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In the earliest known CIA assassination plot against leaders of the Cuban revolution, high agency officials offered the pilot of a plane carrying Raul Castro from Prague to Havana “payment after successful completion of ten thousand dollars” to “incur risks in arranging accident” during the flight, according to formally TOP SECRET documents posted today by the National Security Archive. The pilot, who the CIA had earlier recruited as an intelligence asset in Cuba, “asked for assurance that in event of his [own] death the U.S. would see that his two sons were given a college education.” “This assurance was given,” his CIA handler in Havana, William J. Murray, reported.
According to TOP SECRET cables between the CIA headquarters and the CIA Havana station, and debriefings Murray later provided on “questionable activities,” the plot quickly evolved after the Cuban pilot, Jose Raul Martinez, advised Murray that he had been selected to fly a chartered Cubana Airlines plane to Prague to pick up Raul Castro and other high-ranking Cuban leaders on July 21, 1960. When Murray informed his superiors at Langley headquarters, as he later told the Rockefeller Commission on the CIA, “headquarters cabled back that it was considering the possibility of a fatal accident and asked whether the pilot would be interested.”
The cable, classified “TOP SECRET RYBAT OPERATIONAL IMMEDIATE” and signed by CIA Deputy Director of Plans Tracy Barnes, and J.C. King, the head of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division, informed Murray that “possible removal of top three leaders is receiving serious consideration at HQS” and asked if the pilot had “motivation sufficient to incur risks of arranging accident during return trip” from Prague. To provide sufficient motivation, Barnes and King offered $10,000, or “a reasonable demand in excess of that” as well as to arrange rescue facilities for the pilot after the “accident” took place.