Department of State
Foreign Policy Briefing
Washington, D.C.
March 27, 1962
Afternoon Session: 4:17 - 4:45 p.m.
The President of the United States

So that in extending our security, and protecting it around the world, our security is also involved here in the effort we make in the United States.

I would be glad to answer any questions anybody might have.

QUESTION AND ANSWER PERIOD:

Q: Mr. President, through State Department sources, my paper has been informed that there are among the so-called war criminals in Cuba, that Mr. Castro now proposes to try, 21 American citizens.

We are further informed that these men are being kept under barbarous conditions, probably beaten and tortured.

My question is this: Will this Administration, which up to this point apparently has been able to do nothing about these citizens of ours, intervene or try to intervene if Castro should suddenly start leading them out and shooting them in bunches as guilty war criminals?

A: Well, I don't know your statistics or the details you describe or the circumstances under which all of these people - that we would be glad, while this meeting is going on, to get more details for you.

Now, if your question is intervening, there are other areas of the world where United States prisoners are held, particularly in China, particularly two of them, Fecteau and Downey who have been held since 1951 in China, and the United States has been unable to release them, though it is a subject which comes up at every meeting which is held in Warsaw between the United States and the Chinese Communists. We are not able to release prisoners, not only the Americans who may be involved but also the Cubans, particularly the Cuban military prisoners. And it is the cause of Mr. Castro's actions in this and in other areas that the United States has attempted to isolate him and indicate our hostility to his regime.

Now, intervention, if you refer to military intervention, that is quite another matter. The United States has no plans to intervene militarily in Cuba because it would be a major military operation involving a great many of our resources at a time when we are very heavily committed around the world, from Berlin to Saigon, and we have all we can do to maintain our present lines along the periphery of both the Soviet Union and China.

Q: Mr. President, an opening speaker yesterday, referring to the Wallenda tightwire family, quoted the oldest member as saying that anyone who was on the tightwire and not afraid was either a fool or inexperienced. I'm afraid. And how in this country in the future can we guard against a possibly then desperate Communist attempt to take advantage of inexperience at the time of change of national Administrations?

A. Well, if the kind of action which the Communists might take - you're talking about a military attack, I would assume that whoever was President until the 20th of January, whoever came in as President would be able to meet the responsibilities in that area. Obviously, transitions are always difficult. New problems come across the desk of the new President and there is no on-the-job training for the new President.

[Laughter]

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