Afterwards – Ultra Right Part 2

If the first thoughts in Dallas turned to the right wing, they might well have begun with a couple of the city’s most outspoken critics of the Kennedy Administration – and President Kennedy himself. H.L. Hunt’s conservative Lifeline radio program was one of the earliest anti-communist, anti-integration mass media outlets, it had a substantial listener-ship and opposed virtually every aspect of Kennedy Administration policy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osoYlQA0pEs

Hunt, acting largely through his sons, was a contributor to a variety of ultra-right causes including paramilitary actions against Castro and Castro’s Cuba. How much money actually changed hands is debatable but there is no doubt that people like Jerry Hemming, Felipe Vidal and others traveled to Dallas to seek money from Hunt, and from individuals such as General Walker, who Hunt had supported in an earlier campaign effort to become governor of Texas.

To the extent that we accept Hemming as a source he places people like Hunt, Murchison and Gordon McClendon in meetings where there was talk of eliminating both JFK and Castro – given the way people like Hunt and Murchison routinely talked it’s not hard a visualize such remarks in that sort of group. But Hemming also stated that in any dealings with the Hunts, they were careful to remain at arm’s length, promising or even giving some money but never wanting to discuss details of how it would actually be used. Aside from Hemming, there are other anecdotal sources, some quite credible, who support remarks from H.L. Hunt (or his sons) essentially offering money for the murder of JFK and/or Castro – at most expecting that something might come of it but doing nothing more direct than essentially offering a bounty.

What becomes especially interesting is that immediately following the assassination, Hunt certainly acted as if he might be connected to the attack in Dallas. On November 23 Hunt left Dallas, traveling to Washington D.C. and telling associates that he was “going to help Lyndon” – although there is certainly in record of any direct contact between the two men during the days immediately following November 22. Alternatively Hunt told other people that local FBI contacts in Dallas had suggested he leave town for his own safety (which made no sense at all) – Hunt routinely employed former FBI agents for security and essentially as his own private intelligence service.

Before he left Dallas, Hunt directed one of his chief aides, John Currington, to go downtown and assess the police security being put in place around Lee Oswald on the evening of his arrest. Currington was well enough connected to circulate freely and reportedly managed to end up on an elevator with Will Fritz (an old friend of his) and Lee Oswald, introduced to Oswald as the “the blankety blank” who shot the President. If true we have two instances of people being directed to assess Oswald’s security that evening, Currington and Jack Ruby.

Apparently Hunt’s concerns continued, during the Garrison investigation a second aide, Paul Rothermel, was sent to New Orleans to collect information on Garrisons’ efforts and according to Rothermel ensure that Garrison not get the idea that anyone connected to Hunt had been involved. If possible Garrison was to be steered to a left wing conspiracy. Of course that would have been standard political practice for Hunt, in his view all conspiracies were either left wing or Communist. Interestingly Rothermel was not to introduce the idea of Cuba or Castro – possibly because Hunt and his sons had indeed been in contact with Cuban exiles and anti-Castro activists.

It should be noted that none of those concerns deterred Hunt from being publicly visible or from funding and personally touting his political views – if anything he became more outspoken as time passed. In the end Hemming may have made the most insightful observation on Hunt’s involvement – saying that the man had made offers and floated money and then become panicked that someone would show up to collect afterwards.

The second name that might have come up in Dallas was that of former Army general Edwin Walker, also an outspoken critic of JFK but personally most involved in political action and right wing speeches. Walker had been forced out of the Army over his right wing activism and become prominent in protesting integration, personally involved in the violent 1962 protests at the University of Mississippi. Robert Kennedy ordered him into a mental asylum for a 90 day evaluation after the campus riots but he was released after only five days and was not indicted for his in inciting violence. Funded by H.L. Hunt, Walker failed in his effort to win the Texas governorship in 1962.

Walker had spent 1963 on a nationwide anti-Communist speaking tour and that summer had gone to Miami to encourage the Cuban exiles in actions against Castro. His time in Miami doesn’t get all that much discussion, possibly because the people he talked to simply needed money and that was one thing Walker didn’t have.  But that did not stop them from coming to Dallas that fall and trying to fund raise from him – but Walker couldn’t even come up with funds for his own political efforts, much less theirs.

Walker was a far less subtle rabble rouser than H.L. Hunt, the violence against Adlai Stevenson in Dallas has been connected back to him and the infamous Wanted for Treason: JFK hand bills of November 22 were traced back to him and his associates. Walker had also been in the papers in April, 1963 – the supposed target of a shooting attempt at his home, something now commonly thought to have been staged to help boost his flagging public visibility and add credit to him as a significant threat against the Communists he continued to speak out against.

Actually Walker’s fortunes (and funding) had fallen so low by the time of the assassination that his name might not have immediately surfaced.  It did, after about a week, but only because of an article in a German newspaper, connecting him to Lee Oswald in the context of the April shooting attempt at his house. While still actively debated, it seems likely that it was Walker himself who made that connection for the paper, very likely in yet one more attempt at visibility and to add to his reputation as an anti-Communist force. Anyone interested in that discussion will find more than enough material online to pursue it …forever it seems.

What can be said is that over the years Walker continued to either tie the shooting incident to Oswald, or seemingly deny that.  He also talked up Oswald as part of a conspiracy, obviously a Communist conspiracy of some sort…but Walker’s remarks became increasingly disjointed, causing speculation that he did have some level of mental dysfunction.  All in all his “afterwards” behavior was far different than H.L. Hunt’s, and to me much less suspicious.  In addition you would also have to assume a good bit of dysfunction in someone who would sponsor a JFK Wanted for Treason campaign on same day they were knowingly involved with a conspiracy to murder him.

In the next segment, we’ll move from local ultra-right figures to some of the “afterwards” behavior from organizations that were on record with the FBI as having plans to actually kill JFK.

Afterwards – Ultra Right Part 1

On November 22, 1963, as soon as news of the shooting began to spread, in Dallas, in Texas and in many other places the immediate thought – and deep concern – was that individuals from the ultra-right would be found to have been behind the attack. To a large extent that was driven by the extreme amount of publicly visible right wing hate associated with Dallas itself.

 

Adlai Stevenson, American ambassador to the UN had been physically assaulted during an earlier visit to Dallas. The Vice President and his wife had been chased down the street in Dallas, fleeing from violent right wing women protesters. The situation was so dire that Texas Congressmen had advised JFK not to come and the Dallas Chief of Police had gone on television to plead for calm and call for individuals to support efforts to deal with the anticipated violence. Law enforcement had also very quietly called in press and others familiar with recent protests and prepared photo books, performing special recognition training for the security personnel assigned to the Trade Center, location of the President’s luncheon address.

 

It’s something that a great deal used to be written about, not so much anymore. I dealt with it at length in November Patriots, a book I did with former Dallas reporter Connie Kritzberg. The Mayor and Dallas City Council even went so far as to pass a special ordinance addressing the dangers and Chief of Police Curry underlined it by a public call endorsing citizen’s arrest if law enforcement was not adequate to deal with any threat.

 

In that context, and with public expressions of opposition and literal hate from right wing elements, it’s natural that first thoughts were of the ultra-right. But with so much right wing hate, who would it actually come immediately to mind?  Leading right wing media advocates such as Bunker Hunt and his family had spoken bitterly against JFK, we have a good deal of anecdotal evidence that they had even offered reward money for his death.  The FBI and Secret Service both had registered threats from some of the more violent elements of the right wing – generally traceable to groups affiliated either with the National States Rights Party or the Minutemen. In his first order after the assassination, FBI Director Hoover directed proactive contact with any and all FBI contacts and informants – including those connected to the ultra-right. Of course that order was rescinded within less than 24 hours.

 

In The Awful Grace of God Stu Wexler and I write about FBI reports on rifle teams actually being trained to shoot JFK and others, there was even a Secret Service alert out of San Antonio regarding a possible NSRP planned attack during JFK’s visit to Texas.  A recent warning out of Miami from an FBI source had described a sniper attack from a high building during a motorcade. But due to Secret Service protocols, since Washington had been mentioned in that report, the warning was sent to DC but not passed on to the Secret Service security team doing the Dallas trip.

 

Of course there were highly visible public voices speaking out against JFK from the right. In Texas and nationally some of the most prominent included H. L. Hunt and his family as well as , former General Edwin Walker –  outspoken against not only JFK’s policies but against integration and the civil rights movement in general. Walker was virulently anti-Communist, seeing the communist party behind the civil rights movement and threatening the nation’s Christian religious foundation. He was politically active, having run for Governor of Texas (supported by Hunt oil money), but in 1963 seemed to be more concerned about difficulties in fund raising than anything else. He had most recently joined fundamentalist preacher Billy Hargis in a national appearance tour touting the Communist threat and calling for military action against Cuba.

 

And those were just a few of the names and groups on people’s minds. The Minutemen, the NSRP, the Hunt family, Edwin Walker – of course it could have been a simple matter of radical locals, taking their guns to the Plaza and putting talk into action. While we can’t trace all that, we can take a look at what went on with the most suspect groups, with Hunt, with Walker and see if that suggests either actual involvement or at least a guilty conscious. I’ll make an effort to do that in Part 2.

Russian Cyber/Psych Warfare

I’m not going to make this a long commentary of my own since I began blogging specifically about this issue in early fall, when all the leading indicators were quite visible (the first national security warning was issued in early October).

It was clear to me some time ago that this would likely be one of the tactics used in Putin’s new efforts to destabilize western opposition to his reassertion of Russian geopolitical clout.  I devoted the last chapter of Surprise Attack to that emerging threat, which has now become far too real.

Of course everyone may take this as reality or simply deny it as some strange political maneuvering – as our new President elect seems to do. All I can do is give my own personal take that it is deadly serious and refer you to the following:

The first article gives some detailed historical context and the second is the current joint intelligence community take on the subject:

https://warisboring.com/russian-hackers-began-honing-their-election-tampering-skills-in-2010-65a05ee88ae7#.59w0mnp72

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/06/politics/intelligence-report-putin-election/index.html

Update:  If  you want an example of how masterfully the Russian leadership is in pursuit of their strategy for destabilizing the U.S. and undermining respect for it internationally read the following – a truly masterful and scary example of psychological warfare:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/07/politics/russia-us-obama-putin-intel-pushkov/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards – LBJ

It’s tempting to say that the very first suspect in the assassination was LBJ; certainly that would have seemed true if you had been talking to folks from Texas. I live next door and have traveled to Texas frequently personally and on business over the decades. I don’t think there was ever a dinner or drinking session where the subject came up that virtually all the native Texans didn’t either suspect Johnson or become open to him when others began talking.

 

Not that there were any details, it was just that the man was so generally felt to be crooked and so self-seeking that he was capable of anything. The common belief was that he had people killed during the Billy Sol Estes scandal and there were dark hints about his sister’s death.

 

This led me so spend a great deal of time on Johnson, even to drafting a book manuscript on a Johnson conspiracy – which I pulled at the point where I came to feel that the evidence just did not hang together. Proving him to be immoral and monumentally self-serving is not that difficult – organizing the assassination of a president is something else. In doing the research for that work I did come across a number of seemingly anomalous behaviors that did strike me as suspicious – both before and afterwards. I cover all those in SWHT but the following synopsis gives a brief picture of their scope.

 

First of all, there was a dramatic change in Johnson’s personal behavior some six to seven weeks before the events in Dallas.  Johnson’s career was on the brink of disaster in a Congressional inquiry and he was frantically seeking solutions, making covert night time visits to his attorney and on the phone constantly, obviously frantic.  Yet only a few weeks before the Texas trip he virtually withdrew to his ranch, with his top political operative in Texas not even directly involved with the upcoming trip, and suddenly all the calls, the attorney contacts, the rushing around – it all stopped. I still have problems explaining that anomaly innocently, the best scenario I can offer is in the book and it is peripherally conspiratorial.

 

Second, immediately following the assassination, Johnson was one of the first to talk conspiracy – a Communist conspiracy. No details but he expressed that fear a number of times, even openly wondering during the flight back to DC “if the missiles were flying”.  Yet there is absolutely no indication that he did anything to pursue those fears from a Commander in Chief standpoint. Existing records from the first 24 hours show no real discussion of a Communist conspiracy or potential attack. So was Johnson sincerely worried or was it a front?  Given his war time record and later events he was surely not a brave man personally, yet he didn’t behave as if his expressed fears were in any way serious.

 

As it turns out, that anomaly was not quite as unique as I suspected. One of my main goals in researching and writing Surprise Attack was to compare Johnson’s behavior to that of other Presidents or senior officials during crises. As it turns out, other President’s behavior has been just as ambiguous and equally ineffectual.  It would be hard to say any were more ineffectual but the actions following the Reagan shooting and on 9/11 are both comparable.

 

Third, and far broader than I can cover here, is Johnson’s obvious participation in a damage control effort and in shutting down any true investigation of a conspiracy. That occurred in two phases. The second phase started on Sunday, in particular after a Sunday morning meeting with two NSC principals. That turns out to have some pretty reasonable, if uncomfortable explanations. You would have to go to the book for that.  Johnson’s own behavior over that weekend can only be described as opportunistic – beginning with the all night talk session with his supporters about how he could take over the Kennedy legislative agenda and leverage it to establish himself politically. But Johnson was always about politics and position first – a closer look at the Tonkin Gulf and Liberty incidents illustrates that and shows the extent to which he was willing to sacrifice American lives for political gain. Both actions were treasonous IMHO and I believe I make that case in Surprise Attack.

 

There is however an element of the damage control that looks quite suspicious and that relates to the calls from Washington D.C. to Texas by Johnson’s aides, in particular Cliff Carter, on Friday night. Those calls literally ordered a series of Texas law enforcement officers not to file charges of conspiracy, speak of conspiracy or essentially investigate anyone other than Oswald – regardless. Johnson and national security were cited in the calls. A call (which has been removed from the WH phone record) from Johnson to Hoover literally ordering him to take over the investigation and bring it out of Dallas is also suspicious given Johnson’s apparent lack of interest in the details of the assassination that evening. While a case can be made that national security might have necessitated a damage control effort (I didn’t say I liked it but the case can be made) the intelligence to support that was not available on Friday night. The official record shows no communications which explain the Carter calls to Texas or the Johnson call to Hoover. That is especially true when you recall that Johnson wanted to hand the whole matter back to Texas to put to bed only a few days later – after Oswald’s death.

 

Bottom line, I believe there are anomalies in Johnson’s behavior that suggest he may have had some prior knowledge or guilty knowledge. Going beyond that and connecting the dots to a totally initiated and organized Johnson conspiracy is something else entirely.

Afterwards

 

Most current discussions of the JFK assassination seem to focus on the events of the actual shooting in Dallas. Beyond that the dialog goes on to witnesses and TSBD employees – and whether or not they were reliable, coerced after the fact or even suspects as accessories. Conversations on trajectories, wounds, medical and autopsy issues are also endless.

As for myself, I’ve studied and written at length on the events following the assassination – over some 72 hours to two months – and what I find especially relevant about how matters were handled from both a command and control and damage control perspective, what you might call the national security response. That work led me to several conclusions, one of them being that a national security decision was made within some 48 hours to enforce a non-conspiratorial scenario and to literally quash investigation of anything beyond Lee Oswald as a “disconnected” assassin.

I won’t elaborate on that here, the work and my logic is all in Someone Would Have Talked. But beyond that, one topic that deals with things which happened “afterwards” doesn’t get much contemporary discussion – it did in earlier years when less concrete data was available but after the last couple of decades we have so much hard data that conversations have gotten much more focused and specific.

The topic I’m thinking of is that of potential “sponsors” or “instigators” for the attack.  There had never been a dearth of people who hated JFK and either wanted him dead or talked about making that happen.  Jim Marrs did an excellent survey of the “pack” in his JFK book issued in the early 1990’s. I was on a panel the other evening and we discussed JFK myths including trying to count the number of different types of sponsors and conspiracies raised over the years.

Some of the earliest were the most obvious – LBJ (jealousy, career protection), the ultra-right (H.L. Hunt, the Minutemen, KKK groups, etc), and the Mafia (various godfathers, take your pick) as well as Castro (not a general favorite outside the CIA and Cuban exile communities). The CIA has always been a favorite but in several menu options – the CIA (starting at the very top), the CIA (starting at the bottom), and the CIA (starting somewhere in the middle – that would be me).

But over the years things got even weirder with the list including Aliens (well actually humans covering for the aliens and the evil compact with them), homosexuals (think New Orleans and thrill killings). Jackie Kennedy was added (revenge), Mr. Onassis (jealousy), relatives of the Thresher crew (revenge but targeting Gov Connelly not JFK). The list is even longer, more recent years have seen science fiction authors (OK, Scientology leaders but his science fiction creations came much earlier), Howard Hughes (motive unclear), and most recently a resurgence of the ultra-right in the form of General Walker.

After entering the above (only a partial list) it again strikes me why most people either don’t take JFK research seriously or why they absolutely love it simply because one of the potential sponsors (bad guys) on the list is a perfect fit for their own suspicions or world view.

So, over the holidays I’ll continue my blogging on JFK with a couple of posts regarding potential sponsors – specifically based on the question of what they did immediately after the attack in Dallas and what that might reveal (or not) about their level of association.

In doing that I should acknowledge one of the few truths that I ever felt able to take away from the remarks of Gerry Hemming – he once said that immediately after the assassination several people were gravely concerned that things they had said or offers they had made actually had led to the murder. Those that had a guilty conscious behaved in certain ways; those that actually knew or were involved in the conspiracy behaved much differently.  I thought that was an important observation and I’ll continue that thought with my next post. I should note that Hemming was a really bright guy and I always found he could think and talk circles around virtually everyone including me.

Oh, and while I will cover a few of the potential sponsors – don’t expect to see L. Ron Hubbard, Howard Hughes or Aliens (even their human allies) discussed, you will have to go elsewhere for that.

The Risks of Knowing Jack

 

These days ongoing discussions of the JFK assassination tend to focus on either events along Elm Street on that day in Dallas or upon the activities and background of Lee Oswald. It’s even possible to miss the fact that in the earliest days, a great deal of investigative effort was initially focused on Jack Ruby – not simply as Oswald’s killer but as a potential window into the conspiracy which killed President Kennedy. During the months following the murder a number of leads surfaced which suggested that Ruby had prior knowledge of the attack, that his elimination of Oswald was something forced on him by his involvement and that phone calls and visits connecting him to Los Angeles and Los Vegas deserved intense scrutiny.

 

And while the rumors of mysterious deaths related to the Kennedy assassination are often no more than gossip or coincidence, there is no doubt that the investigators and reporters who became too interested in Ruby, especially those who became devoted to ferreting out his true connections, appear to have been uniquely at risk. Most people would be surprised to realize that the Warren Commission itself fielded only two field investigators reporting directly to it. They might be even more surprised to know that both were dismissed for being overzealous in pursuing connections related to Jack Ruby.

 

But there were much greater risks than losing a job, especially for those who knew Jack and had heard certain passing remarks before the assassination – remarks which suddenly had a new and sinister meaning as of the afternoon of November 22, 1963.  Several individuals may well have lost their lives over just that – ranging from women who worked for him at the Carousel Club (although some of those fled for their lives within days and stayed successfully out of sight for years and even decades), to both local and national reporters who decided to dig deeply into his connections.

 

There certainly were people who heard Ruby gossiping before the assassination – about something explosive happening in Dallas during the President’s visit. In some instances they managed to stay out of the limelight, one instance of that can be found in an IRS informant close to Ruby who reported being invited downtown by Jack, to watch the “fireworks” during the motorcade. In some cases those individuals became too visible and died under mysterious circumstances – one young woman recorded as having hung herself in a holding cell in Dallas, a young Dallas vice beat reporter on a personal crusade found dead after being attacked in his apartment, a woman who had warned individuals of the Dallas attack later run over and left by the side of a road in Louisiana and finally nationally known investigative reporter Dorothy Kilgallen – who had declared she would run the conspiracy to the ground after haven spoken to Ruby during his trial in Dallas.

 

I write about most of these individuals in detail in Someone Would Have Talked, presenting the case that Ruby’s connections led back to the west coast and to Johnny Roselli, who arranged for Ruby’s legal defense with a phone call to Melvin Belli’s law partner the weekend after the assassination. The Ruby story is a key one, too often ignored these days. However at last month’s Dallas conference, two speakers presented on their new books – one (Fallen Petals, by her son) dealing with the life of Rose Cherami and the second (The Reporter That Knew Too Much by Mark Shaw) exploring Kilgallen’s initial investigation and why it turned fatal for her.

 

If you are interested in the Kennedy assassination and have not explored Jack Ruby in depth, you are missing a key lead.  It was a lead that the Dallas Police and the Warren Commission chose to avoid but one which was significant enough to get a number of people killed – digging into Jack Ruby was risky business, suggesting that Jack represented a real threat in terms of exposing the conspiracy.

2017 JFK Records Release

One of the long standing questions in regard to the JFK assassination is “when will all the records be released?”  Many people are convinced that on some particular date all the documents will indeed be released and some assume – or hope – that the release will resolve the outstanding questions about the President’s murder.  Some even seem to feel that the documents release will actually expose a conspiracy and identify the perpetrators. Of course that view assumes that the government actually investigated the assassination, found the truth and has been shielding it for decades for political or security reasons.

If  you have read my works on the JFK assassination you realize my view is that a decision was made within the first 72 hours – at the highest levels – not to pursue any true investigation, based on the fears of what might be exposed.  Yet there were multiple investigations, an immense number of documents were collected from various agencies and with the passage of the JFK Records Act a deadline was set for document release.

During the recent JFK research conference in Dallas, hosted by JFK Lancer, we devoted considerable time to this subject – with one extended panel session dealing with views from five of the most respected national archives researchers. Those individuals discussed what remains to be released, the types of documents involved and what we are likely – and not likely – to actually see when the release date comes due in October 2017.

One of those researchers, Rex Bradford, was unable to be at the conference in person but he prepared an outstanding tutorial on the subject which was presented. Rex has now made that presentation available on the Mary Ferrell Foundation web site and you can view it at the link below.  I urge you to do so and respond with any questions you might still have…

http://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Featured_Mark_the_Date.html

 

News – Stagecraft vs. Reality

A few days ago I had the opportunity to address a group of researchers on the subject of vetting sources; it’s a challenging subject but one that has become familiar to me. After all, I research and write not only on national security subjects such as deniable operations and failures of national command authority (which very well placed people go to great lengths to obfuscate and cover up) but also on even darker subjects such as conspiracy and assassination. Working that territory for a couple of decades either fine tunes your sense of skepticism or drops you off the edge of reality. Hopefully I’m still this side of that particular chasm.

 

Unfortunately, as I’ve been trying to highlight in my last few posts, we have entered into a sea change in which many of the vetting skills I was speaking to are going to be needed in something as routine as dealing with the news. Certainly there are dangers of various entities gaming news outlets – especially internet channels and social media – with well-crafted stories, posts and even “leaks” designed for political influence. So called “false news” stories have even become a significant item of main stream media coverage over the last few weeks.

 

And as if that was not bad enough, matters are becoming even more complex, with certain media specialists seizing the opportunity not just for influence but literally to create a state of chaos which keeps everyone (but primarily the targets of their political agendas) literally confused to the point where those on the receiving end begin to literally lose track of reality.

 

Unfortunately one of the techniques in that craft is to consistently insert not just marginally true (or literally false) news items but conspiracy theories and speculation. Of course that is particularly galling for those of us who actually true to isolate real world conspiracies from the standard operating practices of deep politics and even deeper business arrangements. As I pointed out earlier, under Putin Russian Television (RT) has become particularly adept at such things – a former RT correspondent, Sara Firth, resigned from RT in 2014, appalled by the fact that as she put it – “Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.”

 

Such practices are certainly not uniquely Russian nor limited to RT, they have become part of a new wave of media where stagecraft replaces reality. Somewhat amazingly those who practice it have no qualms about acknowledging what they are doing or the matter in which the do it. It’s not that such practices are unknown, craft has always been king in the media business – what is amazing is that it is now being done so openly and with no embarrassment at all. If you think this is an exaggeration, I would refer you to the following analysis which is far better than anything I could offer myself.

 

https://warisboring.com/breitbart-could-become-americas-rt-d777049c1156#.1fxhm7rln

 

Given that the practices are so blatant, it would be unforgivable for us to ignore that such things are happening. The author of the referenced study posits that we are now dealing with a “post truth world” and as far as I know there is only one way to deal with such an environment. We need to dump our personal desires to accept news we like and reject the rest. We need to return to a very old time American standard – healthy skepticism, not denial but simply skepticism. Perhaps you have heard an old saying, one that goes “I’m from Missouri – Show Me”.  Indeed Missouri’s unofficial nickname is the Show Me state, derived from its citizen’s reputed attitude towards any and all claims. I’d say it was about time we need to ratchet that attitude up a bit, we need to move towards being a Show Me nation. Normally I don’t like “attitude”, but in particular usage, I think it is desperately needed.

Black Budgets and Dark Money

Much has been written about how government money is used for both overt and covert military actions with no true accounting and virtually no Congressional oversight. Such views deliver the message that nobody is “watching the store” for the American citizen and that dark and unidentifiable forces are in play.

 

I’m not going to be naïve and represent that some monies may indeed be hidden from oversight, but there is actually considerable evidence which shows that when significant amounts of money are involved the funds are accounted for and do receive certain types of formal oversight. This issue is important because if you dig deeply enough you find that people in very high places do know what’s going on with the money, approve of it and enable the activities.  In fact those are often the same individuals charged with the oversight at the highest levels of an agency or in government as a whole – not that they would admit it. If there are dark forces at work, they have names and they sign off on paperwork and in many cases it even becomes public after a time.

 

I’ll start with a very concrete example, one involving executive action – the darkest of the dark operations. In 1960 a CIA action was initiated to kill Fidel Castro. When it got to the point of actually going operational and needing funding, the officer responsible for the relevant budget was ordered to simply issue the money and hide it within his general operating budget.  He refused, regardless of repeated pleas about security. His response was that it was his budget and his career that was on the line and the money involved was such that accounting questions would be asked. In the end he was read into the program, two senior officers officially ordered the money to be disbursed and the project went forward – records were kept and ultimately released. When large amounts of money are involved, things get real very quickly.

 

A few years later, two of one of the darkest and most secret covert American operations involved support of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan. Lots of money was involved and the CIA was carrying the ball; we have the records showing how much was being disbursed to the Contras and specifically to whom – and how much the IG couldn’t locate later. As far as the Afghanistan funding, matters became so public that you had a Congressman lobbying all over Washington and in the end flooding the CIA with several times the amount of money than they had requested or could handle – resulting in it being dumped in Pakistan with no oversight at all and some very bad long term consequences.

 

It’s important to remember that the CIA and other agencies have Insepctor Generals and they are often quite good at oversight, especially of money. In fact the oversight over Contra funds was so good that Congress ultimately cut off funding and in one of the worst moves in American history the President, CIA Director and SecState proceeded to fund the project with private monies and funds from overseas. A number of important government figures knew exactly what was going even though Congress had called a halt to Contra military support.

 

In more recent years we have seen various IG’s publish very public reports about expenditures and huge, very huge amounts of money thrown to the winds in Afghanistan and Iraq.  What we have not seen is either Congress or Presidents actually respond to those reports – the obvious conclusion is that even with excellent oversight over public funds, it can end but fruitless even when all the details are fully released.

 

Of course there are “true” black budgets in the sense of projects that are known, authorized and extremely sensitive from a security standpoint.  Most of those involve weapons systems, new aircraft, reconnaissance satellites and other types of spacecraft. Each has its own accounting – normally spread out among dozens or hundreds of smaller seemingly routine cover accounts – consolidated and monitored by highly cleared and project specific accountants. In that sense “black” budgets go right along with “black” engineering and development projects.

 

In the 21st Century the truly covert and deniable operations of previous decades have morphed into something much more pragmatic, integrating the covert with the overt and inserting both in “joint operations”. Since they are more public those operations actually have names and budgets and undergo high levels of spending authority and discrete oversight.

 

Well…not exactly. The first part is true, they get names, but in terms of financial control, actually so much money has become involved that it has literally broken the military budget process. The military has its own problems with Congress even on its standard, ongoing missions. Quite frequently you will find that Congress gives it money and weapons that it does not request – and refuses to authorize savings which it proposes. Raise your hand if that surprises you.

 

But in terms of today’s integrated, global operations things have become even more convoluted – largely because nobody in Congress really wants to talk about the fact that we are spending at war time levels. Which leads us to one of the major issues of military budgets in contemporary affairs. It’s not exactly a matter of dark money or black budgets but rather of throwing lots of money into one big pot outside the regular military budget.

 

It involves the creation of a gigantic “contingency fund” for ongoing operations – outside the regular armed forces budget. We all understand having some money around for unexpected events and incidents, but this contingency fund is many orders of magnitude beyond what that term normally calls to mind. And because it’s all in one big bucket and not all that broken out by detail, it has become much more discretionary and a good deal of Congressional oversight has been removed. Actually Congress seems happy about that because they don’t have to answer to how it’s spent.  It’s not exactly a black budget but in terms of control it allows discretionary spending of extreme amounts of money. See the following for more detail and some very helpful commentary.

 

http://blogs.cfr.org/davidson/2015/06/16/how-the-overseas-contingency-operations-fund-works-and-why-congress-wants-to-make-it-bigger/

 

 

One of the effects of the changes in American military operations and of this new extra-military fund is that more and more activities are authorized and operated under the control of the Commander in Chief (CIC). In some ways that’s good as it allows flexibility and quick response, but when combined with Congress’s refusal to involve itself by defining American military operations, it is one more example of Congressional responsibly (and blame) shifting. It also empowers the CIC to an extent not seen outside full scale, declared war. This is the military environment which the new Trump Administration will face; it has become incredibly complex. And its financial and budgeting context can be as challenging as its operational elements.

 

It will be interesting to see if with a new administration in place, Congress attempts to insert itself more fully into such matters, or simply leaves it all in the CIC’s lap as they have been wont to do previously.

Nuke Codes

Its difficult for me to read the news these days without continually having my mind boggled – given the subjects that I research and write about (national security, covert warfare, conspiracies) I thought I had become desensitized.  Turns out I was wrong.

I’ve been recently posting about the return of the Cold War, in new forms and in new venues including what I’m beginning to call cyber media warfare.  But that doesn’t seem to accurately portray what’s going on with Russia. What we see now in Russia are actually military and civilian drills for nuclear attack on a scale not seen since the 1960’s.  Can you really read the following without thinking you have entered another dimension?

http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/29/europe/russia-nuclear-drills/index.html

And if that were not enough, everything that was old is new again for Mr. Putin:

https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/russia-falls-old-habits?utm_campaign=LL_Content_Digest&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=36425143&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8MnfQoJlKbivj2_G_nHUCiFoi8Le-OnEXz3lIbOVqTvd6EhhXFMCkcb3qUlxh820fhz0vLFpoGuOSAGUEc5Tf9yHQWmw&_hsmi=36424234

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let me move on to the actual subject of this post – the Nuke Codes.  Once again I’ve been stunned by the amount of misinformation being circulated during this election campaign. In recent days I’ve seen claims from Mr Trump that the Clinton email server issue is comparable or perhaps more severe a criminal event than Watergate – and I’ve started to see posts from his supporters claiming that it could even have exposed military technology secrets or – gasp – our nuke codes.

This brought to mind a story from the JFK assassination venue. That story goes to the point that a massive conspiracy has been proved due to the fact that the “code book” was missing off a Special Air Mission aircraft carrying senior Kennedy administration officials and Cabinet officers to Japan on Nov. 22, 1963.  That story has supposedly been elaborated on by Air Force bomber pilots relating that there nuke code books were also missing off their aircraft that day.

The thought is that all this was done so that the conspiracy could kill the President and not risk a nuclear exchange as a byproduct. And of course that plot was carried out by the military industrial complex. You might have thought since they commanded the military they could have been more subtle, in fact the obvious villain in such a scenario would seem to be the Soviets, but they were never offered up in such scenarios.

To easy everyone’s mind a bit, even quick study of nuclear command and control, verbal codes, and classifications proves all those concerns to be unfounded. First off, nuke codes and military tech are not share with the State Dept, or even SecState.  Generally the State Department is the last to know about military activities and operations. Why, because they have no need to know plus they talk to other nations.  This was a lesson that first surfaced way back in 1954 in regard to Guatemalan operations and the lesson has been well learned.

Its one of the few things that seems to be remembered, and can be seen in the lack of a briefing the Ambassador to the UN about the Bay of Pigs in 1961 to more modern times with the games that were played with the information on Iraq given to SecState Colin Powell. Actually the State Dept is often either not told about military matters or actually offered cover stories and misinformation as a security precaution. If you don’t believe that, just read Shadow Warfare.

So, no nuke codes in emails to Sec. Clinton, not to worry.  And yes she should not have had a private server and neither should her predecessor Colin Powell nor should all those GWB administration principals – definitely something that needs to be fixed but unfortunately nothing unique.

As to the Nuke Codes, actually the way that works is that the President, SecDef and hopefully a couple of other folks in the line of succession carry a card with a code that they use to issue nuclear commands under their National Command Authority.  The code does not describe the mission, details of the attack or plans for specific assets. That is all in the SIOP and in the mission plans for each aircraft, missile or other nuclear weapon package. If you think about it all that has to be planned in advance – and if you really believe that the aircraft commander of any SAC Chrome Dome atomic deterrence mission or commander of any ICBM crew coming on duty in 1963 would not note and report that they were missing their activation codes, you just don’t know SAC.

Oh, and in regard to that Cabinet aircraft on the way to Japan – no it was not supposed to have nuke codes or any military code book for that matter. What it should have had was the Secret Service code book for administration officials to use in verbal, on air radio messages.  Of course that almost never happens but in this event it did and lots of people forgot their codes and codes for other people and you can see it all in the transcripts of the calls from the plane that day.  Nothing unique there either, that sort of thing occurs during every, since our senior leadership never drills or trains for crisis contingencies.  One of the most recent examples in the fact that transcripts show that Natl Sec Advisor Condi Rice did not know the code name for the President’s aircraft on 2001, that caused a good bit of confusion for a time.

So, this moth, in 2016, the Russians are conducting national atomic defense drills for their public – while our voters are concerned about nuke codes being passed around in SecState emails.  And my mind remains boggled.