Sunday, June 01, 2014

The way we were...The CIA in 1960s Miami

Miami News, June 1, 1964.
(Click to enlarge)


Fifty years ago today in the Miami News...
Look magazine reported today that the CIA has operated an office on the University of Miami South Campus under the guise of an electronics research firm.

The Look article "comes as a complete surprise to me," said Dr. Henry King Stanford, U-M president.

And the head of the firm in the building named by the magazine as the Central Intelligence Agency address said, "I don't know what they are talking about."

Miami News, June 1, 1964.


"To become more available to would-be informants, I listed a CIA phone number in the telephone book, and passed around a lot of cards with my home number. I heard from a motley collection of weirdos, but it paid off many times." -Justin F. Gleichauf, head of the CIA's Miami listening post in the early '60s



Miami Herald
Sunday, March 20, 2005


For South Florida, first Mongoose [codename for the post Bay of Pigs U. S. covert anti-Castro program] and then the Cuban Missile Crisis only intensified a frenzied decade that began in the mid-1950s, when Castro's 82-member guerrilla band landed in southeastern Cuba. Mongoose contributed to an already-substantial population of CIA agents, Cuban exiles, wannabe soldiers-of-fortune and assorted other adventurers either involved - or wanted to be - in the secret war against Castro. Then the missile crisis came to make Miami the hottest spot in the Cold War - apart from the three capitals involved - and further fuel the perpetual intrigue simmering beneath the city surface.

An alphabet soup of Cuban exile groups numbering in the hundreds had sprung up, each trying to outdo the other in anti-Castro militancy. More than one such organization had no more members than the leader who announced its existence. To fuel fund-raising, they called press conferences and issued war communiqu├ęs proclaiming actions against Cuba that most often never occurred. Stirring an already boiling pot was JMWAVE, codename for the secluded headquarters of the CIA's frontline command post in Washington's "back alley" war against Castro.

Ted Shackley
For JMWAVE, its activities were to reach a peak in late 1962 and early 1963 leading up to, and during, the missile crisis and its immediate aftermath. Functioning under the cover of Zenith Technical Enterprises, JMWAVE operated from Building 25 at the University of Miami's secluded South Campus, a former U.S. Navy installation. Ted Shackley, a rising CIA star, was in charge as station chief from early 1962 through mid-1965. Some 300-to-400 agents toiled under Shackley's leadership, making JMWAVE the largest CIA station in the world after the headquarters in Langley, Va.

Click to enlarge.

With its estimated $50 million a year budget in 1960s dollars, the CIA station's economic impact on South Florida was tremendous. CIA front companies numbered "maybe 300 or 400 at one time or another . . . we had three or four people working on real estate to manage those companies designed to hold properties," said Shackley. "We could only use properties for short periods of time. We couldn't stay in any one place very long.'' The properties included marinas, hunting camps, merchant shipping, airlines, a motel, leasing and transportation firms, exile-operated publishing outfits, "safe houses" strung throughout the area and, of course, Zenith Technical Enterprises. The station itself had more than a hundred cars under lease. It ran the third largest navy in the Caribbean, after the United States and Cuba. Shackley estimated there were up to 15,000 Cubans "connected to us in one way or another."

The tenor of the times and the threat next door contributed to a tolerant and even cooperative atmosphere by South Florida residents toward JMWAVE activities. "There was, first and foremost, a great deal of patriotism in South Florida," recalled Shackley. "When we needed things, we were dealing with people who had a memory of the Korean War and World War II. There was a strong anti-Castro feeling among Americans. And the influx of Cubans in late 1961 and early 1962 were the cream. What's important to understand is that it made it easy to work in that environment, a pro-government environment. I can't remember going to a businessman and asking him for cooperation who was not pleased to cooperate with the government and help."

When authors David Wise and Thomas B. Ross blew the Zenith cover and identified it as a CIA front in the June 16, 1964, edition of Look magazine, the agency promptly changed the station's cover name to Melmar Corporation and went about business as usual from the same location.


Gene Cohen, University of Miami vice president and treasurer at the time, denied knowing that Zenith was a CIA cover. "As far as we're concerned, the university is leasing space to an organization we consider a good tenant which pays rent promptly," said Cohen. "There's nothing to indicate a connection with the CIA." As the still naive young reporter who spoke with Cohen and wrote the story appearing in The Miami Herald, the author's typed notes show that Cohen added "off the record" that it probably wouldn't have made any difference if the university did know Zenith was a CIA operation since "we're all on the same side," reflecting a near universal South Florida attitude at the time.

Maybe Cohen didn't know, but University President Henry King Stanford certainly did, said Shackley. "He knew who we were and what we were doing. I would meet him occasionally but only when we had a problem. I didn't see him often."

While JMWAVE was by far the biggest, it was neither the first nor the only CIA presence in Miami . That distinction belonged to Justin F. "Jay" Gleichauf, who arrived shortly after Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fled into exile on New Year's Day of 1959. Gleichauf told his story more than 40 years later in an unclassified CIA publication. "I had no inkling [when Batista fell] that within two weeks I would be in Miami as head - and sole staffer - of a newly authorized office of the Domestic Contacts Division in the Directorate of Intelligence," he wrote.

Gleichauf opened an overt CIA office at 299 Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables. Its basic function was to be a Cuba "listening post." To aid his effort, Gleichauf listed a CIA number - but no address - in the phone book and passed out business cards with his home number, resulting in calls from "a motley collection of weirdos" as well as some irate Castro supporters.

There was "something like 700 exile groups," recalled Gleichauf. "One guy was head of something called AAA, and claimed they had 5,000 men under arms. They were ready to go as soon as they got the green light, . . . [they] made a lot of promises. It turned out to be completely ineffectual. It was all bull. The green light was money. It was a racket, one guy and his brother-in-law, and existed only on paper."

From his arrival in January 1959, Gleichauf did double duty for the CIA on the overt and covert side until the spring of 1960, when President Eisenhower authorized the operation that evolved into the Bay of Pigs. Shortly after the authorization, a CIA colleague from the Clandestine Service joined him in Miami to open the Western Hemisphere Division's new Forward Operating Base (FOB). His duties were to coordinate "all support, training and preparatory activities for operations against Cuba," according to a heavily censored and undated CIA review of the Miami Station declassified in 1995.

Bob Reynolds arrived to head the covert office in September 1960 and left a year later. The office, too, was initially in Coral Gables with "very thin cover," although Reynolds said he did not recall the address nor did he think it was then named JMWAVE.


By the time Reynolds departed Miami in the fall of 1961, the Bay of Pigs had failed, with planning for a new covert campaign against Castro already underway. Before his departure, Reynolds said he arranged to relocate the covert office from Coral Gables to the old Richmond Naval Air Station, the University of Miami 's secluded South Campus.

Shackley left Miami in June 1965, after beginning the scale-down of what had been the frontline command post for the secret war. A further substantial cutback and reorganization of JMWAVE was underway by late 1966. ``Many covert entities were terminated and personnel reassigned,'' according to the Miami Station review.

By early 1968, "it became apparent that as a result of sustained operational activity in the Miami area over a period of years the cover of the Miami Station had eroded to a point that the security of our operations was increasingly jeopardized."

The decision was made to deactivate JMWAVE and replace it with a smaller operation "which would be better able to respond to current needs." By then, CIA personnel at the station - still operating under commercial cover - had been reduced from a peak of some 400 to 150.

The new station began operation, this time under official cover with about 50 persons, in August 1968 at a U.S. Coast Guard facility in what then was described as a "run-down" part of Miami Beach.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on anything you read here.

All comments must first be approved. Spam and spam links will not be tolerated or approved.