Afterwards – Part 4 Cuba

 

While it might seem surprising today, immediately following the assassination there was not all that much suspicion or speculation about Cuba or Castro other than as some sort of ideological  inspiration for Lee Oswald. I have a San Antonio newspaper with the next day headline – “Castro Supporter Kills President”.

That pretty well describes matters, although over the next couple of weeks there was a focused, dedicated effort by the DRE and a suite of anti-communist spokespersons including Paul Bethel, a close friend of David Phillips, to tie in Castro. Bethel promoted Pascual Gongora as a member of a Castro hit team; Gongora was found to have been in a mental hospital patient before the assassination. Bethel and other figures inside and associated with the Miami Cuban exile community all very quickly pointed the assassination towards Castro but the Castro did it scenario did not receive that much attention outside Miami and New Orleans.

The Cuban/Castro link was widely touted in the Miami area, with a number of stories being spread which promoted knowledge of secret trips by Oswald to Cuba, contact with Cuban agents – even stories positioning both Oswald and Jack Ruby in the pay of Fidel Castro or his agents. I go into that media campaign pretty extensively in chapter 15 of Someone Would Have Talked.

It’s also fair to say that within days, certain stories were being promoted which claimed to offer more concrete ties between Oswald and Castro – ranging from a series of letters from Castro agents in Cuba (the Pedro Charles letters) Cuba to voluntary sources (Gilberto Alverado) going to the CIA in Mexico City.

The interesting thing about all those efforts is that they appear to have been hastily organized, had virtually no evidence to support them and were deconstructed by the FBI relatively quickly.  Mr. Hoover had actually been very interested in some of them, including the letters from Cuba and certain remarks provided by John Martino to the FBI in Miami. He had initially requested that President Johnson at least let him note the possibility of Castro involvement in the initial FBI report on the assassination, however Johnson ignored that request and even Hoover had to admit that the stories had totally fallen apart within a few weeks.

One of the more interesting aspects of the “after the fact” implication of Castro, was how easily the FBI unwound the Gilberto Alvarez CIA story coming out of Mexico City – describing a visitor to the Cuban embassy hearing Oswald being recruited and paid off for the attack. The CIA station and especially David Phillips should have received a few demerits for that and as a matter of fact Phillips review for that year was not all that great.

All in all the effort to point towards Cuba and Castro immediately after the assassination was weak and appears to have been largely spontaneous, there is no sign that any professional work or real pre-planning had gone into preparing materials and a back story which would definitively connect Oswald to Castro. All the names floated as sources or suspects faded after investigation, frequent references to sources inside Cuba never really came to fruition. The FBI even involved the NSA in scouring telephone and radio communications for some evidence of contact between Oswald and Cuba or signs of Cuban involvement, to no result.

What makes this especially interesting is that standard operational tradecraft involved creating backstories, evidence, and essentially very solid materials for “frames”.  You find discussion of that in William Harvey’s notes about executive action, you even find it in Latin American plots by Cuban exiles against Castro – with far better incriminating evidence prepared than what we see brought up to connect Oswald to Castro.

The bottom line is that if there was a plan to frame Oswald as being tied to Castro, either it was pretty minimal or somehow the “good stuff” got lost or somehow did not fed into the legal system to implicate him. In that respect, the “Castro did it” angle looks bad after the fact not only because it was so lacking, but it suggests certain things about the conspiracy that was in play.  That will move us on to the other side of the Cuba coin, and a discussion of the Cuban exiles “afterwards”, in the next post in this series.

 

Afterwards – Ultra Right Part 3

 

One of the things that makes dealing with the Ultra-Right difficult is that it is ubiquitous. You can find people to name in Texas, in California, across the nation in fact. It that respect it’s a good deal like discussing organized crime Godfathers. It’s easy to find individuals threatening JFK, individuals with motive, even some taking credit for the murder afterwards. The problem is that both those groups talk to leverage their reputation and consistently hype themselves. These days we might call it “street cred” but that’s nothing new, talking big and looking “bad” draws followers and is standard practice in both circles.

 

In regard to JFK’s murder, one particular ultra-right group stand out, simply because it is connected to specific threats against JFK. One threat came into the FBI from San Antonio on Nov. 15 and specifically mentioned the NSRP and the Texas trip. The warning message stated that “a militant group of the NSRP plans to assassinate the president and other high level officials. That language is an almost exact match for the controversial William Walter incident in the New Orleans FBI office where Walter described a Nov. 17 teletype with a warning that “a militant revolutionary group may attempt to assassinate President Kennedy on his trip to Dallas, Texas”.  While the FBI later denied the Walter teletype there are a number of points which corroborate Walters and I find him convincing…especially given the actions taken by the FBI to cover up the existence of the teletype – that is detailed in Chapter 14 of SWHT.

 

Both of those warnings followed the FBI recording and investigating a threat which surfaced during a sting operation being conducted against Joseph Milteer (connected to many ultra-right groups, the NSRP being the most action oriented) in Miami on Nov. 9. Stu Wexler and I explore Milteer and the FBI informant involved in that sting in considerable detail in the Awful Grace of God. What is often not discussed is that the FBI did advise the Secret Service of the Milteer threat, the FBI did notify several regional offices about it and contacted the individuals named by Milteer and Milteer himself about a possible threat to the President – all prior to the assassination. The Secret Service passed the threat info along to Washington D.C., partially because Milteer had mentioned an attack taking place there and himself had worked in Washington.

 

Beyond that, we also found that the FBI had received several independent reports that the NSRP was training rifle groups for an attack on JFK, on other leaders and on major Jewish financial figures. Those reports came out of California, Florida, and Georgia – actual target lists for the attacks were being circulated. It seems possible the breadth of those NSRP related threats, and the fact that they were not consolidated and shared with the Secret Service may also explain the need for Hoover to suppress the teletype warning that Walters described seeing in New Orleans. Given Hosty’s remarks about Oswald being observed with subversives and the note, it could all have wrapped into a story of FBI negligence which would have been more than a little embarrassing.

 

Now to the “afterwards”.  One of our problems with investigation those groups after the fact is  that although Hoover initially ordered a broad based investigation which would have included militant group informants, he shut that down within 24 hours.  It is safe to say that there is little sign of any of the ultra-right folks associated with the NSRP immediately toning down there activities, going under cover or becoming less aggressive – if anything they became more violent over the following months and  years.

 

There is only one documented instance of an NSRP associate actually expressing an involvement in the assassination, taking credit for the ultra-right and openly bragging about it (openly within certain regional racist groups at least). That would be the same Joseph Milteer mentioned above. That has made Milteer sort of a poster boy for the ultra-right and the JFK assassination, the only single individual that could be tied directly to Dallas, based on a photo of someone greatly resembling him on Houston street and his remarks to the FBI informant in the Miami sting about having gone to Dallas.

 

I have to say the fellow on Elm looks like Milteer to me, although the HSCA investigated and concluded it was not him. On the other hand Milteer traveled across the nation constantly, was known to have been in Dallas in 1963 and could well have been there on Nov. 22 since his ilk certainly hated JFK – he told the same FBI informant from Miami that he had been and that the ultra-right had used Oswald, clearly taking claim for the assassination.

 

On the other hand, Milteer had been warned about the FBI informant, had been visited by the FBI about a threat to JFK and would later plant a great deal of misinformation with the same FBI informant, ultimately compromising him as an FBI source. On top of that Milteer’s private papers contain a receipt for Nov. 22 for a motel room in South Carolina. All of which complicates matters nicely.

 

Of course the problem is that Milteer could have been in Dallas, observing the motorcade to check out security practices…and certainly if he was he made no effort to disguise himself or to avoid being right up front and filmed on Houston Street.  Other than Milteer himself, I’ve found no particular guilty behavior of other NSRP folks or even of Minutemen immediately following the assassination, nor many outright claims of victory or involvement within their circles.

 

Looking at Milteer with some of my own “vetting” factors, I find him talking beforehand (to a possibly known informant) which would be stupid. That talk appears not to have been unique to Milteer, others in his same circles and within the NSRP across the country were all talking about attacks on JFK (picked up in reports in California, Nevada and Texas at a minimum); those reports very likely produced an FBI warning that had to be suppressed after the fact.

 

After considerable study of the real inner circle types within these groups – who did kill people – I can say they generally had extremely good security and some very sophisticated tactical practices; this doesn’t sound like one of their actions.  Beyond that, and most importantly, it must have been clear once the FBI showed up at his door following the Miami incident, Milteer would have very specifically known he had been snitched on and who the informant was – meaning that any post assassination information passed to the informant has to be considered as disinformation.

As before, make your own decisions…I’ll be moving on to another group which nobody really blamed at the time, which the FBI and the CIA both specifically backed off from in terms of leads but who did some very interesting things in the months immediately after the assassination.

 

 

 

 

National Security Worries

 

Given the breadth of news in circulation these days, an article on the Trump administration and its structuring of the National Security Council probably seems a bit dull, and more than a little esoteric. The article below offers commentary on the approach the new administration appears to be taking, at least out of the gate.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/politics/susan-rice-steve-bannon/index.html

I’ve researched and written a good deal about the NSC’s operations since its founding in 1947, in two books and a new one upcoming this year. From what I can see so far the new administration’s approach concerns me a great deal.  To understand why a bit of context and history is needed.

The national security act of 1947 established the National Security Council (NSC). Its members serve as primary policy advisors the President in the areas of foreign policy and national security issues.  As you would imagine, different Presidents have used the council to a great or lesser extent.

Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy used it extensively; others such as Nixon and George W. Bush used it more sparingly. Which begins to highlight one of the concerns – the whole point of the council, as exemplified by Truman’s use of it, was to get the administrations most geopolitically experienced people in a room along with its best military and intelligence advisors and have open and frequently heated discussions of major policy issues.

None of the three earliest presidents I mentioned would have thought about making decisions without the best advice they could get from the intelligence community or the military. They all had strong personalities and made their own decisions – but only after listening to everybody.

Sometimes the intelligence advice brought to the NSC was not the best, sometimes it was flat wrong, but it was always on the table. The presidents who used the NSC least were those that were not quite so open to contrarian views or perhaps sensitive to being able to manage that sort of sometimes testy give and take that could develop if all parties were treated equally. Truman loved it, JFK loved it, Eisenhower not quite so much and Nixon not at all.

If you look behind the scenes, you find that in some instances that was because one or two key advisors had a president’s ear on these sorts of subjects and didn’t want to share it, or to be opposed in their views. That really stands out in the Nixon, Reagan and Bush administrations; to some extent under Carter as well.

Given certain decisions and agendas on Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Iraq – perhaps a truly open discussion among equals at the NSC level could have helped avoid some mistakes, perhaps not. But the President has to make it “equals”, if an advisor (like Henry Kissinger) is clearly set at a level above the rest, the process failed, and will fail.

There are issues beyond who has the president’s ear and how open the decision making process is, although those are probably of the most concern. For example beyond being a forum for discussion and brainstorming, the NSC is designated to serve as the central point for tasking and communicating with the nation’s military and intelligence groups.

The Secretary of Defense sits as a member of the NSC, while the military services provide information on military capabilities, issues and intelligence through the Secretary or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – or designated JCS representatives. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had been established with its own multi-service Joint Staff and a Joint Intelligence Committee.

Currently the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is charged with advising the NSC on matters relating to intelligence and national security. The DNI is also authorized to make recommendations and coordinate the activities (functions and missions) of the various groups and agencies involved in national intelligence.

The CIA as well as many other agencies operate under direction of the DNI. Given the breadth and size of the national intelligence community, the DCI is a focal point for bringing the correct intelligence (including briefing officers) into the NSC deliberations. In terms of military advice, the Secretary of Defense is the primary source and is a member of the NSC; the SecDef can call upon the Joint Chiefs and their staff or the heads of the individual services for information or briefing officers.

Anyone who tries to give orders without understanding the system – or tries to go around it – is bound to run into problems. The system is there to help refine and focus the orders, to resolve issues before they are given and then to make sure things happen and monitor them in real time. National security is tough enough when everyone is involved; it fails horribly when they are not – we saw that on 9/11.

In order to make all this work effectively, the NSC also sets the priorities for intelligence tasking and the DNI and SecDef are responsible for assigning and communicating those tasks and priorities.  Theoretically it’s a two way street, with open dialog among the NSC members and lots of actual facts being tossed around the table – that provides some type of balance and prevents presidential advisors from strictly running their own agendas with the President.

There will always be competing intelligence assessments and facts; one of the most disastrous practices in more recent years is for Presidential advisors to bring in their own “intelligence”, which has come from special interest groups or “non-governmental organizations” and which is not vetted in the same fashion as that which normally goes though the filtering process in the intelligence community. The Iraq war provides us with a very recent example of how special interest intelligence can carry the day if the playing field is not balanced (in stark terms, if the President trusts an advisor more than the intelligence community professionals as a whole – who themselves will often disagree brutally with each other).

So, read the article I linked and see if you think there is a reason for concern, if not let me know so I can sleep more soundly…

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