Joseph Wippl on The Bay of Pigs at 50

WipplJoseph Wippl is a lecturer in the Department of International Relations at Boston University’s College of Arts & Sciences. He is a 30-year veteran of the CIA. In 2010, he was awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the highest decoration awarded for service to the US intelligence community. As the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion approaches, Prof. Wippl reflects on the invasion and discusses the role of the CIA then and now.

 “The Bay of Pigs was the first example of the failure by intelligence and the CIA to analyze properly that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro had the support of the vast majority of the Cuban people. The opposition to Castro was located not in Cuba but in the United States, convenient safety valve for the Castro government. The operational element at the CIA did not ask the analytical element for an assessment of Castro’s support as well as the strength of his army. The Cuban emigrants supplied the manpower for the failed invasion and they were sure they had the support of the Cuban people. The invaders believed they would receive air cover but President Kennedy denied this overt American support for the invasion. Short of American troops, the invasion would fail with or without air cover. Over the years, Cuba’s loss was America’s (and the Republican party’s) gain as the emigrants generally proved themselves very economically successful in the United States.

“The second ultimate failure was the failure of both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy to understand the end of the Monroe Doctrine of American hegemony in the Americas. Both presidents obsessed about Castro, spending money and undermining American prestige trying to overthrow him. Castro is still there, albeit in semi-retirement. Subsequent to the missile crisis, when both CIA and President Kennedy both acquitted themselves much better, Castro has been no threat to anyone other than the Cuban people.

“During the period 1959-61, the CIA’s Bay of Pigs Covert Action was authorized by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy with the informal concurrence of senior members of the Senate and House of Representatives who funded the operation.

“A Covert Action in 2011, such as Libya as reported by the press, would require President Obama to sign a ‘finding,’ that is, a written statement of the reason for an action taken in the national security interests of the United States, and to share the ‘finding’ with the intelligence committees of the House and Senate. The difference over a period of 50 years is a formalization process for Covert Action rather than a shift in authority from the President to Congress. To my knowledge, the Congress refused to fund only one Covert Action since the formalization processes were initiated in the early 1970s: support to the Nicaraguan contras in the mid-1980s.”

Contact Joseph Wippl, 617-353-8992,