By Mark J. White (auth.)
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53 The extent of John Kennedy's knowledge of the assassination plots is not clear. Because of the CIA practice of "plausible deniability," there would be no documentary evidence proving the president's knowledge of them even if he had been briefed. What is certain is that Kennedy did broach the question of assassination with various people. Just before the Bay of Pigs, he asked Smathers about the merits of killing Castro. When the senator expressed his disapproval, Kennedy said he felt the same way, yet still requested a 46 The Cuban Missile Crisis memorandum from Smathers describing a plan for the assassination of the Cuban leader.
Special Assistant to the President Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, recalled that administration officials generally "overreacted" to Khrushchev's speech. To Kennedy and his team, it suggested that Moscow intended to make most of its inroads in the capitalist sphere by providing surreptitious support for ostensibly indigenous "guerrilla" movements. To counteract Soviet backing for national-liberation wars, the administration believed it had to respond in kind. Beginning on 17 February 1961, a group headed by Bissell began to review this issue.
Of course, events in Yugoslavia in 1948 and Poland and Hungary in 1956 had already revealed fractures in the communist world. But more than those developments, the tension generated by the Sino-Soviet rift should have made clear to policy-makers in Washington, including Kennedy, the need for a reassessment of the assumptions upon which American foreign policy had for so long been based. 20 This had implications for the president's approach towards Cuba. Making, as he did, the erroneous assumption that Kennedy's Cuban Policies 31 world communism was still essentially a unified movement, he viewed Castro as Khrushchev's puppet and Cuba as a Soviet satellite.