 April, leaving the sleep-deprived president angry and
humiliated. As a skilled politician, though, he found time during the crisis and
its immediate aftermath to consider how to rescue his standing with the public
and the U.S. news media. On 20 April, the same day he met with political rival
Richard Nixon to discuss the failure, he spoke to the annual meeting of the
American Society of Newspaper Editors, which usually met in Washington,
DC and had invited Kennedy well before the disaster in Cuba. But he had
decided only in “the last 24 hours,” he said, to speak about events on “that
unhappy island.” Although he acknowledged that he had refused to engage
in “unilateral American intervention” in Cuba, he warned that “our restraint
is not inexhaustible.” Kennedy expressed hope for some good yet to come of
the incursion, describing a rebel leader on the beaches who had refused an
evacuation offer:

He has gone now to join in the mountains countless other guerrilla fighters, who
are equally determined that the dedication of those who gave their lives shall not

1. Thomas W. Benton, author of Writing JFK: Presidential Rhetoric and the Press in the Bay of Pigs
Crisis (College Station, TX: Texas A&M Press, 2004), seems to have been the first to discover the
president’s off-the-record remarks in the Pierre Salinger papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential
Library (JFKL). Benton indicates no awareness that Kennedy’s remarks were part of a larger two-day
event, with more than a dozen other speakers, but he claims reasonably (p. 48) that his discovery of
this document was “a significant addition to the historical record.” Benton includes the entire text of
Kennedy’s remarks (pp. 86–99).



be forgotten, and that Cuba must not be abandoned to the Communists. And
we do not intend to abandon it either!2

Kennedy also promised a reorientation of U.S. military forces to fight “sub-
version, infiltration, and a host of other tactics” used by enemies around the

What the president did not do was say anything about how the United
States had been involved in the intervention, much less about how or even
whether he had authorized it. Nor did he take questions. These would come, it
was widely presumed, at a presidential press conference, scheduled for the next
day, Friday, 21 April. But at the large State Department auditorium where the
president held most such events, he began the latter session by telling reporters
he would say nothing about the Cuban event that went beyond the previous
day’s remarks.

I do not think that any useful national purpose would be served by my going
further into the Cuban question this morning. I prefer to let my statement of
yesterday suffice for the present. I am pleased to announce that the United States
has offered concrete support to a broad scale attack by the United Nations upon
world hunger.4

Reporters were stunned, if somewhat cowed, by the president’s apparent
refusal to speak at all about the Bay of Pigs, but they were not inclined to
ask questions about world hunger. “You could almost hear our minds churn-
ing, as we strove to think up substitute questions,” one columnist told his
readers.5 After Kennedy rebuffed one direct question about Cuba, another re-
porter tried a different tack: “Mr. President, this is not a question about Cuba,
it’s a question about Castro,” which provoked a good deal of laughter from
the assemblage but no substantive presidential response.6 All the rest of the
questions were, as Kennedy directed, about topics other than Cuba, with a
single exception: NBC reporter Sander Vanocur referred to “a certain foreign
policy situation” that was causing the United States to take a “propaganda
lambasting” around the world. Therefore, Vanocur asked, “Why is it not

2. Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Of-
fice, 1962), pp. 204–306.

3. Ibid.

4. “News Conference of April 21, 1961,” in Harold Chase and Allen Lerman, eds., Kennedy and the
Press: The News Conferences (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1965), p. 65.

5. George Dixon, “No Time for History,” The Washington Post, 26 April 1961, p. A19.

6. Chase and Lerman, eds., Kennedy and the Press, p. 66.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

useful, sir, for us to explore with you the real facts behind this or our

Only then, and grudgingly, did Kennedy make brief statements that won
some admiration in press accounts for days to come and in history books ever

There is an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan,
and I wouldn’t be surprised if information is poured into you, in regard to all
the recent activities. Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal
responsibility, because I am the responsible officer of the government.8

As with his speech the day before, he did not mention the U.S. role in training
and transporting those who went into the Bay of Pigs, the CIA, the U.S.
military, or his decision-making process of the preceding weeks.

Regarding his expressed assumption that information was being “poured
into you, in regard to all the recent activities,” the president was no doubt cor-
rect. Simultaneously, though, he had been instructing loyalists to do the same
thing. Speechwriter and part-time foreign policy adviser Arthur Schlesinger,
Jr., attended a breakfast on 21 April where Kennedy gave his aides firm in-
structions to challenge and seek “corrections” of certain accounts that were
emerging in news outlets.9 Time Magazine’s Hugh Sidey later wrote that on
Thursday and Friday, 20 and 21 April (the latter being the day of the presi-
dent’s press conference), the White House did its own hatchet work. Reporters
were summoned to background sessions and informed that the Joint Chiefs
of Staff had selected the landing beaches and that the CIA had promised a
native uprising that never materialized. Some attempts were made to fasten
responsibility on the Eisenhower administration.10

Though shrewdly attentive to television journalism’s emerging impor-
tance, Kennedy’s obsession was the print variety. After some newspaper ed-
itorials appearing the morning after his press conference criticized his refusal
to answer questions on Cuba, he bristled with resentment, telling his press
secretary, Pierre Salinger,

7. Ibid., p. 69.

8. Ibid., pp. 69–70.

9. As a result, Schlesinger contacted one journalist at Time Magazine, two at Newsweek, two at
The New York Herald-Tribune, one at The New York Times, and one at The New York Post.
Schlesinger journals, n.d. (but referring to 21 April 1961), in Schlesinger Papers, New York Public

10. Hugh Sidey, John F. Kennedy, President (New York: Atheneum Books, 1963), p.





What could I have said that would have helped the situation at all? That we
took the beating of our lives? That the CIA and the Pentagon are stupid? What
purpose do they think it would serve to put that on the record?11

Curiously, in light of what happened the following Monday and Tues-
day, Vanocur had prefaced his press conference question with the statement,
“To my knowledge, the State Department and the White House have not at-
tempted to take a representative group of reporters and say, ‘These are the
facts as we know them.’”


Although Vanocur’s suggestion was not the rea-
son, hundreds of editors and columnists from newspapers around the United
States, plus reporters based in Washington, DC and accredited to cover State
Department press conferences, assembled in the same State Department au-
ditorium the following Monday morning.13 They were to hear from nearly all
the administration’s key foreign policymakers one at a time, and ask questions
of each of them, over the course of two days. They were welcomed by Rusk
the first morning and sent off by the president, following his own remarks and
answers to journalists’ questions, late Tuesday afternoon.

How Did the Off-the-Record Event Come About?

The briefingn its conception (though not its occurrence) had nothing to do
with the Bay of Pigs. Instead, it had been the idea of State Department press
relations officials who, just weeks into the new Kennedy presidency, wanted
to innovate in explaining the challenges of foreign policy to journalists. On 6
February 1961, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Roger Tubby ex-
plained to Rusk that, increasingly, newspaper columnists and editorial writers,
as well as radio and television commentators, had emerged around the country
who did their own writing on foreign affairs, without reliance on “networks
and press associations.”14 This “newly emerging group throughout the coun-
try, having no such direct access to Department briefing officers, will require
special attention, if they are to have a sound background of information.”


Therefore, the department should invite 300 radio and television journalists

11. Pierre Salinger, With Kennedy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), pp. 154–155.

12. Chase and Lerman, eds., Kennedy and the Press, p. 69.

13. The limited State Department records of the event do not include a list of journalists present, so
whether Vanocur ended up attending is unknown.

14. Tubby to Rusk, 6 February 1961, in White House Staff: Salinger, Box 134, JFKL.

15. Ibid.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

who worked at locales outside of Washington, D.C., for a “Foreign Affairs Pol-
icy Briefing Conference” on 3 and 4 April.


Then, on 24 and 25 April, the
department should host “a like number of editorial page editors from leading


Broadcast and print “correspondents and commentators regu-
larly covering the Department,” and thus stationed in the capital, also would
be invited to attend.


Both conferences, Tubby wrote, “should be conducted at the highest
level,” with President Kennedy, Secretary Rusk, and “other principal sub-
stantive officers of the Department and other agencies” speaking and taking
questions.19 On 17 February, Rusk approved the idea.20 After winning the
president’s agreement to participate, Rusk then invited others. To Dulles, he
wrote on 7 March,

President Kennedy and I plan to participate personally in both of the meetings,
and I am hopeful that you will be able to join us and to present a 20-minute
briefing on the role of intelligence as an essential contribution to national se-
curity and foreign policy. Your presentation would be followed by a ten-minute
question and answer period.21

Planning proceeded, and the first of the two events, with broadcast journalists
from around the country, occurred on 3 and 4 April. A recently declassified
transcript of Dulles’s remarks at that event, just two weeks before the Bay of
Pigs occurred, shows him speaking and answering questions discreetly. One
journalist asked, “Mr. Dulles, could you give us an indication as to whether or
not your organization is backing one of the Cuban exile groups with money
and help?”


The director replied, “Even if I were backing one, I don’t think
I would give you that information.”


(With unintended irony, he also spoke
of the value of an independent CIA: “If you are wedded to a policy, you get
very stubborn and you don’t look at facts that say the policy isn’t the best

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Rusk to President Kennedy, 17 February 1961, in White House Staff: Salinger, Box 134, JFKL.

21. Rusk to Dulles, 7 March 1961, in White House Staff: Salinger, Box 134, JFKL.

22. “Foreign Policy Briefing Conference for Broadcasters in Public Affairs,” 4 April 1961, in CIA
Records Search Tool (CREST), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park,
MD. (This document, featuring Dulles’s remarks but not those of other participants, became available
only in 2016.)

23. Ibid.



one, particularly if you invented it.”)24 Three weeks later, following the earth-
shaking events in Cuba, print journalists had their turn to hear from and
question senior officials.25

Speaking Off-the-Record about Bay of Pigs
and Other Troubles

Fortified by coffee and convened to order by Tubby at 9:58 on the morn-
ing of Monday, 24 April, reporters applauded Secretary of State Rusk, who
welcomed them “for these background briefings on some of our problems in
foreign policy. This should be an interesting two days because we have lots
of problems.”26 The reporters laughed appreciatively. Not only had Bay of
Pigs occurred, but French military leaders in colonial Algeria were attempting
a coup against the French government of Charles de Gaulle, and the Soviet
Union was basking in the glow of its triumphal launch and first-ever space
orbit of a human being (Yuri Gagarin) just before the attempted overthrow
of Castro. But, Rusk said, “I must go away . . . to meet with the President
and President Sukarno, who are conferring in just a moment.”27 The irony of
Rusk departing one meeting that would focus substantially on a failed covert
action to attend another meeting devoted to repairing relations with a foreign
leader the United States had covertly tried to overthrow three years before may
have been noted by some well-informed journalists in the audience.

When Rusk returned around noon, he started with France:

I think it is quite clear that the generals’ revolt in Algeria was a surprise both
to the French government and to us. The French government had been keeping
considerable track of the generals who had indicated their disaffection, and it is
hard to understand exactly how too much of an effort could have been organized
without the knowledge of some of the French authorities.28

24. Ibid.

25. The foreign policy “briefing conferences” continued through much of the Kennedy administration
but are barely mentioned in the literature on his presidency. An exception is Salinger’s memoir, which
notes: “Our efforts at public understanding also were extended in other areas. The State Department,
first during the tenure of Roger Tubby and then under Bob Manning, organized briefing sessions for
radio, TV, and newspaper reporters and editors from around the country, where these journalists were
given briefings on current foreign policy problems by government officials up to and including the
President of the United States.” See Salinger, With Kennedy, p. 134.

26. “Foreign Policy Briefing Conference for the Daily and Periodical Press,” 24 April 1961, in Sec.
Rusk, Speeches and Statements, Box 2, Record Group 59, NARA.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

He followed this implication of involvement by unknown French leaders in
Paris with a statement that some in the audience took to be a judgment of the
CIA: “Our own intelligence didn’t alert us to this.”29

Why did the events in Algeria and France matter?

This is not a time when we can afford for France to be engaged in a deep civil
war. There are very tense problems between the Sino-Soviet bloc and the free
world, and it is important for NATO to be strong and unified . . . if the generals
succeed in establishing either complete independence in Algeria or control in
France and then resume the war in Algeria, then the prospects for settling that
question on a long-term, workable basis would be, I think, postponed for a
considerable period.30

As Rusk had reminded the journalists in his earlier welcoming remarks,
his comments were “on the background.”31 They could not quote him, and
they could not attribute particular thoughts to him. He and his colleagues
were offering “candor” in exchange for “discretion” from the journalists, he
said.32 The logic behind this was, “We felt it would not be profitable for you
to come to Washington DC for two days just to hear us say what we could
normally say in public anyhow.”33 Rusk actually did speak with a reasonable
degree of candor. It would have been unthinkable for any earlier secretary
of state to have spoken openly about the failure of “intelligence” to “alert”
policymakers, not to mention the possibility of generals taking “control in
France,” as the French-Algerian crisis remained under way.34

Rusk had no particularly revealing remarks to make about Laos and no
criticisms of intelligence regarding that country. Then he offered “a few com-
ments” about Cuba.35 The U.S. government had trained the Cuban exiles
since 1960, but he absolved former President Eisenhower of any responsibil-
ity for decisions “since January 20.”36 In the present administration, there had
been “every opportunity . . . to choose the lines of action.”37 He, the president,
and colleagues had engaged in “a very complex computation of problems, as to

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.



whether to let these fellows do what they wanted to do.”38 They had decided
to train and equip the exiles, who had decided for themselves, Rusk said, to
return “to Cuba for the purpose of attempting to set off a large-scale reaction
against the Castro government.”39

Then he turned to intelligence:

There was a very considerable miscalculation on both the Cuban [exiles’ side]
and the American side on two vital issues: one was whether there could or would
be a substantial response from inside Cuba, which could link up with these
people—[i.e., the U.S.-trained Cuban exiles]—and help move the situation to
a complete success. The other was the pace and extent and weight of Soviet
Bloc arms, which had already reached Cuba and were in operational condition.
I think these two things were fairly critical to the problem.

The group that got ashore ran into much heavier and much quicker oppo-
sition than was anticipated.

Had there been a substantial popular revolt and had this thing gotten a
headway, and a new government could have established itself there which could
have been recognized and supported, this would, of course, have been a real

Rusk apparently then recognized he was talking about things that might have
occurred but had not, and so he quickly concluded his remarks about Cuba.
Perhaps because it was past the scheduled time for a lunch break, the secre-
tary easily got away without taking questions. Some members of his audience
noted that he had not mentioned the CIA by name but had spoken of a “con-
siderable miscalculation” that was “critical to the problem.”41

“Dean Rusk said ‘intelligence’ had failed to alert our government.” So
wrote a key CIA official in a private summary of Monday’s briefing.42 Word
of Rusk’s remarks had quickly reached the agency, where feelings were raw
over the operation’s failure. Though there is no record of it, so, too, perhaps,
had the words of Adlai Stevenson, the ambassador to the United Nations, and
Adolf Berle, a longtime specialist on Latin America, who had been advising
the new President Kennedy. They and others had also spoken on the first day.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. Stanley Grogan to Dulles, 26 April 1961, in CREST. Grogan was the DCI’s press aide. Although
Grogan wrote this memorandum after Dulles spoke to the reporters, and thus two days after Rusk
spoke to them, he made clear that this was not his first such report on reactions to his and the secretary’s
remarks. My searches have not located those earlier documents, if they still exist.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

Dulles addressed the print journalists the next day, as did Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara, Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles, and General
Lyman Lemnitzer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others.

The transcript of Dulles’s remarks on Tuesday, 25 April, is among those
missing from the folder that presumably once contained the full transcript
whose creation was documented at the time.43 Reporting on his comments
hardly occurred. The New York Times, the nation’s most influential newspaper,
reported nothing at all about the off-the-record briefings in the days and weeks
that followed.44 Nonetheless, reporting by a few other newspapers suggests
that the DCI responded vigorously. Warren Rogers of The New York Herald
Tribune attended the briefings. Paradoxically, though, his story summarizing
the event does not mention its occurrence. The frontpage story of The Herald
Tribune’s 26 April edition led with the following:

President Kennedy’s top advisers are in sharp disagreement over whether faulty
intelligence caused the Cuban fiasco. Most of them say the Central Intelligence
Agency miscalculated the temper of the Cuban people and the strength of Cuban
Premier Fidel Castro’s Communist weapons and police-state tactics. But the CIA
disputes this, it was learned today. The CIA insists its information was accurate
and was correctly analyzed. The fault, in this view, was not an intelligence mis-
calculation but a military failure—the inability of the anti-Castro forces to hold
a beachhead.45

On the same day, The Washington Post’s John Norris (who also attended the
briefings) described what had been said, also without mentioning the event, in
a page-twelve story. It led with a prediction by Senate majority whip Hubert
Humphrey (D-MN) that the CIA would be shorn of its covert action role,
then reported on remarks by Dulles, without naming him:

43. Grogan noted that “there was a recording made of what you [Dulles] said which State was making
available to the working press,” presumably meaning the journalists who were at the event. Grogan
had been pressed by Earl Voss of The Washington Star to interpret Dulles’s remarks but had declined
to do so and urged him to look at the record of the DCI’s remarks. See ibid.

44. The only mention of the briefings in The New York Times occurred on 25 April, the day of the
second series of briefings, in the daily listing of expected activities of the president and Congress.
Kennedy “departs for the State Department for off-the-record briefing of editors and columnists, 4:45
p.m.,” it states, with no further explanation. See “The Proceedings in Washington,” The New York
Times, 25 April 1961, p. 23.

45. Warren Rogers, “It Was Right, the CIA Insists: Whose Fault?” The New York Herald-Tribune, 26
April 1961, p. 1. In part of another story treating the CIA, the Associated Press summarized Rusk’s
remarks but did not name him or his position or mention that off-the-record briefings had occurred.
Among the many papers that published that vague account was the Wellsville (NY) Daily Reporter, 25
April 1961, p. 3.



Meanwhile, a top U.S. official denied there was any CIA intelligence “miscalcu-
lation” involved in the failure of the Cuban invasion. This official, giving a ver-
sion of what occurred that differed completely from any that has been passed to
newsmen by other high—and equally anonymous—government sources, said:

— There was no misjudgment of the general temper of the Cuban people
or the control that Premier Fidel Castro’s security police had over the

— Quite accurate information was passed to the White House as to the
military strength of the Cuban army, navy, and air force.
Other officials have said privately that intelligence errors contributed
greatly to the failure of last week’s invasion attempt. They declared:

— That both the CIA and the Cuban rebels underestimated Castro’s po-
lice state controls, which prevented local uprisings and the prospects of
such a popular overthrow of the regime.

— That the Castro military forces hit the rebel beachhead with more
planes, tanks, and other modern arms than the United States believed
they had and moved more swiftly than had been estimated.

Yesterday’s denial of the earlier statements of top officials left the picture

Not all journalists found the situation unclear, though. Some thought Dulles
had greatly clarified matters. John Leacacos, the Washington, DC bureau chief
of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, “sends you his ‘regards and esteem,’” press aide
Stanley Grogan told Dulles.47 “He listened to you lay it on the line at State
yesterday and is glad that you did.”48

The powerful and feared columnist Drew Pearson apparently did not at-
tend the briefings, but he had one or more sources there. In a radio broadcast,
Pearson violated the guidance about not referring to the event and not at-
tributing remarks to specific individuals. He reported,

Central Intelligence Director Allen Dulles is feuding with Secretary of State Rusk
over who is to blame for the Cuban fiasco. Rusk, who always thought the plan
was a shoestring operation run by amateurs, talked out bluntly in an off-the-
record session this week before a group of editors. He said the CIA fell down
in under-estimating Castro’s tanks and air force and foolishly believed that the
Cubans would rise up as the Hungarians did, to help the invaders. Dulles was

46. John Norris, “CIA Expected to Lose Some Top Functions,” The Washington Post, 26 April 1961, p.
A12. Proof that Dulles was the anonymous source defending the CIA in both the Rogers and Norris
stories is in Grogan to Dulles, 26 April 1961, in CREST.

47. Grogan to Dulles, 26 April 1961.

48. Ibid.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

burned up when he heard this. When he talked to the editors the next day, he
flatly denied this. CIA accurately warned of Castro’s military strength, he said
and correctly analyzed the outlook for the White House. Rusk and Dulles are
now scarcely speaking to each other.49

(Pearson reported this on his radio program, not his syndicated print column,
which did not treat the briefings, for reasons unknown. Although the Post
placed Pearson’s column on a page with its comics, the column was widely read
in Washington, DC and ran in hundreds of newspapers around the country.
His radio broadcasts never created the stir that many of his columns did.)

The day after Dullesspoke to journalists, Grogan informed him that nu-
merous calls were coming into his press relations office, “requesting clarifi-
cation or interpretation of your remarks of yesterday.”50 Unless a transcript
of the event is found, it is impossible to know with certainty all that Dulles
said to reporters that inspired those calls and the few news articles. A plausi-
ble approximation of his remarks exists, however: notes of Dulles’s comments
that same day to a secretive congressional subcommittee charged with over-
seeing the CIA. In a meeting with the chairman of the House of Representa-
tives’ Armed Services Committee, Representative Carl Vinson (D-GA), along
with a few others, Dulles summarized what had happened over the preceding

Inasmuch as CIA is not a military agency, we went to the military for advice
on the operational plan and had military specialists assigned as advisers and op-
erations directors. A special group was sent down to the training base by the
Joint Chiefs to survey the training and invasion plans. The project was discussed
weekly in a special group for policy guidance from the President, State, and

The plan was based on the assumption that the Cuban Air Force would be
destroyed before the invasion. A strike on D-minus-2 put out of commission ap-
proximately one-half of the Cuban Air Force, but due to policy considerations,
an additional planned strike on D-Day was called off [words redacted]. As a re-
sult, two ships which accompanied the invasion force into the bay were caught
by the Cuban planes and sunk. The rebels thereby lost much of their commu-
nications gear and their resupply of ammunition. This was a key element in the

49. Untitled Pearson transcript, n.d. (but note reference to “this week”), in Pearson Papers, Lyndon
Baines Johnson Library (LBJL), Austin, TX.

50. Grogan to Dulles, 26 April 1961.

51. Lawrence Houston, Memorandum for the Record, 27 April 1961, in Central Intelligence Agency
Records,, in U.S. Declassified Documents Online



As a result, he said, “there had been no real test of whether there could be a
popular uprising against Castro, as there had to be an occupied area in being
and available before the defections could start.”52 The words redacted from
the document quoted above probably refer to who “called off” the second air
strike.53 That would have been the White House, of course.

Without mentioning names, Dulles had adeptly trashed the president, the
advisers who had urged the second strike’s cancellation, and the Joint Chiefs.
The only failure of CIA mentioned by Dulles in the entire hearing was “that
some of the T-33s were flown” by Castro’s forces with “a vigor and skill that
was better than expected.”54

Details in Dulles’s two presentations and answers to questions on 25 April
could have differed somewhat, of course. But in light of Norris’s reporting in
The Herald-Tribune that an “official” (identified by CIA records as Dulles)
gave journalists a “version of what occurred that differed completely from any
that has been passed to newsmen by other high—and equally anonymous—
government sources,” and in light of Grogan’s memorandum to Dulles about
numerous reporters’ phone calls the next day seeking “clarification or interpre-
tation” of his remarks at the briefing, there is no reason to think the differences
were significant.55

There is no known extant record of what others said at the briefing before
President Kennedy capped off the two-day event. Secretary of Defense McNa-
mara was likely among those who staunchly defended Kennedy, however, and
General Lemnitzer, who is known to have faulted the White House and the
CIA in private conversations for the failure, likely defended the Joint Chiefs
of Staff.56

At precisely 5:00 on the afternoon of 25 April, President Kennedy walked
onto the stage of the State Department auditorium to do as his subordinates
had done: offer an overview of challenges facing the United States in world

(until 2016 known as Declassified Documents Reference System) through Falvey Memorial Library,
Villanova University.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. When the subcommittee showed itself to be extremely hawkish on the Cuba topic and incredulous
about White House decisions, Dulles did allow that air support, though “critical,” was “just one aspect
of it.” In response to a member who supported military intervention, Dulles said that the “Cuban rebel
leaders had been very definitely briefed that there would be no U.S. backup.” Ibid.

55. Norris, “CIA Expected to Lose Some Top Functions,” p. A12; and Grogan to Dulles, 26 April

56. Walter S. Poole, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, 1961–1964 (Washington, DC: Office
of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011), ch. 8.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

affairs and then take questions. He said nothing of substance about the failed
Cuban operation in his opening remarks, but the journalists quickly drew him
out on the subject. “How badly damaged do you think United States prestige
abroad has been, as a result of our involvement in the abortive Cuban invasion
attempt?” one of them asked.57 “Well, I think the prestige of the United States
has been hurt because a failure hurts.”58 The nation’s “prestige” and even its
“survival are all at stake, and will be for the next ten years,” he said.59

The press reporting before the Bay of Pigs showed how “faction-ridden
this operation was,” perhaps showing that “it was an ill-founded one,” said one
journalist, who then acknowledged that many believed the press had done “a
disservice by the extent of its reporting.”60 Which view did the president sup-
port? In a lengthy, wandering answer, Kennedy suggested that such reporting
had been “extremely damaging to us,” and he urged journalists to consider,
“as a profession, not merely individually,” what sort of reporting it should do
regarding future covert actions.61

Another journalist asked, “Mr. President, if you had the Cuban decision
to make over again, what would you have done differently?”62 This provoked
laughter from his colleagues before the President responded:

I will say here, speaking privately, many meetings were held on this matter. Many
people—whose experience had carried them through many years—judgments
were reached, in both military and other branches of the government. And this
was not—when the decision was made, those who were most involved thought
that this effort would be worthwhile, on the assumption that if it did not succeed
there, that they could carry on as guerrillas.

But it failed. So quite obviously, with the advantage of hindsight, a good
many different decisions would have been made. But I must say that a good
many able people, with long military experience and all the rest, looked at this,
and were wrong.63

The President’s tone throughout the question-and-answer session was somber,
even pessimistic, as he eventually realized. To a reporter who spoke of having
“heard nothing but sad news the last few days,” he said:

57. Untitled transcript, 25 April 1961, in White House Staff: Salinger, Box 134, JFKL.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid.



On the other hand, the news from Algeria this afternoon is encouraging. So I
don’t want you to come down here and get put through the wringer and feel
that everybody in Washington is—I just think that these problems require the
best judgment of all of us, and I suppose, to know where we are going, we must
know where we have been, and I think that there is a good deal of soul searching
now going on in this administration, which I think is a good thing.64

The last substantive question of the briefing alerted the president, if he did
not already know of it, to Dulles’s earlier analysis. “The man who makes the
intelligence,” meaning Dulles, had “denied” that the operation was a “failure
of intelligence” and implied “it was more a question of the failure of military
tactics. I wonder if you can give us your ideas on this?”65

Well, I think it is most unwise to make any judgments about it now and that
is . . . one of the reasons why General [Maxwell] Taylor is pursuing this entire
matter, not to attempt to find out who is wrong, because a good many people
were wrong, but to find out how they could have been wrong, and what we can
do in the future to improve any relationship between intelligence and military
operations and decisions. So, I’m not familiar with what was said, but I would
reserve judgment on the question of failures. I have my own opinion, but I don’t
think there is any use in saying what was wrong was the military or what was
wrong was the intelligence.66

Days earlier, the president had appointed Taylor to lead a study group, joined
by Robert F. Kennedy, Dulles, and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh
Burke, to study the Bay of Pigs failure as a way of preventing such fiascos in
the future. Ultimately, Taylor spared Kennedy from direct, severe criticism,
attributing the failure to a mistaken belief that so large an operation “could
be plausibly disclaimed.”67 The White House also should not have given its
“top-level direction . . . through ad hoc meetings of senior officials.”68 But
the agency would take a bigger hit for, among other things, its failure to
make clear “with sufficient force and clarity” to the president and secretary of
state the ramifications of some of Kennedy’s decisions before and during the

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid.

66. Ibid.

67. Memorandum No. 3, Cuba Study Group to President Kennedy, 13 June 1961, in U.S. Depart-
ment of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. XI: Cuba, 1961–1962, p. 603.

68. John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (New York: Touchstone, 1987), p. 379.

69. Memorandum No. 3, Cuba Study Group, p. 603.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

Finally, a journalist asked, “Mr. President, now that you have been in
office for three months, how do you like it?”70 Following another round of
laughter, Kennedy replied, “Well, I liked it better up to about nine days ago.”71

After another round of laughter and applause, the president departed, and
Tubby reminded reporters, “This is off the record, what the President said.
In the beginning, I said that, and I want to reiterate: everything he said now
was off the record.”72 There had been nine questions posed about the Bay of
Pigs and Cuba, and nine other questions on other Cold War–related topics,
including Vietnam, Berlin, and the space race with the Soviet Union.

One notable parallel between what we know about the remarks by Dulles
and what Kennedy said at the off-the-record briefing is their avoidance of
personal responsibility. Although the president had publicly stated days earlier
that he was the “responsible officer” in the case of the Bay of Pigs, he said no
such thing on 25 April. Instead, he spoke of possible military and intelligence
failures.73 As for Dulles, judging from the limited reporting of his comments
and what we know he said earlier in the day to the House subcommittee, he,
too, seems not to have acknowledged any failure on his part or on the part of
his agency.

Almost no reporting appeared about the president’s responses or even
his appearance at the event. One partial exception was a story by Chalmers
Roberts of The Washington Post, published on an inside page the day after
Kennedy made his remarks. “Press Hears Top Brass Plumb Souls on Crisis”
was the headline, with a briefer subheading: “Gloom Reigns.”

The Kennedy administration has been going through a period of semi-public
soul-searching about the Cuban fiasco, and about the state of the problem ahead
with the Sino-Soviet bloc. Several hundred editors and commentators have been
sitting in the State Department Auditorium, listening to just about all the top
brass, ending yesterday afternoon with President Kennedy.74

But Roberts said nothing about what the president had said.
As for others who spoke to reporters during the two-day event, little is

known, and even that small amount comes from the few news stories pub-
lished. The limited reporting suggests that some of the officials engaged in

70. Untitled transcript, 25 April 1961, in White House Staff: Salinger, Box 134, JFKL

71. Ibid.

72. Ibid.

73. Chase and Lerman, eds., Kennedy and the Press, p. 70; and Untitled transcript, 25 April 1961.

74. Chalmers Roberts, “Press Hears Top Brass Plumb Souls on Crises:,” The Washington Post, 26 April
1961, p. A12.



a good deal of finger-pointing, or “sharp disagreement,” in Warren Rogers’s
words.75 Roberts of the Post (claiming he was “probably” not violating the
off-the-record rule) reported that “there was some recrimination as to who
goofed in Cuba, with interested parties defending themselves and their par-
ties.”76 Norris’s account in the Post portrayed a “top” official denying any sort
of CIA “miscalculation” and thus “giving a version of what occurred that dif-
fered completely from any that has been passed to newsmen by other high . . .
government sources.”77 Such “confessions” might be “good for the soul,”
Roberts said, but the “stories which it produces do confuse the American

Beyond the blame assignments, one Kennedy administration official is
described as saying “plaintively that probably some countries can’t be saved
from communism, anyway, and we’ll just have to get used to it. He seemed
to be suffering from shock in the aftermath of Cuba.”79 Another “went so
far as to say that it could be that, within five years, the United States will
begin to lose its ability to influence world events.”80 Another official, however,
claimed that the aftermath of Bay of Pigs was “turning into a bonanza in Latin
America” for the United States. Yet another official said the country “probably
will have to send guerrillas into Communist North Vietnam.”81

Beyond that, details of remarks by the fifteen or more participants went

75. Rogers, “It Was Right, the CIA Insists,” p. 1.

76. Roberts, “Presss Hears Top Brass,” p. A12.

77. Norris, “CIA Expected to Lose Some Top Functions,” p. A12.

78. Roberts, “Press Hears Top Brass,” p. A12.

79. Ibid.

80. Ibid.

81. Ibid.

82. The Drew Pearson Papers at the LBJ Library have handwritten notes apparently made by James
Higgins, an assistant editor of the York, Pennsylvania Gazette and Daily, which may well be a descrip-
tion of remarks by participants at the briefing. They have Roger Hilsman, head of the intelligence bu-
reau at the State Department, saying, “Our information was quite different from CIA, but we weren’t
even consulted.” Rusk said, “intelligence from Cuba was [indecipherable word] and poor. Intelligence
from Algiers totally lacking.” About the latter remarks, the notes have an incredulous Dulles saying he
had learned of them being voiced by “a high official.” But, Dulles said, “I can’t imagine any responsi-
ble official saying this. We knew what was going on in Algiers. We may not have expected it quite so
soon.” The notes also show Adolf Berle, who spoke on the same day as Rusk and Dulles, saying that
“sentiment is crystalizing in favor of the U.S.,” presumably in the aftermath of Bay of Pigs. Reflective
of that day’s event as the notes might seem, the date written (again, by hand) is 30 April, not 24 April.
Perhaps Higgins made the notes some days later, or perhaps the 30 April designation was made by
Pearson or an assistant when Higgins shared the information. Or, perhaps Higgins interviewed those
figures on 30 April, though that seems unlikely for someone from a small-city newspaper.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

“Reds Admitted on Equal Basis at World
Issue Briefings”

One other aspect of the off-the-record briefings of journalists on 24 and 25
April is even more significant and surprising: a reporter for a Soviet-bloc
newspaper, Trybuna Ludu, an organ of the Polish United Workers’ Party
(PZPR, the Communist party), was in the audience. He represented Poland’s
most widely circulated newspaper. Some U.S. journalists angrily observed the
reporter, whose name is unknown, as he took extensive notes during Presi-
dent Kennedy’s talk. Apparently, State Department officials had not thought
through the consequences of holding off-the-record briefings open to anyone
with State Department or (perhaps) White House press credentials.83

In light of repeated Kennedy administration complaints “that too much
information of value to the Soviets” got into the press, columnist Roscoe
Drummond (apparently an attendee) wrote: “On what possible basis does the
State Department deem that it is setting a standard by giving two days of con-
fidential briefings to 250 United States editors and permitting a Communist
bloc correspondent to sit through it . . . and take exhaustive notes to transmit
behind the Iron Curtain?”84 Similarly, Chalmers Roberts observed that there
was something strange about having a “Communist newspaperman” present
when a U.S. official said (paraphrased by Roberts)), “Sure, the U.S. probably
will have to send guerrillas into Communist North Vietnam.”85 A “grievous
blunder,” Drummond said, on the assumption that Soviet leaders would soon
be devouring the contents of the reporter’s detailed scribbling.86

Drummond’s and Roberts’s concern that the reporter’s details regarding
Kennedy’s (and others’) thinking reached Soviet leaders was reasonable, as the
newspaper was very much controlled by the PZPR. Still, the U.S. officials
had no way of knowing the destination of the Polish reporter’s detailed notes.

83. “Reds Admitted on Equal Basis at World Issue Briefings Here” was the headline of a brief story,
with no byline, in The Washington Post, 27 April 1961, p. B4. The story claimed that journalists with
White House press credentials also were allowed at the event. This may be accurate. When Salinger
referred in passing to the briefing on the afternoon of 24 April, noting that Kennedy would speak
at the event the next day, a reporter asked, “Is that to be off the record?” Yes, replied Salinger. “Is
that open to us?” a reporter asked. “No,” said Salinger. But he suggested they check with the State
Department: “I don’t suppose, just between us, it really makes any difference.” Notes, 24 April 1961,
in Salinger Papers, White House Staff, Box 46, JFKL.

84. Roscoe Drummond, “Press Asked for Answers on Cuba Invasion Fiasco,” The New York Herald-
Tribune, 28 April 1961, p. 21.

85. Roberts, “Press Hears Top Brass,” p. A12.

86. Drummond, “Press Asked for Answers on Cuba Invasion Fiasco,” p. 21. See also “Reds Admitted
on Equal Basis at World Issue Briefings Here,” p. B4.



Presumably, he at least transmitted his information to the newspaper’s editors
(all of them acceptable in the eyes of the Polish Communist party). However,
for reasons unknown, Trybuna Ludu did not publish a story about the off-the-
record briefings. Whether the newspaper’s editors shared the notes with Polish
officials or passed them on to Soviet intelligence remains unknown.87

To complicate this element of the story further, Press Secretary Salinger
had engaged in efforts to improve relations with (and working conditions for)
foreign reporters based in Washington. This had an unintended but handsome
payoff, according to Salinger: high-quality intelligence from some of these
reporters covering the White House. As he later wrote in his memoir,

Very often, the first hint we had of important developments in foreign capitals
came from their correspondents. Even Communist reporters, especially, those
from Poland and Yugoslavia, were quite frank in discussing their government’s
intentions with White House personnel. In almost all cases, their tips were to
prove correct.88

Because Trybuna Ludu did not publish a story about the briefings, it is
unclear whether the Polish reporter passed along the content of his detailed
notes. Perhaps someone in the State Department or White House press office
successfully held the reporter to the rule that there could be no attribution of
remarks to any official who spoke.

Lingering Questions

Why was the two-day off-the-record briefing barely mentioned in U.S. news-
papers in the following days, and why has it gone unmentioned in history
books? A simple answer is: That is how it was supposed to be—the event was
off-the-record. But that is an unsatisfactory answer. Even in the years well be-
fore the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and Edward Snowden, significant leaks
frequently occurred in the press, even about matters supposedly concerning
national security. Kennedy and his immediate predecessor and successor, for
example, were chronically angry over such leaks. A better answer may also
be a simple one: The New York Times published no news stories or commen-
taries about the event. The New York Herald-Tribune and The Washington Post

87. My graduate assistant, Eric Swanson, worked with a person fluent in Polish in combing through
tdaily issues of Trybuna Ludu for approximately two weeks beyond the dates of the briefings. Al-
though a few stories mentioning Bay of Pigs appeared, there was nothing on the briefings at the State
Department auditorium.

88. Salinger, With Kennedy, p. 131.


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

published stories that (with the exception of the report by Roberts) indirectly
treated the event, and one such story made a front page. Syndicated news sto-
ries of similar vagueness appeared in newspapers around the country. But in
The New York Times there was nothing.

Why the newspaper abstained from any coverage is unclear. Certainly,
its editors knew about the event and noticed the limited coverage by others.
Grogan wrote to Dulles on the morning of 26 April,

Robert Whitney of The New York Times telephoned me last night. He said their
competitor, The New York Herald-Tribune, had just hit the streets and Warren
Rogers had a story which mentioned “CIA sources.” This, he said, was a viola-
tion of the agreement of those covering the State Department two-day briefing,
and he asked if The New York Times might now say that Allen W. Dulles made
the statement. I told him I could not do that; that Mr. Dulles was a guest of the
State Department, accepting an invitation to the briefing under certain ground
rules that had been accepted by the press and by Mr. Dulles; and that therefore
we in the CIA were not in a position to say that these rules now, after the event,
could be changed.89

Not being allowed to describe remarks by, or attribute them to, Dulles, The
New York Times chose to publish nothing about the briefings.

Politicians and working journalists in Washington widely agreed that The
New York Times was the country’s best and most influential newspaper; it
was the “standard setter” to which other journalists and editors (both print
and broadcast) in Washington looked most regularly.90 This was based on the
(perhaps imperfect) assumption that The New York Times was guided only by
“substantive and quality considerations” in its journalistic choices.91 “If The
Times did not exist, it would probably have to be invented,” Herbert Gans

The two officials in the Kennedy administration most focused on the
matter of influential news outlets were Salinger and the president himself. In

89. Grogan to Dulles, 26 April 1961.

90. Herbert Gans, Deciding What’s News: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek,
and Time (New York: Pantheon, 1979), p. 180. Some reporters took this to an extreme. Salinger later
wrote (With Kennedy, p. 133) that some foreign correspondents were supposed to cover “government
events in Washington DC and the United Nations at the same time. Because of limits on their time .
. . they frequently carried out their tasks by rewriting the morning editions of The New York Times.”

91. Gans, Deciding What’s News, p. 180. Richard F. Shepard, The Paper’s Papers (New York: Times
Books, 1996), pp. 5–6, makes similar points.

92. Gans, Deciding What’s News, p. 181. The Washington Post was the second most influential, Gans
wrote. His research was conducted especially in the mid-to-late 1960s, with follow-up research in the
mid-1970s. In the latter decade The Washington Post was widely thought to rival The New York Times,
reputationally, for its political news coverage.



the press secretary’s words, “The New York Times has long been recognized
as America’s greatest daily newspaper. No top policymaker in Washington,
DC starts his day without reading The Times.”93 Some White House staffers
thought Salinger and Kennedy paid too much attention to The New York
Times, but the press secretary later wrote, “I’m still willing to bet that from
now into infinity, it will continue to be the first newspaper our Presidents
glance at every morning and its reporters will continue to receive the red carpet
treatment at the White House.”94

Even though Kennedy often was irritated by coverage in the Times, he
agreed with Salinger about the newspaper’s special status. Once, when the
president met with his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (FIAB) to dis-
cuss a damaging leak to the paper, he seemingly agreed with the comments of
Clark Clifford (the FIAB member closest to the president), who urged the ad-
ministration to reach out to the newspaper’s publisher. “There’s only one New
York Times,” Clifford said, adding that every other newspaper in the nation
subscribed to it.95 Similarly, after the grim encounter with Nikita Khrushchev
in Vienna in June 1961, Kennedy told his aide Kenny O’Donnell, “I’d like to
get across to the people at home the seriousness of the situation, and The New
York Times would be the place to do it.”96 (The president thereupon spoke
frankly to the prominent Times reporter James Reston, who wrote two front-
page news articles and two opinion columns on Kennedy’s difficult meet-
ing with Khrushchev.)97 Kennedy’s estimation of the paper’s influence was

93. Salinger, With Kennedy, pp. 116–117.

94. Ibid., pp. 116–117. The New York Times achieved this status through “excellence,” he said. The
Washington Post was the other most influential newspaper, in Salinger’s view.

95. Timothy Naftali, Ernest May, and Philip Zelikow, eds., The Presidential Recordings: John F.
Kennedy, Vol. 1 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001), p. 201. Clifford added, “It’s considered gener-
ally to be the most influential.”

96. Kenneth O’Donnell and David Powers, “Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye:” Memories of John Fitzgerald
Kennedy (Boston: Little, Brown, 1972), p. 298.

97. Reston wrote that Kennedy had “come out of it very well.” See James Reston, “Vienna Talks End,”
The New York Times, 5 June 1961, p. 1. The analysis was less positive in James Reston, “Kennedy
is Firm on Defense Aims,” The New York Times, 6 June 1961, p. 1; James Reston, “How President
Kennedy Hurt His Aching Back,” The New York Times, 9 June 1961, p. 32; and James Reston, “Old
Rocking Chair’s Got JFK at Last,” The New York Times, 11 June 1961, p. E10. Reston’s front-page
news article of 6 June said Kennedy “approached the conversations thinking he knew what to expect.
But nevertheless, he was astonished by the rigidity and toughness of the Soviet leader.” His column on
9 June joked that the cause of the president’s well-known back troubles was the Vienna encounters with
Khrushchev. Reston’s accounts remain more influential in shaping published histories of the meeting
than Kennedy might have wished. Among other things, the president blurted out that Vietnam was
“the place” to show Khrushchev that the United States was tough. But Reston did not mention the
Vietnam remark in his 1961 newspaper accounts. He included it in his Deadline: A Memoir (New York:
Random House, 1991), p. 291. O’Donnell thought Reston’s news articles and columns exaggerated


The Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Off-the-Record Briefings

perhaps too great. He later told the publisher that he wished the newspaper
had printed stories that had revealed in great detail what the U.S. govern-
ment was about to do at the Bay of Pigs. The newspaper’s editors instead
had suppressed significant details in their reporters’ stories, out of national
security concerns. “I wish you had run everything on Cuba,” Kennedy told
Orville Dryfoos.98 That, he said, might have induced him to cancel the entire

Arguably, if The New York Times had published a story similar to that
of Roberts in The Washington Post—describing the two days of off-the-record
briefings, the participation of the president and his chief foreign policy ad-
visers, and their pessimistic and finger-pointing moods—other newspapers
would have followed their lead. Such a story in The New York Times might
also have led scholars in subsequent years to search out the event, learn more
about it, and describe it as fully as possible. Perhaps, well before the 21st cen-
tury, they would have discovered or demanded the declassification of the part
of the transcript with Rusk’s remarks at the National Archives and the other
part of the transcript with the president’s remarks at the Kennedy Library.

The near-complete silence of the 200-plus journalists who attended the
briefings is perhaps the most remarkable feature of this story. However, the
two recently discovered portions of the once-complete transcript are also his-
torically significant. Although they do not fundamentally alter our under-
standing of what happened at the Bay of Pigs, they are the only surviving
extended remarks made by Rusk and Kennedy (including replies to ques-
tions) explicitly analyzing the event shortly after it occurred. The secretary’s
remarks give verbatim contemporaneous confirmation of what was plausibly
rumored—that Rusk blamed the failure at the Bay of Pigs on bad intelligence.
Similarly, the presidential transcript shows Kennedy simultaneously claiming
that he would not assign blame, even as he implied that the Bay of Pigs failure
was rooted in either bad intelligence or bad military strategy. He spoke about a

Kennedy’s grim, even fragile, mood. O’Donnell and Powers, “Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye,” pp. 297–

98. Kennedy later told a New York Times reporter, Tad Szulc, that he did not really believe this claim,
but there is no doubt he made it. The story is recounted in many places, among them, Harrison
Salisbury, Without Fear or Favor: The New York Times and Its Times (New York: Times Books),
pp. 151–163; and Shepard, The Paper’s Papers, p. 188. The two accounts have Kennedy saying this
to different New York Times editors. Also, Salisbury writes (p. 158) that the president told Turner
Catledge that although certain other newspapers had printed details about the impending incursion
at Bay of Pigs, “It was not news until it appeared in the Times.” As Gay Talese wrote in The Kingdom
and the Power (New York: World Publishing, 1969), pp. 5–6, 23, Clifton Daniel, by then managing
editor of The New York Times, gave a speech in 1966 describing this incident. The “presumption that
the mere printing of words in The Times could stop a military invasion” was a “notion acceptable to
many people who respect The Times’s persuasive power in Washington,” Talese wrote.



“good many able people, with long military experience and all the rest” being
wrong but never once suggested he himself was to blame.99

Maybe, just maybe, some enterprising researcher will yet find the rest of
the transcript, with comments by more than a dozen other members of the
administration, including Dulles, if indeed that document still exists.

99. Untitled transcript, 25 April 1961.


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