Douglas P. Horne is a former staffer for the Assassination Records Review Board and the author of several books, including Inside the Assassination Records Review Board. In this episode of Failed State Update, J.G. Michael and Horne discuss Operation Northwoods, the Pentagon's (very real) plan to down aircraft, blow up ships, or possibly kill American civilians as a pretext for an invasion of Cuba. President Kennedy, wisely, thought the whole thing was nuts and prevented it from happening.
Northwoods is a bit of a history lesson, but it's an important one. It exemplifies the lengths that the military may go in order to get its way. And as conspiracies go, it's as bizarre as anything Alex Jones has cooked up. And it's all real.
J.G.'s other podcast, Parallax Views: https://parallaxviews.podbean.com/
Failed State Update newsletter: http://lennyflatley.substack.com/
The DIY Predator Catchers of Erie, Pennsylvania (article mentioned in the intro): https://roundtable.io/failed-state-update/reports/diy-predator-catchers-erie-pennsylvania
This is a rush transcript. Refer to the podcast audio when quoting.
DOUGLAS HORNE: In 1992, after a lot of debate, the Congress enacted a law called the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act. And it's a mouthful. So the short version of that is the JFK Records Act. And that was after debate finally passed in October of 1992. Now there's two things I would mention about the background. But the immediate stimulus for that act for the government to release records that were still classified about the assassination, was the Oliver Stone movie, JFK, which had, on the one hand, energized activists and independent JFK assassination researchers into saying, hey, somebody finally told the truth, we had a coup in this country. And of course, it really angered the establishment. And so the the motivation of I would say, most of the people in Congress who supported the JFK Records Act, their motivation was not the same motivation that JFK researchers had for supporting the act.
FSU: They were more interested in transparency. And that's what they claimed was the reason.
DOUGLAS HORNE:They wanted apparent transparency in government. And they thought that the release of previously classified records would kill and destroy many assassination conspiracy theories. So people like John Glenn and David Boren, both senators have from different sides of the aisle, they both supported the act because they thought it would put to put to the death ridiculous conspiracy theories, and that openness in government was in general, a good thing.
FSU: So it sounds like there may have been a tension between people who believed that there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, and people who were mainly interested in the documents being released, for reasons of, you know, opposing government secrecy. Do you think in the end, both sides sort of came together in a positive way?
DOUGLAS HORNE: Yes, there was tension. Actually, there was a lot of tension on between certain members of the staff. The staff was small, it was 25 people or less at various times. So there was tension. But the board members were so aggressive in releasing records, that ended up not really mattering that much, what their personal beliefs systems are, what their biases were when they came to their job as board members. Because they allowed us to do the depositions, to play in our sandbox. That's me and the general counsel, Jeremy Gunn, they allowed us to do the medical deposition, they allowed Jeremy Gunn to do, I think it was at least three, Mexico City/CIA depositions. So they allowed us to do things to clarify the record. We were not empowered, we were not empowered by the law, by the JFK Records Act, to come up with new findings of fact, or conclusions about the assassination. And because we were not allowed to do those things, they're really, we were able to come together, because the review board members wanted to aggressively release as many records as they could, within the terms of the law, the JFK Records Act.
You remember, this was the first exercise in citizen review of government classified records, where the final decision on declassification would be done by a panel of private citizens and their staff, not by the agencies themselves. So this was a groundbreaking exercise. And so everybody, on the staff, I think, was satisfied with the records that the board decided to release. And I don't know of anybody that had serious heartburn that the board redacted a few records here and there, you know, upheld redactions, because it was always related to sources and methods. It was never related to embarrassment of an agency or anything or withholding the story of what happened. It was not none of that. It was nothing withheld for that. For those reasons. There are four or five of us who were intensely curious about all the conflicts in the record, the whole case is filled with conflicts. Which evidence do you believe the most? Which evidence do you discard as being unworthy of belief? So there were conflicts among staff members, and some of the staff members thought we were making mistakes to take depositions of medical witnesses and CIA witnesses years later, but they lost and the board members approved those actions and the executive director and the General Counsel approve those actions. So some of those sour grapes people left and the end the FBI, the board members, and the staff ended up working together pretty well. And we did come together to release the maximum of what we could release into, find the maximum of what was there to find.
FSU: I think this really was a milestone the AARB. And I guess, getting into the Northwoods documents say, I guess where I want to start is, how did the AARB decide what would count as as a record that should be released?
DOUGLAS HORNE: Over the course of my first year on the staff. Remember, I was there for years two, three, and four. Jeremy Gunn, who is the head of research and analysis, of all the analyst on the staff. And most of the staff were analysts — about two thirds of us. There were four teams. I was on the military team, there was a CIA records team, there was an FBI records team, and the fourth team was all others. All others included Secret Service, US Information Agency and other things. So those people from those teams and Jeremy Gunn cobbled out letters that we would send to different agencies saying, we define an assassination record this way, you have already turned records over to the archives starting in 1993. But we think your searches were very narrow and weren't broad enough. So this is how we define an assassination record. And we want you to reconstruct all your searches, and submit records, having cast a broader net, either to the archives, if you release them in full, or if you want to withhold some of them, you have to give them to us. And we will make the final decisions on what gets released and what doesn't. So in my case, in the case of the Pentagon, I and two other people on military records team worked with Jeremy Gunn to set the criteria that we gave to the Pentagon, the office of Secretary of Defense General Counsel, we set the criteria for their search. And they did probably less than any of these agencies in the first year, they hadn't done anything. And then that was before I showed up and then even half halfway into my first year.
The Pentagon wasn't forthcoming with anything — I don't think they took it seriously. That's unacceptable for two reasons. One is that, you know that the accused assassin, what most researchers view as the "patsy," just what he said he was, was in the military and then defected to the Soviet Union, and then came back and wasn't prosecuted. So his records would have been great importance. And then the autopsy is a military autopsy on the body of the deceased president. And there are so many questions on the autopsy that I just can't go into them today. I mean, it's the biggest mess I've ever seen in my life. So that's two reasons right there to want the military to come forward with records. Also, because as senator, Schweiker was on the Church Committee, in the Senate, in the mid-1970s. And remember, the Church Committee came right before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. So it's the Church Committee that revealed CIA plots to kill foreign leaders, especially Castro. It's the Church Committee that revealed CIA working with the mafia to kill foreign leaders, especially Castro. And so one of the members of the a subcommittee on the Church Committee, Senator Schweiker of Pennsylvania, said that Oswald, the former defector and accused assassin had the fingerprints of intelligence all over him. So that's another reason why you want the Pentagon to be responsive. So what we told them, we cobbled together this massive letter and we hand delivered it in person over to the Pentagon in 1996. Saying, sorry, we don't think you've been responsive yet. And these are the elaborate criteria we've set up for you and handed them the letter — they had 19 people are in that room. Unbelievable. We had four. So we were out numbered, but we had the law on our side and our General Counsel and head of research, Jeremy Gunn made the presentation so they had to listen to him. Because he's talking to other lawyers, they had to listen, and he citing the law the whole time. So we told them any records relating to Oswald, of course, we want them. We will want service records of a lot of people that had contact with Oswald when he was in the Marine Corps, which we got. We told them in general, anything related to Cuba policy, from 1960, to '64, or to Vietnam policy from 1960 to '64, we will define as an assassination record, because under certain biases or interpretations of history, those records could be considered, quote, reasonably related, unquote, to the assassination. If the President was not killed by a lone nut, then those policies could be reasonably related to his death. So we expanded the definition of an assassination record.
FSU: A lot of the documents you're getting from this relate to foreign policy towards Cuba, as you said, and also the just the Vietnam era in general. So regardless, outside of the assassination, we're learning a lot about foreign policy history that we didn't know before the AARB.
DOUGLAS HORNE: I would say the biggest record on Vietnam that was uncovered was the full meeting minutes, or, you know, over 200 pages of [...] the Secretary of Defense conference on Vietnam, held in Saigon in May '63. So all we had, up until this time as historians, was a three-and-a-half or four page summary of what happened at a conference written by a Navy Rear Admiral. So we were able to get the Pentagon to turn over to us the complete set of meeting meeting minutes. And that really fleshed out that previous summary, and proved that, you know, as of May '63, McNamara, on behalf of the President, is telling the people at this meeting, we are going to pull all of our forces out by the end of '65. And we are going to pull out 1,000 men by the end of this year. And of course, Kennedy didn't give that formal order as an order, until October of '63.
But McNamara is telling them this at the meeting, and getting the full set of minutes confirmed what other people had said — confirmed that as a fact. So that was an important Vietnam document. And then on Cuba, it was a gold mine. More documents than you can ever imagine about dirty tricks, covert operations, economic warfare, psychological warfare, and then this monster that was in the closet and nobody knew anything about called Operation Northwoods, which is, it's probably a good time to launch into how that was generated back in 1962, because it's a March 13, 1962 letter. It's a 12-page letter sent from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer, probably Kennedy's biggest opponent in the Pentagon. They hated each other. Not only personally, but for reasons of policy. I mean, that's what led to them personally not liking each other, was the policy disagreements. So it's a cover letter with tall pages of attachments sent on March 13, 1962. From Lyman Lemnitzer to the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.
FSU: I want to note, just for further clarification, this is how we got the the document about Operation Northwoods. It was the AARB. And I note that because I've seen a lot of people say, Oh, this first came to light because of the investigative reporter James Bamford. And I'm not dismissing him for his work at all. But it actually is because of the AARB. I mean, Bamford reported on it later on, but the AARB were the ones that got us this document released.
DOUGLAS HORNE: I think he was the first author to talk about them in a book. But I don't think he gave us adequate credit. It was like buried in a footnote or something. And what happened was, I'm on the military records team. Later, my boss departed a year and a half into my three year stay. And I was kicked upstairs to become the head of the military records team... We were seeking records from the Air Force, from the Navy. And when I say Navy, I mean Office of Naval Intelligence, from the Marine Corps, since Oswald was in the Marine Corps and a lot of his buddies were. And the Air Force. And perhaps most important, the Pentagon itself.
Now, the record keepers at the Pentagon are called the Joint Staff Secretariat. And that's who I was dealing with. And that's where I got the Northwoods file from, and also those Vietnam meeting minutes that I mentioned. So, you know, there's the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and then the Joint Chiefs at the head of each service, and that they're established formally by the National Security Act of 1947. Underneath them, the outfit that does all the staff work for them, is called the Joint Staff. And the Joint Staff had many, many people on it to do all kinds of staff studies, you know, contingency war plans, and you name it. I mean, if we wanted a scenario studied ahead of time, they would do the staff study. What if we went to war with this country or that country? How would we go about it? You name it. There are probably more than 200 officers on that staff. So the Joint Staff Secretariat, a group of record keepers, maintain the records, the historical records of the Joint Staff, and other Joint Chiefs.
So those guys, in response to our large omnibus letter to the Pentagon's General Counsel, they brought forth one day, to me, I was the tip of the spear, because I was the head of the military records team, they brought forth the Northwoods file, and it was really thick, it was about an inch and a half thick. [It contained] the whole story that preceded the sending of that 13-page letter to McNamara in March. The whole story from January and February and early March, all the backup studies that went into that 13-page letter. And so they provided this to me, and I was just really pleased with their forthcomingness and their willingness to comply with the law.
I'll just tell you this short story about how we got to declassified so fast, how we were able to release it that same year to the public. Normally, each agency would review the records that they have equities in, in other words that they have an interest in, one at a time. So normally, this pile of records would have been reviewed by the CIA, and they might have taken four months to do it, since they didn't have much of an input into these records. But the Army and the Joint Staff might have taken a year to review them. And the Navy would have taken their own sweet time. So we came up with a concept of, my boss did, the executive director, let's have joint declassification sessions and force these people to come to our office and do a round robin declassification session where they're all sitting in the same room. They can share insights, and "oh, yeah, we don't object to this." Okay. "Well, we don't either," or "we don't like this. It's embarrassing, but we we have to release it because the the JFK Act says we have to release it. We can't withhold it just because it's embarrassing." So and then there were just a few things that were not released from the Northwoods file, and they pertained to ... what we would take out if we went to war with Cuba then. In 1997, those kinds of things they considered still current. So they weren't going to let us you know, release that part. But anything relating to the planning of these shenanigans back in '62, they had to release. So anyway, the Joint Staff Secretariat got the highest marks for cooperation of anybody within the Pentagon structure, and they were commended by me in my book, and they should still be commended today. Because those civil servants were really very honorable men.
FSU: What was the document itself and what was contained in it? Just for listeners that don't know.
DOUGLAS HORNE: The document is entitled Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba. That's the title of the document. And the document consists of pretexts for war. As soon as you hear the word pretext, you better have a couple of red flags going up. Because a pretext is all lie, it's an official lie upon which to base future action. So the letter that Lemnitzer sent to McNamara was very clear that we're responding to requests for pretexts for military intervention in Cuba, to go to war with Cuba. And so before I get into what those juicy tidbits were — I mean, they're really alarming and embarrassing for our country. But here's what here's what happened at the time.
In January 62. there was a man named General Lansdale of the Air Force. He was the Operations Officer for a covert action committee called Operation Mongoose, and anybody who's studied Cuba policy and '61 and '62 or the Kennedy assassination, they know about Operation Mongoose. And it was basically an attempt to bring down the Castro regime, to institute regime change from within Cuba through two things, and two things only. Economic warfare and sabotage and psychological warfare. Mongoose did not include assassination of Fidel Castro. That's something the CIA was planning on its own independently. So Mongoose was about economic warfare through sabotage, and psychological warfare. That's what it was about. And the Operations Officer for Mongoose was two star general US Air Force General Ed Lansdale, who a lot of people have described as CIA in an Air Force uniform. Now, previous to this, Lansdale had been an advocate of US military intervention in Vietnam in 1961. He was one of the people strongly advocating that Kennedy send combat troops to Laos and Vietnam in '61. And when Kennedy said, No, I'm not sending combat troops to Laos, it's a landlocked country, we can't supply the troops. It would be a disaster. Then Lansdale really began ratcheting up the pressure. He and Walt Rostow and the National Security Council, and others, and the Joint Chiefs wanted combat troops in Cuba in '61. Well, Kennedy resisted all this pressure. And in November '61, he issued NSAM 111. This is important now because it tells you why Lansdale was transferred from one job to another.
So on November 22, '61, Kennedy decides no combat troops to Vietnam. I'm going to increase the number of advisors dramatically, and the amount of equipment we send, but there will be no combat troops. And JFK never changed his mind about it. But what happened was a lot of people got fired during the Thanksgiving Day Massacre in '61. Once the Vietnam policy debate was settled, a lot of people in the NSC got reassigned to the State Department and a lot of hawks in the State Department got reassigned to less important jobs in the State Department. So one of the people that got canned was Lansdale, this hawk on Vietnam who wanted combat troops in Vietnam. So he was given a Cuba sandbox to play in, unfortunately, by the President and his brother, which was a bad decision. But anyway, they let him play in a Cuba sandbox now, and they made him the Operations Officer for Mongoose. His charter was only economic warfare and psychological warfare. Well, John Newman has written about this — professor John Newman, who is writing a series of books about the Kennedy assassination. You know, John Newman is a former Army intelligence officer. He was once the executive assistant to the director of the NSA. And he's a cryptologist by trade. So his third book on the Kennedy assassination, called Into the Storm, explains the following: General Landsdale on Mongoose was working secretly with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Lymon Lemnitzer who also I mean, Lemnitzer wanted to invade Cuba. He had wanted us to bail out the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. And then given Kennedy really deceitful advice about, that lied to the president in '61, and said, yeah, the Bay of Pigs has a fair chance of success, when of course it didn't.
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So, Lemnitzer really wants to invade. So he's working back channel with Lansdale. And he gets Lansdale to request staff studies be done by the Joint Staff. So this is what happens in January. Lansdale, who's now in a Cuba sandbox, starts sending requests to the joint staff to do staff studies on Cuba. And the first one was on January 17. This is background. And he says, I want policy statements on Cuba. What kind of a threat is it to the United States? And what should our policy be toward Cuba? So he requests that in on January 17. And they don't answer it until March the 7th. But we know from various papers in the paper trail, he's working with them throughout the entire month of February, on this stuff that became Northwoods. As John Newman wrote in his volume three, Ed Lansdale became a stalking horse for Lemnizter to advocate an invasion of Cuba, through the Mongoose committee. That wasn't supposed to be what Mongoose was doing. But anyway, the joint staff had these requests from Lansdale to do the staff studies. And the big requests came very late in the game after they'd already done all this stuff work, on March 5th, 1962. On March 5, Lansdale makes it official, saying "I'm tasking the joint staff. I want to know what pretexts you can come up with for American military intervention in Cuba, to justify an invasion." And they turn around and issue this big letter to McNamara...
FSU: Newman's basic thesis is that Kennedy was being deliberately lied to.
DOUGLAS HORNE: Yes. And that important information, precursor knowledge [about the Cuban Missile Crisis] was being withheld from him, and yet the Joint Staff is sharing it with Lansdale, when they respond to him on March 7. If you go to the letter, the 13-page document, it's a cover letter with 12 pages attached, that the National Security Archive put up online. If you Google that Northwoods documents, you'll see that near the end of the document, the Joint Chiefs were told by the Joint Staff that there's not going to be a naturally occurring uprising in Cuba for nine to 10 months at least, there's no chance of an internal uprising. And therefore, a provocation is necessary to justify military intervention. In other words, we can invade to support a naturally occurring insurrection, because there won't be one. So we need to develop a provocation.The rest of the letter is the provocation. So some of these outrageous concepts that the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually put in writing, they got it from their joint staff, who had been working on it for at least a month, maybe a month and a half, at the request of Lansdale through the backdoor.
Here are some of the provocations: One is to sink a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame it on the Cubans, actually sink a ship. It didn't say whether it would be an old warship or a cargo ship, or what. But the Navy has a lot of auxiliary ships that are cargo ships. And we had a lot of older destroyers. So it could have been a cargo ship or a destroyer sink a US ship and Guantanamo Bay. Blame it on the Cubans.
FSU: An actual false flag.
DOUGLAS HORNE: Yes. You know, this is the ultimate false flag operation, all of this. And they even called it a "Remember the Maine" incident. Of course, it's the explosion of the battleship Maine's forward magazine that that was used as the justification for the Spanish American War. At the time, the yellow press in America was blaming that on a mine, a floating mine by the Spanish...
One of the false flag things in the Northwoods papers was to dress friendly Cubans in uniforms of Castro's army and have them simulate an attack on the base. And then of course, they'd be captured. Right? And because they're friendly Cubans, you know, they'll say whatever we want in interrogation, blame it all on Castro. Another one was that they would set fires on the base, from the Cubans acting like Castro agents, set fires on the base, blow up ammunition dumps on the base, law lob mortar shells into the Guantanamo Bay base from outside. Cuban exiles in the United States, dressed in Castro uniforms and put ashore to do these false flag things. Another one that's false flag is the terror campaign, the terror campaign that was a real terror campaign that was to be launched in Miami, and other cities, possibly including Washington DC, and and what have included real attacks with bombs and gunfire, including the possibility of real wounding. And what was implied was the real killing the real wounding of real people. And that once again, Cuban exiles friendly to the US would be doing these attacks but when they're captured, they would be they would say I was a Castro agent. But they were gonna shoot and bomb people. And then blame it on Castro. Well, that might have incited a war for you. And another one was to shoot up a boatload of refugees on the on the way to the United States — really shoot them up, kill them, trying to escape from Castro's Cuba, and blame that on Castro's navy.
So the three that were maybe the most sophisticated really bothered me. One was to paint an F-86 Korean War era fighter jet like a MIG. In other words, put Cuban markings on the wings and the tail of the Cuban Air Force and have that thing simulate attacks on a U.S. airliner filled with real passengers. Simulated attacks probably meant making strafing runs on the airliner and firing blanks, but I think that was really a stupid one, because people on airplanes have cameras. And if anybody had taken a picture of an F-86 jet, that's the jet flown in the Korean War by John Glenn and by Buzz Aldrin, for example. And if you've seen the movie The Hunters with Robert Mitchum, probably your young audiences never heard of that movie, but they alsom show the F-86. And so the MiG at the time was similar in appearance, but not the same, just similar. So that would have fallen apart. As soon as somebody developed a photograph of this plane, somebody would have said, that's, that's not a MIG, that's an American jet.
The one that was the most disturbing was to hire a company that's a CIA asset who owns an airliner. So apparently, there were such things because the plan says, seek out a CIA controlled asset, a company that owns a real airline. We're going to turn that airliner into a drone, which can be flown by remote control, and can be exploded in the air by a bomb without any people on it.
DOUGLAS HORNE: And we're going to take another airliner that's exactly the same kind of airplane and paint it so that it looks just like the one owned by the CIA front company. And we're going to load the fake airplane that's been painted to look the same with carefully selected passengers who are really all on the CIA payroll. And so both jets were to take off and rendezvous over the ocean south of Florida. Now remember, Cuba is 90 miles away from Key West. So they're going to rendezvous in the air. And then the one with the people in it, who just looks like the real airplane, it's gonna secretly land at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. And all the people who are gonna get off, nobody's gonna be killed. But the the real airplane owned by the CIA company, which has been converted into a drone is going to continue flying the flight plan, the flight plan was supposed to take the plane over Cuba, to somewhere else in Central America or South America, it would have a flight plan that would justify flying over Cuba. And then the tape recorder would con in the middle of the flight and say Mayday, mayday, we're being attacked by the Cuban Air Force, help us help us. And then the plane would be blown up over the mountains over Cuba by remote control. And this would be what have become a casus belli like the other ones, but maybe more dramatic than the other ones.
FSU: That seems like the most detailed of them all. Like, it seems like there was thought put into that
DOUGLAS HORNE: And it's the one that probably had the biggest likelihood of success because they were going to use the actual airplane owned by this airline. And the thing is, that would mean that all the serial numbers for the parts would have been, you know, there'd been an investigation by the NTSB or by some international air organization. The part numbers would have matched as Oh, yeah, this is authentic. The problem is there wouldn't have been any bodies in the crash site. That's the biggest problem with that scenario. But otherwise, it was entirely feasible of working the you would have had a radio broadcast from a tape recording, we're under attack, Mayday, mayday, Cuban Air Force attacking us, the plane would have blown up there would have been wreckage all over the landscape in Cuba. And and you would have had that verified by some international committee. And and then the fact that there are no bodies the US would probably the Cubans would say hey, there was no bodies, this was all dirty trick. And the US probably would have said all Castro just disposed of the bodies. And he didn't he didn't want to look bad, so he disposed of the bodies...
There was one other one I'll mention, and that was to have some F-101 Air Force fighters, a gaggle of them, five or six of them, fly close to the Florida Keys, north of Cuba, and there will be a tail end Charlie. The tail end Charlie pilot would be you know, a CIA pilot, CIA higher and he would drop back behind the other planes and he would claim over the radio I'm being attacked by Cuban aircraft helped me he helped me and then he would be flying so low he would drop off the radar scope. And he would go secretly land once again at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida must have been one of the CIA's favorite places. And then his the tail number on his airplane was going to be repainted. It would have a different ID marking on and then the submarine listen to this would actually surface the sounds like James Bond stuff just like the other one. A submarine would surface and deposit it airplane parts on the water that a few that would float perhaps. And and they would be found and they would be the evidence that this tail and Charlie was shot down by the Cuban Air Force.
A lot of thought went into this. They had the whole month of February to develop the staff study. So like I said, when Lansdale formally requested that the joint staff come up with these pretexts on March the 5th, that's why they were able to answer it a week later, because they had been working on this thing for more than a month. So to make a long story short, McNamara claimed years later, I don't know what to think about this, but he claimed not to remember receiving this bombshell letter from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It's ridiculous. It's absolutely absurd. It's the stupidest thing he's ever read when it was shown to him years later, so he certainly didn't approve of it. And three days later, after it was sent to McNamara, this letter, this concept of false flag and provocations to justify an invasion, was brought up in a meeting by Lymon Limnitzer, the man who signed the letter, the Northwoods letter, so he brought it up at a meeting with President Kennedy. And Lansdale was present taking notes of what was said at the meeting. And other people were the President, Maxwell Taylor. I think Bobby Kennedy was there. Those meeting minutes were released in 2005 by the archives. When this document was released, David Talbot published it in his book Brothers, I'm really glad he did, because it says that Lansdale brought up the subject of Northwoods. He didn't call it Northwoods. He says we have a series of actions we've planned that could stimulate US military intervention in Cuba, Mr. President, and the President said, I hope you're not talking about invasion, we're not going to do that. We're not going to invade Cuba. And he shot it down at the meeting in no uncertain terms,
FSU: And Lansdale's there for the meeting.
DOUGLAS HORNE: And he's there, Lansdale's there. And he records all this. And the memo gets released in 2005. And it's in Talbot's book, Brothers. So that's what the Northwoods documents are all about. And so, yes, it is an attempt by the US military to provoke aggressive war, to provoke it with our own people. To come up with pretexts for invading Cuba, that would justify the attack with the American people.
You got to remember what generation these people are from. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the senior members of the stuff. They're from the World War II generation. And they're from the generation that was incredibly frustrated by the stalemate in the Korean War. They hated that. They hated the fact that the Korean War was a stalemate, and that nobody won. We lost all those soldiers. We had this demilitarized zone, which still exists today. And there was no military winner or loser. And so they hated that. They wanted communism to be defeated on the battlefield. Some of the supporting papers for Northwoods indicate that their attitude was the existence of a communist regime in Cuba was inconsistent with the security requirements of the Western Hemisphere. It's just something they found completely intolerable and couldn't accept. And so that's why they believed in the provocation, and they thought, you know, as they indicated in their Northwoods papers, that once the provocation occurs a political decision will be made, and then the intervention will be launched. So that's what it's all about.
FSU: So I can see some people that would want to play devil's advocate saying, well, this just sounds like a zany CIA plot, and they just got some people to fly these ideas around, but they were never going to really seriously consider doing it. How do you respond?
DOUGLAS HORNE: Northwoods is not a CIA plot. This is a plot cooked up by the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. And it's approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the letter is signed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And let me tell you how serious they were about invading Cuba. Not only were they serious enough that they wanted to endorse these pretexts, but when Kennedy shot down the idea of these false flag provocations on March 16, at the meeting, the Joint Chiefs turned around on April the 10th and sent perhaps the most insubordinate letter they ever sent to President Kennedy. So they sent it once again to McNamara. But that means Kennedy saw it, believe me. The letter of April 10 said, we should invade Cuba now. And we should do it anyway. In other words, there were no more pretexts. And they repeated that the existence of the Castro regime in Cuba was inconsistent with the security of the Western Hemisphere. We need to do this invasion now, before all the current reservists that are on active duty are allowed to go home. And basically it says, you must act on this, and you must do it now. So that's the second push to invade Cuba in 1962. The first push is Northwoods, which would have given the administration justification of wrongs done to American citizens and wrongs done to American property. The second memo didn't give him a justification. It said, "you have to do this." And it implied to McNamara that if you guys don't do this, you're cowards. And in so many words, what it was implied was, you're foolish, and you're irresponsible, if you don't do this. And of course, the third attempt to invade Cuba that year was during the missile crisis, when the unanimous position of the Joint Chiefs, even though Lemnitzer was gone and replaced by Max Taylor, unanimous position of the Joint Chiefs was to bomb and invade Cuba. So they made three attempts that that year to get the president to invade Cuba. And the first attempt was Northwoods. So these guys were deadly serious.
FSU: Yeah. And I'm sorry, I said, they're the CIA. But I was thinking in terms of like what you said, it sounds like something out of a James Bond novel or movie.
DOUGLAS HORNE: It does sound outlandish, in hindsight, but they weren't joking when they sent the letter to McNamara on March 13. And that was preceded, you know, by a month-and-a-half of staff work. And after all, the man who asked for the staff studies was General Lansdowne, who opposed Kennedy on two counts. He wanted to send combat troops to Vietnam, and got taken out of the Vietnam sandbox in response to that, and put it into Cuba sandbox. And now he's stimulating behind the Kennedy brothers back. He's trying to get the joint chiefs to recommend doing this. And they did. But Newman documents in detail, I won't go into here — earlier this year in his PowerPoint presentations at the Future of Freedom Foundation's symposium online, that it was Lemnitzer using Lansdale as a stalking horse, to get him to ask for the studies. And then that allowed them to do the studies and to kick it up to the maximum level. So the background of all of this proves even more how serious they were.
I just want to tell your audience in case they don't know this, just a couple of simple facts. Remember, the Bay of Pigs was in April '61. And that was the Cuban exile invasion. Only 1,400 people — 1,400 young boys and young men and old men. What a joke, right? That's not a very large group of people. Invading Cuba is supposed to stimulate an internal uprising, which will take hold, and then overthrow Castro's regime. But the CIA figured out internally ... that there would be no internal uprising, Castro had control. He had infiltrated every organization that was anti-Castro. And the people that were against him had either already left Cuba and gone to the United States as refugees, or their organizations were infiltrated. So they knew that there wasn't going to be an internal uprising. And that same year. At a meeting of the National Security Council under Eisenhower, the NSC admitted that the only chance for this exile invasion to succeed is as a joint CIA-DOD enterprise. In other words, as a joint CIA paramilitary operation, this Mickey Mouse invasion by 1,400 people, followed up by a Pentagon invasion. But did they tell Kennedy this? No. They withheld from JFK and Eisenhower, they withheld from the incoming president and the outgoing President, the fact that there would be no internal uprising. And then, after Kennedy took office, the CIA proceeded to lie to him and say, there will be an internal uprising. And that's what this invasion will stimulate. It'll stimulate an internal uprising and Castro will fall. And we find out during the postmortem, you know, Max Taylor had been Chief of Staff of the Army in the late '50s. He was brought in by Jack Kennedy, right after the Bay of Pigs, to do a postmortem study on everything that went wrong. Because Kennedy was furious with himself for approving it, "how could I have been so stupid?" Et cetera, et cetera. But he was even more furious with the CIA for lying to him, and with the Pentagon for giving him bad advice. So Max Taylor discovered that the Pentagon never thought it would succeed, the Invasion of the 1,400 exiles. So they lied about it in a report to McNamara, which said it has a fair chance of success. But when they said "fair chance of success," that meant 30% success, 70% failure. So these guys lied and give bad advice to the President. And they cooperated and the CIA thought that the Bay of Pigs invasion would work.
The real thought of CIA Chairman Allen Dulles, his real thought, which he revealed later in interviews, was that he thought the President would devote whatever resources were necessary, so that the enterprise, the Bay of Pigs, would not fail. So that he wouldn't be embarrassed and the enterprise would not fail. So they all thought he'd go along and end up invading anyway, even though he said, he told these guys at the time, the US military is not going to invade Cuba, and we're not going to participate in this exile invasion. They didn't believe him, and they thought they could pressure him into doing it to bail it out. He refused. He chose embarrassment over getting sucked into a Cuban invasion, so that these guys were frustrated in '62. That they couldn't force the President, the young president in '61, to bail out the Bay of Pigs with an invasion up with the Marines and Navy airpower. They were really frustrated by the Korean War, frustrated by the Bay of Pigs the year before. And that's why you can be sure these people were deadly serious when Lemnitzer put his big, flamboyant signature on the Northwoods letter on March 13, and followed it less than a month later on April 10 with a recommendation that said to McNamara, you should invade anyway, minus any pretext we need to invade Cuba.
FSU: These are like the the ultra-hawks of the Cold War.
DOUGLAS HORNE: Yeah. The Joint Chiefs of Staff. A cadre of people in the CIA, who had dreamed up and supported the Bay of Pigs in the covert Action branch, Deputy Director of Plans. But the whole Joint Chiefs. So this was, you know, Northwoods was the first of three attempts on their part to get the President to invade Cuba with the US military. Because they knew that there wasn't going to be any uprising. And they knew that an exile invasion was not strong enough and had failed miserably in '61. So this was the only way to get rid of that government, through AN overwhelming US invasion. I take them very seriously. We can snicker years later at how some of these things sound James Bond-ish, but they were deadly serious.
FSU: There's people I've liked and had on the show that will, one of them being Noam Chomsky. You know, if you try to talk to Chomsky about Kennedy, he will not go there. He will say, Kennedy was cold warrior. But these arguments seem to point in favor of the thesis that an author we mentioned earlier in the program, John M. Newman had in his 1992 book, JFK and Vietnam. You know, it seems to confirm a lot of what Newman was saying in '92.
DOUGLAS HORNE: Chomsky hasn't kept up with a scholarship on Vietnam. He doesn't want to keep up. He's in denial. And so his little tiny book that he published, Rethinking Camelot ... It's the approach that people had the decade after Kennedy's death when they didn't know better. Which is to say, well, Kennedy was a cold warrior. And there was no reason that anybody would have killed him for his Cold War policies. Well, that's absolutely untrue. And Chomsky is in denial of that, and just doesn't want to admit that and doesn't want to stay current with scholarship. So there are many liberals in the United States today, who are psychologically incapable of believing that there was a coup in the United States in 1963. They don't want to believe that their beloved country and their beloved democracy was so badly broken in 1963 that key elements of the national security state would do away with a duly elected national leader, because they hated his foreign policy and didn't want to see him re-elected.