By Miguel Fernandez
In his book The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba 1959-62 (Ocean Press, 1995), General Fabián Escalante, former chief and current historian of the Castro State Security, asserted that as early as in February 1959, the CIA representative Gerard Droller, a.k.a. Frank Bender, had agents in Cuba conspiring against Castro, “among them William Morgan.”
William Alexander Morgan (1928-61) was an American guerrilla fighter against Cuban dictator Batista in the Escambray Mountains, who was quickly promoted to major, baptized as “The Yanqui Comandante” by legendary New York Times´ reporter Herbert Matthews, praised as “the kind of American that Cuba needs” by Fidel Castro himself, and awarded with the Cuban citizenship like the Argentinean major Che Guevara.
Escalante’s assertion turns implausible due to a significant detail that has been neglected even in the most recent (2012) deep report on Morgan by David Grann for The New Yorker. Among the historical documents (1958–1960) on Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume VI treasures an editorial note (Document 348) about the Trujillo Conspiracy — a coup organized by Cuban exiles in the Dominican Republic during the summer of 1959—which refers to U.S. Ambassador Philip Bonsal giving to Cuban Foreign Secretary Raúl Roa “the gist of the [FBI] report” on Morgan as “the leader of a group planning to assassinate Fidel Castro.”
On August 2, 1959, the Department of State transmitted its telegram 150 to the American Embassy in Havana containing “the substance” of the FBI report. The next day, Ambassador Bonsal sent his telegram 294 to Washington reporting back he has given the news to Roa, “who expressed appreciation for the information and said it would be conveyed to President [Osvaldo] Dorticós and to Castro.”
Apart from furnishing some biographical information on Morgan and deeming him “thoroughly irresponsible and unprincipled,” Bonsal commented that “even an unsuccessful attempt on Castro’s life would be a serious threat to the safety of Americans in Cuba.”
On August 4, Roa told Bonsal by phone the FBI information had been conveyed to President Dorticós, who was “highly alarmed.” Bonsal stressed that the U.S. Government “had no opinion as to the report’s veracity” and it might be intended “to attempt to sow dissension and suspicion.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Havana Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 1814).
This Bonsal-Roa exchange does not refute the spread version that Morgan had originally been part of the Trujillo Conspiracy and switched sides when he realized the plot was about to be discovered. But the fact that Bonsal gave Morgan away to Castro put General Escalante in a delicate spot as historian.