An "American James Bond" — Anti-communist Freedom Fighter, Frank Sturgis

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

In the noted biography, Flawed Patriot (2006) by former CIA agent and author Bayard Stockton, CIA legend Bill Harvey, was introduced to President John F. Kennedy as "America's James Bond."(1) Harvey was indeed a charismatic legend in the CIA, but two other, almost equally unknown American heroes, could also vie for the title. One of them is Feliz Rodríguez Mendigutía, the indomitable subject of the book, Shadow Warrior, who, among his many other accomplishments, helped track and capture Che Guevara in the jungles of Bolivia in 1967.(2)

The third contender for "America's James Bond" title is probably the least known of the three men, and he happens to be the subject of the book I review in this essay, Frank Angelo Fiorini, aka Frank (Anthony) Sturgis.(3) Of these three valiant men, only one of them was reputed to be (although with little evidence and certainly not in the league with the fictitious James Bond, British agent 007), a womanizer (Harvey). The second man was a Cuban-American (Rodríguez), and the third (Sturgis) of Italian-American ancestry.Warrior Dust Jacket

Harvey began his career as a CIA agent after being a seasoned lawyer and then policeman; Rodríguez and Sturgis began their careers right out of high school at the tender age of seventeen, signing up as young paramilitary soldiers in the service of American forces. The thread that is common to all three characters is not only unswerving patriotism and the eager participation to enter the heated conflict between the Russian Bear and the American Eagle — but perhaps more ardently, entering the contentious fight for the turbulent and troublesome Caribbean island. As Sturgis himself expressed to the Rockefeller Commission on CIA activities in the U.S. in 1975: "It was about Cuba... it was always about Cuba."(4)

The incredible real life adventures of Frank Sturgis is recounted in this riveting book, which reads like a novel, but it is incredibly all true! The tome is a biographical tribute of a nephew (Jim Hunt) to his uncle, a real-life American hero, who gave everything for his country, the comfort and niceties of his home and family life, the profits and security of his businesses, and ultimately his life. This action-packed book is well written and well-documented. So much so, that we are able to understand Frank's deep passions, motives and intentions, although we may not condone many of his actions, legally or morally. But it becomes clear, though, it was love of freedom, unselfishness, and patriotism that guided Frank's actions, which in turn took him through untold dangers and perils. Frank is incredibly resourceful in crisis, generous to friends in distress, always loyal to his country, undaunted in adversity, and perpetually fearless in facing danger.

But what activities did he actually carry out in the interest of his country? Who was this Frank Sturgis? He was a young, World War II Marine charging the beaches in the South Pacific, Okinawa, and Guadalcanal; brave Yankee friend of and gunrunner for Fidel Castro in the Sierra Frank Sturgis in CubaMaestra during the Castro brothers fight against Cuban President Fulgencio Batista in 1957-58 (photo, left); CIA agent and freedom fighter against communism and Castro's totalitarian dictatorship (1959-1993); friend of and go-between among Latin American presidents, including Miguel Ydígoras of Guatemala, Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela, and Luis Somoza of Nicaragua (1959-80s); scourge of repressive dictators, such as Papa Doc Duvalier and Rafael Trujillo; sometimes contact with Mafiosos, such as Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante, and Sam Giancana; Watergate conspirator and burglar (1972-74); resourceful CIA operative who did everything in the service of his country in four continents; and adventurer, army and guerrilla trainer in Angola, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Florida Everglades (1960s-1993 until his death); and always the lover of freedom, compassionate freedom-fighter, and anti-communist world warrior. A fellow CIA agent Rolando Martinez once called Sturgis, "A tough guy with a big heart."(5) He also had a sense of humor; when the ATF raided his camp in the Everglades on March 9, 1993, and asked him about the Cuban-American commandos he was training, Frank said: "We are just a bunch of Boys Scouts learning about ecology."(6)

I have often heard the expression that CIA collection of intelligence (espionage) and unconventional warfare is "devious and dirty business." But how is a freedom-loving nation to protect herself from political, military and scientific espionage and to protect the liberty of her citizens from unfriendly and totalitarian nations that want to harm and undermine the country — a nation that has protected individual liberty and political freedom not only for herself but also for her loyal allies? These are the tasks to which Frank Sturgis dedicated his life until his mysterious death in 1993. Men and women such as William Harvey,(1) Feliz Rodríguez,(2) Frank Sturgis,(3) and Martha D. Peterson(7) risked their lives so that the rest of us can live in freedom and even have the right to criticize them and their shadowy national security operations.Watergate Complex in Washington, DC

Chapters 8 and 9 of the book cover the Watergate scandal from the perspective of the "plumbers," the maligned Watergate burglars who were arrested and unjustly convicted for a political crime. (Watergate complex in Washington DC, photo, right) And a political crime it was. All four of them were ardent anti-communist Cuban-Americans, except for Frank, who was virtually an honorary Cuban-American. They had known each other for many years from the anti-Castro CIA wars of the 1960s: Bernard "Macho" Baker, Virgillo Gonzalez, and Rolando Martinez. All of them had been told by White House officers, Howard E. Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, they were investigating the flow of illegal money from Fidel Castro to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to help elect a liberal Democrat to the U.S. presidency who was more amenable to Castro, and that national security was at stake. The operation had been sanctioned from the highest echelons of power, above the CIA and FBI! In reality, it was an illegal political operation stemming from the White House to get dirt and political secrets from the Democrats to help President Richard Nixon get re-elected. The four men became the scapegoats for the operation, along with G. Gordon Liddy, who also refused to talk. The whole scandal can be summarized as told by Barker: "We went in. We got caught. Nixon lost his job."(8)Watergate Burglars

The legal trials and tribulations of the four defendants is poignantly narrated. Judge John Sirica's unjust severity against the defendants is described in convincing and knowledgeable details. It becomes clear the judge was more set on seeking "to break" the Watergate case and gain notoriety in the process than in dispensing justice. Draconian provisional sentences of 50 years (more than is given for homicides in D.C.) were given to the defendants in an effort to make them "talk" and to warn other higher-up defendants what was at stake if they proved recalcitrant to confess. Even Chesterfield Smith, the President of the American Bar, deplored "the use of the criminal sentencing process as a tool for further criminal investigations of others." Even President Nixon, who had done little for the four defendants after they got caught, felt pity for them, and told Bob Haldeman, "God damn it, if they'd been communists you'd have the Washington Post and the New York Times raising hell about their civil rights."(9) Frank and the Cubans felt betrayed. They never blamed Hunt, Liddy, or even Nixon, but Frank did blame the CIA and became angry at the agency, blaming it for the debacle.

It is of interest the CIA was erroneously blamed and became the escape goat for the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961; Frank correctly blamed JFK, his former idol, for that disaster, and now in 1972-73, the CIA was blamed by Frank for Watergate! For example, Frank believed that James McCord, a CIA technical expert had deliberately (and at the behest of the CIA leadership) sabotaged the Watergate mission to bring down the Nixon presidency. He later, fearless as ever, resumed the fight against communism, but remained embittered with the CIA, working from outside the agency. And in the same vein, unfortunately, the authors, toward the middle of Chapter 9, "Watergate — Law and Disorder," go on a tangent, somewhat losing track of their biography, trying to involve the CIA in the Watergate calamity; where in reality, the Nixon administration was responsible and paid the heavy price. The CIA, incidentally, is cited erroneously, as giving the order for the execution of Che Guevara after his apprehension in La Higuera in 1967.  In fact, although the CIA with Feliz Rodríguez did help track Che Guevara, Bolivian sergeant Mario Teran received his orders to execute Guevara from the Bolivian President, Rene Barrientos.

Frank SturgisChapter 10 about the JFK assassination is also tendentious, a bit redundant, and highly speculative, based on Frank's various conspiracy theories and ideas, which are frankly not based on first hand knowledge, or documented facts or evidence. One of the authors, Jim Hunt his nephew, does successfully exculpate Frank (photo, left) of any direct involvement in the JFK assassination, as he personally provided Frank with an alibi on November 22, 1963, which virtually exonerates the freedom fighter from the erroneous accusations that he was one of the alleged gunmen in the JFK assassination "conspiracy." Moreover, the "bums," who were photographed near the grassy knoll and previously confused with Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis, were subsequently and definitively identified as the vagabonds the Dallas police had questioned and released.(10) (Their photos and comparisons are also included among the numerous illustrations in Warrior between pages 160 and 161.)

With Chapters 11 and 12 based on Frank's adventures in Angola and Central America, respectively, the book regains its former tempo, suspense, and action-packed narrative. The final pages complete the well-deserved and poignant tribute to Frank Sturgis, the fearless adventurer and the loving and caring family man, by his nephew and author, Jim Hunt. Frank's short illness and death was almost certainly an assassination by his mortal enemy Fidel Castro, unless an autopsy proves us wrong, but twenty years after the fact may be too late. The sudden illness and mode of death is reminiscent of the KGB assassinations in London of Georgi Markov in 1978 and more recently of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Here is the description of Frank's illness by authors, Hunt and Risch, who found Frank had been, as always, in excellent shape and health:

"Two weeks before, when Frank was training anti-Castro commandos at his beloved camp in the Everglades, he complained about what looked like an insect bite on his back. It itched and swelled and then went away after a few days. At the time Frank recalled that in July of that year he had suffered a similar 'bug bite' while standing outside PUND [the anti-Castro Miami group, Partido de Unidad Nacional Democrático] office in Little Havana. It produced symptoms exactly like the one he subsequent received at the Everglades."(11) Frank was admitted to the VA Hospital, diagnosed as having "cancer" and was dead in a few days. No autopsy was done. Fidel Castro should be implicated as he was in the JFK assassination.(12)

In conclusion, Warrior: Frank Sturgis is copiously illustrated, fully annotated, and has an excellent index. If you like books delving into recent American history, cold war intrigue, espionage, hot spot wars, and generally, adventure stories of daring but unsung American heroes, this book is for you. Get it, read it, and pass this copy on and keep another copy in your library! 

* This essay is a book review of Warrior: Frank Sturgis —The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by Watergate by Jim Hunt and Bob Risch (2011), Forge, New York, NY, 336 pages. There is an excellent YouTube video entitled "JFK, Sturgis, Hunt and The Bay of Pigs," which may be of additional interest to our readers.

References

1) Stockton B. Flawed Patriot — The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey. Potomac Books, Dulles, VA, 2006, p. 120.

2) Rodriguez FI, Weisman J. Shadow Warrior — The CIA Hero of a Hundred Unknown Battles. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 1989.

3) Hunt J, Risch B. Warrior: Frank Sturgis —The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by Watergate. Forge, New York, NY, 2011.

4) Ibid., pp. 12, 262-277

5) Ibid., p. 175

6) Ibid., pp. 276-277

7) Peterson MD. Widow Spy — My Journey from the Jungles of Laos to Prison in Moscow. Red Canary Press, Wilmington, NC, 2012. See book review.

8) Warrior: Frank Sturgis, Op. cit., p 209

9) Ibid. p.185

10) Ibid., pp. 231-234

11) Ibid., pp. 19-20, 295

12) Faria MA. Fidel Castro, Cuban Intelligence and the Assassination of JFK. GOPUSA, November 21, 2013. 

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. is Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International. He is Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.), Mercer University School of Medicine. Dr. Faria is the author of Cuba in Revolution — Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002). His website is http://www.haciendapub.com.

A much shorter, unillustrated version of this article appeared in the Macon Telegraph on December 19, 2013 with the heading Faria: An American 'James bond.'

Copyright ©2013 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.

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Comments on this post

Frank Sturgis

"How is a freedom-loving nation to protect herself from political, military and scientific espionage and to protect the liberty of her citizens...?" --Thank goodness for all the American men and women in the field who are like Frank Sturgis! Great review.

National security vs personal privacy

Dr Richard Elliot (The Macon Telegraph, Dec 19, 2013: Thanks. A very nice article. I agree it is easy during times of peace to forget the sacrifices necessary to get where we are. I hope there will be wisdom when it comes to looking at NSA activities, i.e., how will we balance national security against personal privacy? To what extent will Americans be willing to sacrifice personal privacy in order to protect national interests?

Dr Faria: Hi Richard,

Thanks for the kind comment posted under my article in the MT today. I don't have Facebook, so I'm emailing you directly. Feel free to respond either way, if you like, and If you use the Telegraph Facebook under my article, that is fine too, and you can post my reply to you as well. Either way. I am also posting these comments in my website as I think they are informative and instructive.

I agree with your comment. We must recognize the necessity to protect and preserve our national security but we must balance it with the need to also preserve individual freedom and personal privacy. We have the Constitution as a guide; for example, the Fourth Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I think, then, if we were to tilt slightly one way or the other, we must tilt the balance in the direction of preserving personal freedom and privacy. The alternative is tyranny.

Nevertheless, clarification, though, is necessary. In my article, I discussed the three possible "American James Bond" characters, and they were associated largely with the CIA, as it should be, not the FBI.

This is very important. Nations utilize two vehicles to protect national security: 1) foreign intelligence gathering and foreign operations; 2) domestic counterintelligence and investigations (sometimes with surveillance). Under 1) we in the U.S are fortunate to have the NSA and the CIA to protect us from our foreign adversaries. When the CIA overstretched its bounds performing illegal domestic activities in the 1970s, it was castigated and virtually declawed, so that at the time of President Carter, the U.S was virtually helpless.

Under 2), in the U.S., we have the FBI for counterintelligence and federal investigation of crimes or espionage. Domestic surveillance in the form of the NSA wiretapping of citizens smacks of a police state, and needs to be curtailed, but not dismantled completely, as it is necessary against foreign enemies. The NSA appears to be using both 1) and 2). Abuses by the ATF have been serious and at times that agency has been run by rogue elements, which have become institutionalized. Consider its involvement in massacre at Waco and the more recent infamous Operation "Fast and Furious."

All three of our James Bonds operated against foreign enemies under the aegis usually of the CIA, and when Frank Sturgis violated this in the Watergate break-in in 1972 operating under the aegis of the Nixon White House, he also paid the price! Definitely, NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens needs to be restrained, and the ATF probably completely dismantled, as Ronald Reagan tried to do but failed. Freedom is too important to be given away for illusory security.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." – Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Assembly, Reply to the Governor, November 1755, as cited in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 6, p. 242

Dr. Elliot (Dec 19, 2013): Miguel, Good to hear from you, and to know you still have the "Right stuff." Will be worth watching the progress of Klayman v. Obama - it might make it's way to SCOTUS. Ruling Monday was the first time (at least that I am aware of) against the broad surveillance under NSA. Looks like Smith v. Maryland might not hold today. Richard

Richard L. Elliott, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Director, Professionalism and Medical Ethics Mercer University School of Medicine; Adjunct professor, Mercer University School of Law

Spying by the NSA!

'Almost Orwellian' -- why Judge Leon is right about massive NSA spying program

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, FoxNews.com, 12/19/13

“Almost Orwellian” -- that’s the description a federal judge gave earlier this week to the massive spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on virtually all 380 million cellphones in the United States.

In the first meaningful and jurisdictionally grounded judicial review of the NSA cellphone spying program, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee sitting in Washington, D.C., ruled that the scheme of asking a secret judge on a secret court for a general warrant to spy on all American cellphone users without providing evidence of probable cause of criminal behavior against any of them is unconstitutional because it directly violates the Fourth Amendment.

Readers of this page are familiar with the purpose of that Amendment and the requirements it imposes on the government. The Framers intended it to prevent the new government in America from doing to Americans what the British government had done to the colonists under the king.
The British government had used general warrants -- which are not based on individualized probable cause and do not name the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized -- to authorize British soldiers to search the colonists wherever they pleased for whatever they wished to seize.

The reason for the Fourth Amendment requirement of individualized probable cause and specificity in the warrant is to prevent the very type of general warrant that the NSA has claimed is lawful. The reason for preventing general warrants is that they have become an instrument of tyranny.

It is against this well-known historical context that Leon engaged in his analysis of the feds who spy on us. This is truly the first jurisdictionally based judicial ruling on the cellphone aspect of the domestic spying that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed last spring. Though the NSA and the Obama and Bush administrations have claimed that judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) not only found the NSA cellphone spying to be constitutional, but also authorized it, those judges were performing a statutory clerical function, not a constitutional jurisdictionally based judicial function.

The Constitution requires a case or controversy -- basically lawyers arguing against each other on behalf of clients whose interests are adverse -- in order to invoke the jurisdiction of federal courts. The FISC judges, who sit and sign in secret, do not do so under the Constitution, because they have no case or controversy before them. They have only the NSA before them. Leon was the first federal judge to rule on the constitutionality of NSA spying under the Constitution -- in the context of a litigant challenging the government and the government defending itself. And he found that spying to be in violation of the Constitution...

The NSA was emasculated before Leon. Gone were the lies of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who stated under oath that the government does not spy on Americans. Gone was the bravado of NSA boss Gen. Keith Alexander, who claimed initially under oath that his spies stopped 52 terrorist plots and then mysteriously corrected himself and said they really stopped just three, but declined to identify the three. Gone was the if-we-don’t-do-this-we-all-will-die argument. Gone was the if-you-have-nothing-to-hide-you-have-nothing-to-fear nonsense that congressional NSA apologists have advanced...

This was not a difficult case for the court. The government’s behavior was utterly indefensible. It was profoundly dismissive of the Constitution that federal employees have sworn to uphold. Leon wrote: “I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,’ would be aghast.”

Even though Madison would be aghast, surely the Obama administration will appeal this, and just as surely, appellate judges or Supreme Court justices will have the final say. But for now, we have the great satisfaction of knowing that an independent judiciary has saved our liberties from the tyranny of the majority. And this is a cause for great joy...

Andrew P. Napolitano joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 1998 and currently serves as the senior judicial analyst. He provides legal analysis on both FNC and Fox Business Network (FBN).

*****

Obama Abandons the NSA By Cliff Kincaid, GOPUSA.com, 12/18/13

Conservative U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s ruling on Monday [12/16/13] that the National Security Agency (NSA) metadata collection program is a violation of the Fourth Amendment generated an enormous amount of mostly sympathetic media coverage. Although NSA leaker Edward Snowden insists the ruling validates his release of stolen national security information, the court decision is likely to be thrown out by higher courts because it conflicts with established law and precedent.

Larry Klayman, the plaintiff in the NSA case, Klayman v. Obama, is not a far-leftist. Rather, he is a conservative public interest lawyer who runs Freedom Watch. Klayman says, “We cannot continue to live in a KGB-like police state,” and tells WorldNetDaily that he believes the NSA has been spying on him.

Leon doesn’t refer to the NSA as being like the KGB, but does refer to its surveillance technology as “almost-Orwellian,” a reference to the George Orwell novel about a police state, 1984.

Although Klayman’s victory in this case is getting tons of favorable publicity from the liberal media, it wasn’t too long ago that the liberals were viciously attacking Klayman for declaring at a rally that the U.S. is “ruled by a President who bows down to Allah,” and that Obama should put the Koran down. Klayman called the statements “metaphorical.” His “Reclaim America Now” coalition includes conservative, libertarian, and Christian groups and individuals.

In Klayman’s NSA court case, it is apparent that the Obama administration, for whatever reason, did not aggressively defend the intelligence agency...

In any case, Leon acknowledges in his opinion that the collection of this kind of data by the NSA has already been upheld by other U.S. courts in such cases as United States v. Moalin... 

Pro Publica, a “Journalism in the Public Interest” group supported by the Open Society Foundation of George Soros, has attacked the NSA’s claims that it helped thwart terrorism, and is cited as an authoritative source by Judge Leon in his ruling.

But regardless of the specifics in this case, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved the NSA program on dozens of occasions...

Although attorney Klayman insists NSA surveillance has made the U.S. into a “KGB-like police state,” it is NSA leaker Edward Snowden who is now living in Russia under a grant of asylum, and is believed to be under the control of the KGB, now called the FSB...

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, aim.org



Diary of Dreams performs at the 2016 M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim, Germany. M’era Luna, “one of the biggest dark music events in Germany,” is held each year on the second weekend in August. Close to 25,000 people attend the festival annually to hear gothic, metal and industrial music performed on two large festival-style stages.