During the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s, Congress and the American people learned that the CIA, in partnership with the Mafia, conspired to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Ever since then, the U.S. mainstream media has poked fun at the various ways the CIA and the Mafia intended to kill Castro — e.g., via an exploding cigar or an infected scuba suit. In the process, however, the media has failed to ask a deadly serious question: Why weren’t the CIA and the Mafia ever indicted for conspiring to assassinate Castro?
Under U.S. law, assassination is considered murder. Anyone who assassinates another person is indicted and prosecuted for murder. That’s why, for example, that the accused assassin of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, was going to be indicted and prosecuted for murder. It’s why the assassins of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier, who killed Letelier on the streets of Washington, D.C., were indicted and prosecuted for murder. It’s why Mafia officials who have assassinated rivals or government officials have been indicted and prosecuted for murder.
Keep in mind also that we are talking about two separate crimes: murder and conspiracy to murder. The crime of murder involves the actual wrongful taking of another person’s life. A conspiracy to murder involves an agreement of two or more people to commit a murder. People can be convicted of conspiracy to murder even though they don’t actually commit the murder.
It’s not enough, however, in a conspiracy case for prosecutors to show only an agreement to murder. To secure a conviction, they must also prove that the conspirators committed what the law calls an “overt act” to advance the conspiracy. If two or more people simply agree to commit a murder but commit no overt act, then they cannot be convicted of conspiracy to murder.
The Church Committee hearings established beyond any doubt that the CIA and the Mafia conspired to assassinate Fidel Castro and that they committed overt acts to advance the conspiracy. Therefore, even though they never actually murdered Fidel Castro, there is no doubt that they were guilty of conspiracy to murder Castro. There is also no doubt that the conspiracy took place here in the United States and, therefore, that U.S. courts had jurisdiction over the crime.
Therefore, why weren’t the CIA and the Mafia ever indicted for conspiracy to murder Castro?
As an agency of the federal government, the CIA is subject to the provisions of the U.S. Constitution, which is the document that called the federal government into existence. It sets forth the powers that the federal government, including the CIA, is legally able to exercise. If a power isn’t enumerated, then federal officials, including those in the CIA, are not legally authorized to exercise it.
The CIA and the Mafia justified their attempts to assassinate Castro by saying that he was a communist and, therefore, a threat to “national security.”
But if we closely examine the Constitution, we find that the power to assassinate communists or other people who threaten “national security” is not among the enumerated powers that are delegated to the federal government, including the CIA and its partners.
That means that the CIA-Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Castro was clearly a criminal offense under U.S. statutory law and under the higher law of the Constitution.
So, why weren’t the CIA and the Mafia ever indicted and prosecuted for conspiring to assassinate Castro?
Some might argue that communists are bad people and, therefore, there was nothing wrong with the CIA-Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Castro. But let’s say that a private citizen decided to kill the head of the U.S. Communist Party on the ground that the latter, as a communist, is a bad person. There is no doubt that the killer would be indicted for murder and that at his trial he would not be permitted to justify the murder by arguing that communists are bad people.
Some might argue that the CIA-Mafia conspiracy to murder Castro was a legitimate act of self-defense. But it is undisputed that neither Castro nor anyone in his regime ever initiated an act of violence against the United States. Therefore, there is no evidence to support an allegation of self-defense. Moreover, self-defense is a defense that the defendants would present at their murder or conspiracy trial. It’s not something that would prevent the CIA and the Mafia from being indicted for conspiracy to murder.
So, why weren’t the CIA and the Mafia ever indicted for conspiring to murder Fidel Castro?
The answer is simple: The CIA is much too powerful. That’s what makes it and its partners immune from criminal liability for murdering and conspiring to murder Fidel Castro or anyone else.