My name is Lisa Pease. I am a citizen of the United States. For the past 20 years, I have been studying the history of my country’s covert activities around the globe. This began with a study of the Kennedy assassinations, but quickly broadened into a survey of various coups and assassination plots involving the CIA, both acknowledged and alleged.
In the course of my research, a set of files on a man named Bud Culligan was sent to me by fellow researcher John Armstrong. In these documents, which I have attached as Exhibit A to this statement, Culligan claims that, while working for the CIA, he was responsible for a number of “Executive Actions,” i.e., assassinations. One of the assassinations he claims he was responsible for was that of Dag Hammarskjöld.
Culligan claims that he intercepted and shot down Hammarskjöld’s plane on orders from his CIA case officer. From my own study of the Hammarskjöld case, I believed then and continue to believe, especially in the light of the new evidence reported by Susan Williams in her excellent volume Who Killed Hammarskjöld, that the best evidence indicates Hammarskjöld’s plane was indeed shot out of the sky.
I did not find the suggestion the CIA was behind such an act far-fetched, either, from my research. I wrote about Lumumba, the CIA, and Culligan’s claims about Hammarskjöld in an article in Probe Magazine titled “Midnight in the Congo: The Assassination of Lumumba and the Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjöld.” I have attached a copy of this article as Exhibit B. A great deal of mineral wealth was at stake in the Congo, and Hammarskjöld was one of the few supporters of Patrice Lumumba at a critical time. The CIA has since admitted its interest in removing Lumumba, although they have stopped short of admitting direct responsibility.
As you will note in my article, I think that the claim the CIA was not, ultimately, responsible for the death of Lumumba falls short of the truth, and that the evidence shows the CIA was about as directly involved as possible, given its method of using cut-outs – agents not directly linked to the Agency – to perform such tasks.
I was persuaded, upon reading the entire collection of documents attached as Exhibit A, that Culligan was telling the truth about having shot down Hammarskjöld’s plane, as well as his role in other events. Certainly, government officials appeared to have also been convinced, as these documents will show.
That said, there is one thing that Culligan says that appears not to be true. He named three people he said were shooters in the Kennedy assassination, and claims he killed them in 1965. The names he gives are:
• Manuel Buesa
• Jose Cardona
• Manuel de Varona
I believe he was referring to Manuel Artime Buesa, Jose Miro Cardona, and Manuel Antonio de Varona, aka Tony Varona. All three were involved with the CIA in anti-Castro plots and may well have been involved in the assassination of Kennedy at some level. But all three died at different times and places than what Culligan claims.
This makes sense to me, and actually adds to his credibility. I believe Culligan, like many operatives, was not telling the full truth, but giving the CIA a warning shot across the bow. I think he was naming people in a coded reference that anyone close to the JFK plot would recognize. I believe Culligan was, as he said several times in the attached letters, trying to protect the CIA to the extent possible while attempting to regain his freedom and win the retirement he felt he was owed. As he expressed several times in the correspondence that is attached, Culligan took no pleasure in exposing the Agency’s plots and his own role in those regards. He was willing to give up all the plots but the Kennedy case. That was his ace in the hole, or so he seemed to believe.
Typically, people make up such stories because a) they want notoriety, b) they want money, or c) they want both. In Culligan’s case, he was clearly motivated, as the exchange of letters attached as Exhibit A will show, by the hopes that threatening to reveal the CIA’s dark secrets could get him out of jail and put him back on his planned path to retirement. This, too, lends to his credibility.
I believe, from my 20 years of research, that the CIA was directly responsible for the deaths of both John and Robert Kennedy, which I have written about at length in the book The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X, a volume I also co-edited. I have also been published on this subject in several other outlets, and my articles have been sourced in the books of many others. Culligan’s mention of these assassinations, and his acknowledgment of Agency sponsorship in both cases, is consistent with my research.
All I know about Culligan is what appears in the attached correspondence and some additional information provided in a Steamshovel Press article, included as Exhibit C. In the Steamshovel Press article, Lars Hansson, whom I have talked to a couple of times over the years in the course of my research, fills in a few additional details about Culligan’s life. To my knowledge, and in my limited interactions with him, Hansson has never lied to me, so I trust his reporting in this piece. (By contrast, I have also met Gordon Novel, who also appears in this article, and he has lied to me and others, although he has also told me information that was both true and significant.)
In the March 5, 1976 letter in which Culligan describes how he shot down Hammarskjöld’s plane, Culligan mentions going to confession after Nasser. I don’t know what Culligan means by this – whether he is saying he killed Nasser (who reportedly died of natural causes) or whether Culligan knew or assumed that someone else had. (The CIA had weapons that could kill people and leave no trace. In a famous Church Committee moment, CIA Director William Colby introduced a dart gun that could cause someone to have a heart attack in a way that would be undetectable in an autopsy.) In any case, I think you will agree, as you read through all the correspondence, that Culligan seems sincere and credible. Again, I must stress, from my research, none of this is beyond the realm of plausibility when it comes to what the CIA did, especially under Director Allen Dulles.
You will see from the correspondence that Culligan’s material was referred to an Attorney General, a Senator, and ultimately, the Senate investigation of the CIA’s activities at home and abroad that became known as the Church Committee after its leader, Senator Frank Church. Clearly, others in high places had reasons to believe Culligan’s assertions were worthy of further investigation.
I feel compelled to note, as an addendum, that despite the press accounts to the contrary, which were spun in part by the CIA’s assets in the media, both the Church Committee in the Senate and the simultaneous Pike Committee in the House of Representatives believed that the CIA had, at times, acted as a rogue elephant, out of control. Indeed, a published account of the House Committee’s report opens with these words regarding the Committee’s experience investigating the CIA: “If this Committee’s recent experience is any test, intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congressional lawmaking are, today, beyond the lawmaker’s scrutiny.”
That said, under Eisenhower, two brothers ran the whole of the U.S.’s foreign policy, with John Foster Dulles at the head of the State Department and his brother Allen heading the CIA. During Eisenhower’s term, advisors created a report showing the CIA was running around overthrowing governments, and Eisenhower declined to take action. This report was presented to him yearly, yet Eisenhower either turned a blind eye or supported these measures. (This is described in historian Arthur Schlesinger’s book on Robert Kennedy.)
When Kennedy took office, he ordered his Ambassadors around the globe to rein the CIA in. This was a direct reversal of policy under Eisenhower, where the CIA was allowed to command the Embassy, not the other way around.
It’s particularly important to note that while CIA employees have said that Kennedy ordered the assassination of Castro, the declassified CIA Inspector General report on the Castro plots, which was classified at least in part until the late 1990s, states, unequivocally, that the CIA did not receive authorization from the Kennedys to kill Castro, and that the CIA had only briefed Robert Kennedy on plots that had ended, not on plots that were continuing. If the report was written to protect Kennedy, why was it kept secret until long after his death? It makes more sense that it was kept secret until the mythology that Kennedy had ordered Castro’s death was so ingrained that no release of a document would change that. And sadly, for the most part, it hasn’t.
As another example of CIA insubordination, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy ordered the CIA to stop running raids against Cuba. But these operations did not cease, and Kennedy eventually had to send the FBI to raid a CIA training camp in Louisiana to shut down some illegal operations regarding Cuba.
Similarly, the New York Times reported on April 28, 1966, that in 1962, Kennedy had learned that CIA agents had tainted a shipment of sugar leaving Cuba bound for the Soviet Union. Kennedy was furious and managed to prevent the sugar from reaching the Soviets. In other words, the CIA, despite a mandate to the contrary, ran operations ordered by people at some level under the President. They may have been following orders, but they did not come from the man at the top.
I say this to show that, although Hammarskjöld was killed during Kennedy’s presidency, there is evidence that the CIA was running around plotting assassinations and other illegal activities that were neither ordered nor sanctioned by President Kennedy. And after 20 years of reading a great bit about both Kennedy brothers, not only is there no hint they would ever have ordered a hit on Hammarskjöld, there is evidence that both were firm supporters of what Hammarskjöld was trying to do in the Congo. It would be a crime against history if the Commission were to blame the plot on Kennedy.
I’d be very wary of if any CIA agents came forward, at this late date, to claim that Kennedy was in any way involved. It was a high-level CIA officer named Sam Halpern who has polluted the historical record by telling people Kennedy was behind the Castro plots, something we only belatedly learned was false.
Additional miscellaneous notes:
• Exhibit A proved too large to transmit as a single file, so I have broken it into two pieces – Exhibit A Part 1 and Exhibit A Part 2.
• I do not know who Christopher Farrell is. Farrell works tirelessly, as these letters will show, on behalf of Culligan in his attempts to free Culligan from jail, efforts which ultimately proved successful, which also lends credence to Culligan’s claims. I can only assume he was a friend or associate of Culligan’s.
• Elliot Maxwell, mentioned within, was a staff counsel on the Church Committee.
• One man referred to is Lt. Gen. Clay Odum. I believe that the spelling of the last name should be Odom, not Odum.
• I believe, but have not confirmed, Roland Culligan died in Florida in September of 2010 in his 80s.
• A number of tapes were made of Culligan discussing these events. I do not have a copy nor have I listened to any of them.
• One of the attached documents mentions that Culligan indicated he was a “con man.” I’ve never met a CIA field operative who was not a con man. It’s an essential job qualification. You have to be able to convince people of things that are not true in order to perform that job.
• You can find a copy of the letter from Culligan to Jorge Hyatt that is dated December 6, 1975 or 1976 (I think 1976, from the content, but it’s hard to tell) at this URL on the Mary Ferrell site, (https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=107278&relPageId=24), where scans of many Church Committee and other government documents have made available. I believe you could find all of the documents in Exhibit A somewhere on that site, but the search feature is not at all perfect, so absence of evidence should never be construed as evidence of absence.
• I have included the “RIF” sheets – record identification forms – from the National Archives that were forwarded to me by John Armstrong. Most of these have no content attached, because many of the documents related to Culligan had not, at that time, been released. I suspect some of these additional documents may now be available. I moved all the RIF sheets for which I had no attachment to the back of Exhibit A. I had separated RIF sheets from the content when I first got these documents because at the time, I was pursuing my own personal interest in this case. It was only later, as I learned more, that I realized others may eventually need to be able to match up the content to the RIF sheets. I have tried to reinsert the RIF sheets in the proper position where possible. For the ones where I had no corresponding documents, I simply arranged them in chronological order. I apologize in advance if I have attached any to the wrong record.
This statement, dated December 9, is made to the Commission on the understanding that:
(a) It is accurate to the best of the maker’s knowledge and belief;
(b) It is made voluntarily, the Commission having no power to take sworn or affirmed evidence;
(c) It will be stored by or on behalf of the Commission;
(d) In due course it may be published or referred to in part or in whole by the Commission within or by reference to its report; and
(e) It will form part of an electronic and paper archive which will be passed to the United Nations or otherwise dealt with as the Commission in due course decides.
Signed: Lisa Pease