35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Bombing of Cuban Jetliner 40 Years Later

kissinger memo posada
Published: Oct 6, 2016
Briefing Book #202


Edited by Peter Kornbluh and Yvette White

For further information, contact:
Peter Kornbluh: 202.374.7281 and nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Colgate Toothpaste Disguised Plastic Explosives in 1976 Terrorist Attack

Confessions, Kissinger Reports, and Overview of Luis Posada Career Posted

National Security Archive Calls on Obama administration to Release Still-Secret Documents

Washington D.C., October 6, 2016 - On the 40th anniversary of the mid-air terrorist bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner over the Caribbean, the National Security Archive today called on the Obama Administration to declassify all remaining intelligence records on Luis Posada Carriles to shed light on his activities, provide historical evidence for his victims, and offer a gesture of declassified diplomacy towards Cuba.

Toward that goal, the Archive today reposted documents implicating Posada Carriles in that terrorist crime and identifying still secret records to be declassified.

Posada illegally entered the United States in the spring of 2005; he was subsequently prosecuted for immigration fraud in Texas but acquitted. He currently lives freely in Miami.

During the secret talks in 2013 and 2014 between White House officials and representatives of Raul Castro that led to the restoration of diplomatic relations, the Cubans repeatedly raised the issue of Posada's presence in the United States.

Among the documents reposted is an annotated list of four volumes of still-secret records on Posada's career with the CIA, his acts of violence, and his suspected involvement in the bombing of Cubana flight 455 on October 6, 1976, which took the lives of all 73 people on board, many of them teenagers.

The National Security Archive, which has sought the declassification of the Posada files through the Freedom of Information Act, again called on the Obama administration to release all intelligence files on Posada. "Now is the time for the government to come clean on Posada's covert past and his involvement in international terrorism," said Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive's Cuba Documentation Project. "His victims, the public, and the courts have a right to know."

The documents originally posted in 2006 included four sworn affidavits by police officials in Trinidad and Tobago, who were the first to interrogate the two Venezuelans – Hernan Ricardo Lozano and Freddy Lugo – who were arrested for placing the bomb on flight 455. (Their statements were turned over as evidence to a special investigative commission in Barbados after the crime.) Information derived from the interrogations suggested that the first call the bombers placed after the attack was to the office of Luis Posada's security company ICI, which employed Ricardo. Ricardo claimed to have been a CIA agent but later retracted that statement. He said that he had been paid $16,000 to sabotage the plane and that Lugo was paid $8,000.

The interrogations revealed that a tube of Colgate toothpaste had been used to disguise plastic explosives that were set off with a "pencil-type" detonator on a timer after Ricardo and Lugo got off the plane during a stopover in Barbados. Ricardo "in his own handwriting recorded the steps to be taken before a bomb was placed in an aircraft and how a plastic bomb is detonated," deputy commissioner of police Dennis Elliott Ramdwar testified in his affidavit.

The Archive also released in 2006 three declassified FBI intelligence reports that were sent to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after the bombing. The updates, classified "secret" and signed by director Clarence Kelly, focused on the relations between the FBI legal attaché in Caracas, Joseph Leo, Posada, and one of the Venezuelans who placed the bomb on the plane, to whom Leo had provided a visa. One report from Kelly, based on the word of an informant in Venezuela, suggested that Posada had attended meetings in Caracas where the plane bombing was planned. The document also quoted an informant as stating that after the plane went into the ocean one of the bombers placed a call to Orlando Bosch, the leading conspirator in the plot, and stated: "a bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed."

Another State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research report to Kissinger, reposted today, noted that the CIA had a source in Venezuela who had overheard Posada saying "we are going to hit a Cuban airplane" and "Orlando has the details" only days before the plane was blown up off the coast of Barbados.

Both Bosch and Posada were arrested and imprisoned in Venezuela after the attack. Posada escaped from prison in September 1985; Bosch was released in 1987 and returned to the United States illegally. Like Posada, he was detained by immigration authorities; over the objections of the Justice Department, which determined he was a threat to public security, the first President Bush's White House issued him an administrative pardon in 1990.

Still-secret intelligence documents cited in the file review first posted in 2006 suggest that the CIA assigned several cryptonyms to Posada when he was working for them, first as an operative and trainer in demolitions and later as an informant based in the Venezuelan secret police service DISIP. In 1965 he was assigned the codename "AMCLEVE-15." In 1972 he "was given a new crypt CIFENCE-4," according to a still-unreleased CIA document, and later referred to as "WKSCARLET-3."