Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00
There are current reports suggesting that Iran is supporting Venezuela in the development of missile bases capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the mainland of the United States. While the State Department rejected the charges on May 21, 2011, saying that there was “no evidence to support this claim,” the chatter still continues. I hope that this is not another intelligence failure similar to the errors 49 years ago during the Cuban Missile crisis.
On October 22, 1962 President John F. Kennedy, in an address to the nation dealing with missile bases being in Cuba, said, “Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites are now in preparation on that imprisoned island.” Those remarks were not accurate based on my visit to the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in November of 1961 as Counsel to United States Senator Kenneth B. Keating.
It was in late November of 1961 that I landed in Cuba with a Congressional group. We were greeted by Rear Admiral E.J. O’Donnell who was in charge of the Guantanamo Naval Base. On the first night of our visit, Harry Dent and I were briefed by the Admiral as we took a perimeter tour of the Base.
Admiral O’Donnell outlined his views with regard to the Soviet Union’s military buildup in Cuba. Then, he hit us with a statement, which I will never forget. This is a quote from my memorandum to Senator Keating:
“Admiral O’Donnell also indicated that there is, in his opinion, conclusive evidence from intelligence sources that missile bases are being constructed in Cuba.” That statement was eleven months before President Kennedy’s October 22, 1962 address to the nation.
When I returned to Washington, I drafted a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, which Senator Keating signed. The letter had this request: “If any Intelligence reports have indicated that missile sites are under construction or have been completed, please state what steps the United States Government has taken to confirm or deny their existence.”
The answer from the Navy Department denied knowledge of any construction.
How could the Admiral in charge of the Guantanamo Naval Base tell me that there was “conclusive evidence … that missile bases were being constructed in Cuba” when the Pentagon denied any such intelligence?
The intelligence community did not properly evaluate and communicate evidence provided by political refugees from Cuba. There was also, at the time, a bureaucratic feeling that the Soviet Union would never introduce missiles so close to the United States.
Today, are we just assuming that Iran would not assist Venezuela in building missile bases capable of attacking the United States? Has our intelligence community taken a hard look at the geography where it is alleged that the bases are under construction?
In the current era of terrorism, the security of the United States demands that we have positive verifications of any possible attacks from overseas or at home. Venezuela, in my opinion, should receive the highest level of scrutiny.