In fact, let's cool it on Cuba. Robert Kennedy did the opposite. He was angry, and embarrassed that his brother had been embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs. So his response, when he saw this disaster, was not to hit, see a yellow light and slow down, or a red light and stop. It was to see a green light and hit the gas. He assembled, or had assembled, an immense covert operation.
Castro Assassination Plots?
ABCNEWS: Did these covert actions against Cuba include assassination plots against Castro?
Thomas: I think it's clear that when Bobby really took over the Cuba account in the fall of '61, they did consider assassination. They started talking about it, thinking about it. But Bobby never wanted to get too close to it. It's, in that realm of deniable. Things that policy makers don't want to know too much about.
So Robert Kennedy made a lot of noise about get them, get them, get this guy, get rid of this guy. And the CIA took that as an order to reactivate the Mafia plots. I don't think initially they told Robert Kennedy they were doing it. He found out later, through a series, almost Keystone Cops series of coincidences. He found out that they were doing it later. But I think initially they didn't tell. They did it because of the pressure he was putting on them, but to preserve plausible deniability, they didn't tell him about it.
ABCNEWS: Do you think President Kennedy knew of these assassination plots against Castro?
Thomas: I'm pretty convinced based on fragmentary and circumstantial evidence that President John F. Kennedy discussed assassinating Castro. He kind of uneasily went along with the idea that, but always had reservations. And one reason why was pushed down the ranks, and pretty well-hidden, was because he didn't want to know too much, and I think had qualms about it.
I think that, that there were glancing conversations, probably in the Oval Office, about getting rid of Castro. But I'm pretty sure that President Kennedy made it clear at the time that he was uncomfortable with the idea of assassination. He understood instinctively that it was a two way-street, and a dirty thing you shouldn't get into. I don't think he ever said don't do it. He didn't want to know too much, and it was a subject that made him uncomfortable. And it was a subject I think they kept away from him as much as possible.
Preserving JFK’s Image as Noble President
ABCNEWS: Why didn't Robert Kennedy play a greater role in the official investigation of his brother's death?
Thomas: It is a little odd that Robert Kennedy didn't help the government commission to find out who killed his brother, but there's several reasons for it. One is just denial. He didn't wanna know. His wound was too raw. But the bigger reason is that he didn't want the government poking around into what he, Robert Kennedy, had been doing. He did not want an official government investigation into Robert Kennedy's plots to get Fidel Castro.