This unique book provides a detailed chronology and analysis of the intelligence failures and successes of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The author, Mr. Kenneth Absher, contends that, when our national security is at stake, the United States should not hesitate to undertake risky intelligence collection operations, including espionage, to penetrate our adversary's deceptions. At the same time, the United States must also understand that our adversary may not believe the gravity of our policy warnings or may not allow its own agenda to be influenced by U.S. diplomatic pressure. As both a student of and key participant in the events of the crisis, the author is able to provide in-depth analysis of the failures and successes of the national intelligence community and executive leadership during the buildup to the confrontation, and the risky but successful actions which led to its peaceful settlement. From his analysis, the author suggests considerations relevant to the collection, analysis, and use of intelligence which have continuing application.
The author was assigned to Sherman Kent's Office of National Estimates (ONE) after completing his Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Junior Officer Training Program in June 1962. He was one of two analysts for Latin America in Kent's ONE. He was a participant in the drafting of every National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) on Cuba and the Soviet military build-up from June 1962 to February 1963. This paper describes how the crisis unfolded using the author's personal recollection, declassified documents, and many memoirs written by senior CIA officers and others who were participants. Lessons learned include the need to avoid having our political, analytical and intelligence collection mind-sets prevent us from acquiring and accurately analyzing intelligence about our adversaries true plans and intentions. When our national security is at stake, we should not hesitate to undertake risky intelligence collection operations including espionage, to penetrate our adversary's deceptions. We must also understand that our adversaries may not believe the gravity of our policy warnings or allow their own agendas to be influenced by diplomatic pressure. When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided secretly to place offensive missiles in Cuba, he clearly did not believe President John Kennedy would use military action to enforce U.S. policy warnings against such a deployment.
The Seeds of Crisis - 1961 * Soviet Deception * The Vienna Summit * Technical Collection Versus Espionage * Khrushchev Pushes the Envelope * Intelligence Used to War Khrushchev * Kennedy Launches Operation MONGOOSE * Khrushchev Decides to Put Missiles in Cuba * Khrushchev Explains His Decision * The Soviet Plan * Crisis Without Our Best Espionage Agent * Soviet Weapons and DCI Warnings * More Soviet Deception * Final Communication with Penkovsky * Additional Soviet Nuclear Weapons * Rapid Construction of Missile Sites * The DCI Honeymoon Cables * Aerial Reconnaissance and "The Photo Cap" * Opposition to U-2 Flights * The Failed Estimate * Sherman Kent Reflects * McCone Forces Approval of Overflights * The Deception Continues * Intelligence Not Disseminated * Missiles Discovered * Crisis Management * Soviet Deception and Presidential Warning * Estimates Lead to Policy Decisions * The President Decides to Blockade * Military Strike Reviewed * Briefing Ike, LBJ, and Allies * The President's Address and DEFCON 3 * DEFCON 2 * Initial Reaction * Official Soviet Reaction * The Darkest Day * The Final Warning * Aftermath * Missiles in Caves * The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board * Khrushchev Resigns * Lessons Learned