- Revelations made by journalist Bill Deane in new book ‘Smooth Criminal’
- It tells story of alleged CIA spy and ‘one-man crime wave’ Dave Riley
- Claims criminals allowed on ‘crime sprees’ in US when not working for CIA
- Deane: ‘Riley was typical recruit: Intelligent, ambitious and without morals’
- While JFK did not order the programme, Deane says he was ‘aware’ of it
By MATT BLAKE
President John F. Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, a new book has claimed.
At the height of tensions between America and neighbouring Communist Cuba in the early 1960s, JFK was implicit in the freeing of rapists, drug dealers, and Mafia hitmen through CIA in a bid to recruit ‘untraceable’ spies willing to risk their lives on dangerous missions rather than go back to jail, a new book sensationally claims.
Desperate to remove Castro from power, the president resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’ as they couldn’t be linked back to his administration, it is claimed.
In one failed plot, an ex con was smuggled into Cuba in 1962 to pose as a waiter in Castro’s favourite restaurant where he would drop poison tablets into the revolutionary leader’s soup.
Height of the Cold War: Desperate to remove Fidel Castro, right, from power, President John F. Kennedy, left, resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’
The explosive claims come in a new book by veteran American Journalist and author William Deane, who claims specially-recruited criminals became ‘untouchable’ and were allowed to embark on ‘crime sprees’ in the US without fear of prosecution.
Deane, former assignment editor at American news networks ABC and CBS, says he uncovered the programme – which he believes is still in operation today – after following the ‘trail of destruction’ left by one such operative.
Though JFK did not order the setting up of the top secret programme, Deane says that as president Kennedy would have ‘been aware’ of it.
‘For over 50 years, the CIA and American government has been systematically releasing dangerous criminals back into society to work for them on secret missions overseas,’ said Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley.
‘The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro, and was given the seal of approval by JFK – who was still smarting following the political embarrassment of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961.
‘One man American crime wave’: The details of the plot were revealed by veteran journalist and author William Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal, right, details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley
‘Criminals were ideal operatives as they were ruthless and willing to risk their lives during missions rather than be sent back to prison. They also couldn’t be officially connected with the CIA so it didn’t matter if they were captured – there was no risk of America’s shady policies being exposed.
‘Riley was a typical recruit. Highly intelligent, ambitious and with no morals. The CIA sent him on many missions abroad, including to Cuba to assassinate Castro,’ added Deane.
‘Between missions he was allowed to do what he liked – which generally consisted of embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning and drug dealing – without fear of being arrested or prosecuted.’
Deane claims to have first encountered Riley back in 1961 while working as a DJ at a radio station in Miami, Florida.
Riley, then in his early 20s and with ambitions of being the ‘next Frank Sinatra’, had connections with the Mafia and used his connections to ‘persuade’ the radio station to play his records.
Though they lost touch, Deane next heard of Riley in April 1962 when working as a cub reporter for a Miami TV station – after hearing he had hijacked a plane to Cuba.
According to news reports, on Friday, April 13, 1962, Riley and an accomplice had forced pilot Reginald Doan at gunpoint to fly them to the communist island, where they planned to defect, only for the Cuban authorities to imprison them before sending them back to Miami.
Deane says he was contacted by Riley prior to the Black Friday Skyjacking trial and during that meeting revealed that he was working for the CIA and had been sent to infiltrate Cuba as a spy.
‘The skyjacking was just a smokescreen conjured up by the CIA after the mission went wrong.
‘Riley confessed that he’d been recruited by the intelligence agency while in prison for extortion of a public official back in 1960, and had been sent to Cuba to carry out a number of assignments – including one to assassinate Castro.
‘He had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there.’
Deane admits that at first he thought that Riley was a ‘fantasist’ and, after the criminal was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the skyjacking by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1964, largely forgot about him.
It was only after his retirement from CBS in 2005, when he started writing Smooth Criminal, that Deane discovered that Riley might have been telling the truth about the criminal operatives programme all along.
Deane traced Riley’s whereabouts from the time of the skyjacking trial onwards and found that far from serving his time in jail, he had apparently been back on the streets committing crimes within a matter of months.
The journalist uncovered over 40 newspaper reports of Riley’s various crimes in archives and gained further corroboration of his seeming invulnerability to prosecution after tracking down several of his victims.
He added: ‘Riley was a one-man crime wave who was allowed by the CIA, and indirectly the president, to consistently get away with his crimes in return for his occasional assistance.
‘In the late 1960s and early ’70s he went on undercover missions to Vietnam, Cambodia and other troubled South Asian countries, and back at home got away with embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning, drug dealing and sexual assault among other crimes.
‘He has left a string of victims across the USA over the last 40 years, but the police and FBI have been powerless to act because he is protected by the CIA. The agency maintains a policy of complete secrecy and doesn’t want to risk compromising operations by having one of their operatives involved in a public trial.
‘One unfortunate woman who came across Riley was swindled out of $20,000 – her life savings – and the deeds to several properties, but the police and Feds weren’t allowed to warn her, and weren’t allowed to stop him.’
Deane says that he has evidence of Riley living in New York in 2005, but after that the scene goes cold.
He claims requests for information from the FBI, CIA, Treasury and other government agencies were ignored and suspects Riley, now in his 70s, is either dead or has been placed into a Federal Witness Protection scheme to put him out of reach.
Deane says he doesn’t disapprove of America’s criminal operatives programme per se, but has written Smooth Criminal to warn the American public about the programme in case they become victims of ‘untouchables’ such as Riley.
He added: ‘America has lots of enemies and security has to be maintained if we are to prevent another 9/11 so I am not against a programme that helps protect the nation.
‘What I do object to is the CIA’s insistence on complete secrecy. The rationale that a few Americans have to suffer for the sake of 315 million is not acceptable.
‘It’s sad and pathetic that totally innocent Americans have lost virtually everything, including their homes and businesses, while the Feds stood by and did nothing but protect their released criminals.
‘The CIA should be capable of controlling freed criminals without exposing their clandestine operations, and if they can’t, should discretely warn potential victims to keep away from these people.’