INT: So, how difficult was it then dealing with the Kennedy brothers over this particular problem?
SH: I've never met either Kennedy brother. All I know is I felt the lash when it struck us, over and over again. It was very difficult. They did not understand that it takes time and effort to do a decent job, particularly if you want to find out what's going on in a country. And it even takes time and effort to plan for sabotage operations, even minor ones. They expected all this to be done with smoke and mirrors and it can't be done. It's gonna take time and people are going to get hurt on their side and on our side and on their side. the Kennedys were always pushing for immediate, immediate, immediate results and we could not give them immediate results. there was no way that you can plan this kind of activity on a schedule basis, in terms of how many agents you're going to recruit, either for intelligence purposes or for sabotage purposes, that takes a long, long time.
INT: It seems almost in some respects certainly the President was almost obsessing over Castro and Cuba, that it became so important. Why do you think that was?
SH: That's a good question. I've asked that question over and over and over again of a lot of people. I used the word obsession. I was at a recent conference dealing with the Bay of Pigs and Mongoose, run by the National Security Archive and Brown University and Arthur Slesinger Junior was present, as one of the participants on the conference, and he objected to my use of the word obsessed, that the Kennedy, both Kennedy brothers obsessed with Cuba. And my only solution or my only explanation for it, basically, is that maybe they learned something from their father which was, you know, don't get mad, get even. And it was the failure of the Bay of Pigs, which I think was the President's failure anyway, but anyway, it was that failure which made them so obsessed with Cuba. Fidel Castro has been there now over thirty-five years, we're still a country, he's still a country. We're... somehow we're alive and he's alive, the whole idea of Mongoose, after the Bay of Pigs, and even after Mongoose and after the missile crisis, the whole idea to me had nothing to do with the security of the United States. As long as the Russians weren't putting in missile bases or other bases or a submarine base and Castro was not doing the kind of propaganda as in throughout the Western Hemisphere, we've lived with 'em and so I can only say, and I said at the conference, that the Kennedys were obsessed. Arthur Slesinger Junior objected. obsessed, he says, was the wrong word. But there were also at this conference several survivors of the Bay of Pigs operation, the Cubans, and several Cubans who worked with us, even after the Bay of Pigs, in Mongoose and later on after Mongoose, and they all said, no, Sam's right, Arthur's wrong, obsessed is a good word, because these gentlemen had also talked directly... at least one of 'em had talked directly to Bobby Kennedy over and over again. and he said, yeah, obsessed is the right word. So, why, I don't know. And I asked Arthur Slesinger again, over and over again, if he and the rest of the White House staff thought that Mongoose was a nonsensical operation, which they did, and we did too. I said, why did you fellas continue pushing us on Mongoose? And he never had a decent answer as far as far as I was concerned anyway. His whole approach was that all the Kennedys wanted to do was to urge action on the part of the governmental structure and I said, no, obsessed is the right word and, as I say, the Cubans at the conference also said obsessed is the right word.
INT: That's very interesting. So leaping back slightly. The Bay of Pigs had been a fiasco, Wasn't it incredibly dangerous, you know, politically dangerous to be seen trying to destabilize a government? Was there a huge pressure to try and keep this quiet?
SH: Well, Mongoose itself became... it was a government-wide operation and people had to be specially cleared for it in each of the agencies. There were special Mongoose units in effect created and CIA was called Task Force W. that was Bill Harvey... the W was Bill Harvey's choice, but it was a task force. and people who were cleared for Mongoose knew about it. It's hard to keep quiet when you have a number of people, fifty, sixty or a hundred people running around collecting information and talking to people about doing more about Cuba all around the world. you don't keep it very quiand everybody knows you've got something going on and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what is actually happening. You don't know the details, but you sure know something's up. And, for example, when Bill Harvey came aboard, we sent a world-wide message to all of our stations and bases around the world telling 'em that as far as this government was concerned, and this President, that Cuba was number one priority, nothing else mattered. And that's what we told everybody. And it doesn't take long for everybody to suddenly realize they've got another Bay of Pigs or something on the way and so from the point of view of the opposition, the Soviets and Cuba, they must have heard about it too. They had good enough penetrations around the world, you can't keep this thing very quiet.
INT: Excellent answer. So what did Mongoose achieve?
SH: Mongoose didn't achieve a damn thing. the only good thing that came out of Mongoose, in my humble opinion, was the fact that we somewhere recruited an agent in Pienado, Rio Province, I never knew his name, I never knew his crypto number who reported that something strange was going on in an area bounded by four small towns in Cuba. And when you put... if you take a pencil and hook up these four towns with a pencil line, you find yourself with a trapezoid. And so it became known as a trapezoid area and that was the area we finally got the U-2 to be allowed to fly over it. the U-2 was doing reconnaissance, but in those days, before the missile crisis, the U-2s were limited to four flights a month and whoever interfered or mechanical failure interfered or whatever you could not save a missed flight in one month and add it to another month. You had a limit of four a month, no matter what happened. And so we finally were able, with the result of this one agent, the only decent result out of Mongoose, this agent told us there's something funny going on, I don't know, nobody else seems to know. They're just clearing the area of everybody, all living things, men, women, children, livestock's being moved out. And we got the report, I forget exactly, but it was disseminated on September the eighteenth of 1962 and it took between September the eighteenth and final flight was flown on October the fourteenth, it's almost a month, you had to fight bureaucratic problems. The State Department did not want flights over the island of Cuba. Peripheral flights were all right, as far as they were concerned, they didn't want over-flights, directly over the island, for very good reasons from their point of view. There had been a Chinese nationalist U-2 shot down over in China about that time, an American Ferret flight along Siberian area out of Alaska had been spotted and had trouble to get the plane out. So they were a little jittery and I don't blame 'em being jittery. but it took us, I think, ten days of arguing [clears throat] in front of COMOR, which is the Committee on Overhead Reconnaissance in this days, which had to approve all over-flights, and we in the task force couldn't actually ask for the over-flight because it was our information in the first place and looked like we were kind of just patting ourselves on the back or gilding the lily. And so the G-2 component in the military that was cleared for Mongoose, they came over [clears throat] and looked in our war room, that we had lot of maps and a light table, and they went over the information with our people. And they said, well, we'll ask COMOR for the over-flight, so you guys don't have to. 'Cos everybody was concerned about what is this agent talking about? [Inaudible] an area being cleared. We'd had other reports about long-range missiles and nobody believed them, nobody knew where or how, and so there were a few other reports, at least two we got from refugees at the debriefing center in Anopoloca, Florida, which added some information to that, but they came in later. And after ten days of arguing in front of COMOR, it was finally approved to have an over-flight over that particular spot. And then to make it even sillier there was a bureaucratic turf battle and CIA had to turn over its flight of U-2s to the air force, which was more responsible for U-2s anyway. And so the air force was responsible finally for flying the October fourteenth flight, which flew over the spot that this little agent had targeted. He didn't know he had targeted it, he had no idea what he'd reported and obviously once the pictures came back on the fifteenth, the photo interpreters were able to figure out what was going on and the reason they could figure it out was another reason and strategic intelligence is important. You have one little agent in Cuba who probably never even heard of Moscow, and you have an agent in Moscow, called Colonel Penkowski , a GRU officer wh