Sunday, July 10, 2005


National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 158
Peter Kornbluh
Posted - June 29, 2005

Washington D.C. June 29, 2005 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sought to lift the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba in December 1963, according to declassified records posted today by the National Security Archive. In a December 12, 1963, memorandum to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Kennedy urged a quick decision "to withdraw the existing regulation prohibiting such trips."

Kennedy's memo, written less than a month after his brother's assassination in Dallas, communicated his position that the travel ban imposed by the Kennedy administration was a violation of American freedoms and impractical in terms of law enforcement. Among his "principal arguments" for removing the restrictions on travel to Cuba was that freedom to travel "is more consistent with our views as a free society and would contrast with such things as the Berlin Wall and Communist controls on such travel."

His memo prompted what senior National Security Council officials described as "an in-house fight to permit non-subversive Americans to travel to Cuba." Several State Department officials supported Kennedy's position that "the present travel restrictions are inconsistent with traditional American liberties," and that "it would be extremely difficult to enforce the present prohibitions on travel to Cuba without resorting to mass indictments." But in a December 13, 1963 meeting at the State Department, with no representatives present from the Attorney General's office, Undersecretary of State George Ball ruled out any relaxation of regulations on travel to Cuba.

A principal argument, as national security advisor McGeorge Bundy informed President Johnson in a subsequent memorandum on "Student Travel to Cuba" was that "a relaxation of U.S. restrictions would make it very difficult for us to urge Latin American governments to prevent their nationals from going to Cuba-where many would receive subversive training."

Instead of announcing a legalization of travel to Cuba, as the Attorney General had proposed, in late December the State Department issued a warning stating that "persons who may consider engaging in such travel should be on notice that if they do so, their passports will be withdrawn and they may be subject to criminal prosecution." The ban on travel was maintained until President Jimmy Carter lifted it in 1977; but restrictions were re-imposed during the Reagan administration and have been tightened further under the current administration.


Blogger J.A.Sierra said...

Kennedy was ready to make peace with Cuba. On November 17 he sent a message to Castro about normalizing relations. Five days later he was assassinated.

3:30 PM  

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