CIA Reveals 'Skeletons in the Closet'

"Family jewels" documents detail agency's shadowy past.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 3:25 PM

June 26, 2007 — -- The recruitment of mafia men to plan the assassination of Fidel Castro, the wiretapping and surveillance of journalists who reported on classified material, and the two-year confinement in the United States of a KGB defector -- those are just a few of the past CIA activities revealed in documents released Tuesday.

Known as the "family jewels," the 702 pages of documents detail acts committed between March 1959 and the early 1970s that raise questions about the legality of some of the CIA's activities. Initially compiled for Congress in 1973, the documents helped spur sweeping agency reforms.

In 1973 CIA director James Schlesinger sent a memo to all agency employees, directing them to report on "all activities undertaken that may have fallen outside the CIA's charter."

The files were released voluntarily by the CIA, albeit after numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. In announcing the release, current CIA Director Michael Hayden said last week that the documents "provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency."

"Much of it has been in the press before, and most of it is unflattering, but it is the CIA's history," Hayden said.

The documents trace the steps in an apparent failed plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

According to the files, Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent, was contacted, briefed on the mission and asked "if he could develop an entree into the gangster elements as a first step towards accomplishing the desired goal."

Maheu was asked to approach an acquaintance, Johnny Roselli, who was thought to be part of the "syndicate" that controlled all of the ice machines on the Las Vegas Strip. Maheu deduced Roselli's purported mob ties would include connections to Cuban gambling enterprises as well.

Maheu presented himself as an executive representing several clients who were losing money because of Castro's clampdown on the gambling industry, and therefore wanted the leader ousted from power.