Revisionist History

I’m going to turn to contemporary events in this post, and talk about politicians rather than historians.  Historians have a challenging enough job revising history as new information emerges. Increasingly they have a tough time doing that in the face of the establishment political structures which are in place to some extent at University level but much more in regard to American High Schools – where history textbooks have become a primary tool of creating a history that is palatable to the power structures that manage to control appointments to the school book committees (Texas being a huge influence in that regard but more recently Colorado being an example of how bad things can get in that regard).  If you think I’m exaggerating just check into how many bills have been introduced in State legislatures to do away with advanced history in high schools because teachers might just be opening up to0 many doors for some people’s comfort.  My own state, Oklahoma is a prime example.

I’ve blogged on all that before here so instead let me turn to contemporary politicians  and select as an example the recently elected President of the Philippines. At the moment he is demanding that all American advisory forces depart the southern islands in his nation because they are responsible for the fundamentalist Muslim insurgency there – well actually he goes a bit further and blames that on the American occupation after the Spanish American war. If the American’s would just stop interfering in his country there would be no  problem.  Check the following link if you are not aware of this story:

Now while attitude may be true in more than one instance, it just so happens that the Muslim insurgencies throughout the western Pacific go back decades, and indeed centuries – provably traceable to locals attending and being trained in Saudi fundamentalist madrassahs.  I’ve blogged on that before, citing sources tracing insurgencies and waves of terror back into the seventeen and eighteen hundreds.

The thing is, President Duterte should well remember that the insurgency on those islands in modern times predated the arrival of any American advisors…in fact the insurgents were taking prisoners, and either raising a large war chest though hostage payoffs or just beheading them. Perhaps Duterte also has forgotten that the first major al Qaeda terror attack (the Bojinka plot) against America was organized in the Philippines; if it had not been interdicted the attack would have killed as many Americans as that of 2001 – and Bojinka came out of Manila, not the southern islands.

The Philippines requested American assistance in the years following the attacks of 2001 and the U.S. complied – sending in a small JSOC force in 2002; it maintained a very low profile and in working with the local military carried out one of the most effective programs to date against fundamentalist terror groups. I discuss that in Chapter 27 of Shadow Warfare.

Perhaps the most difficult thing about all of this is that its hard to tell if Duterte just doesn’t know all this and is not interested in finding out or if he is simply and effectively playing demagogue, telling people what they want to hear…?    What I do know is that when any politician shows no sense of understanding history, and tells the crowds just what they want to hear whether its true or not…. any nation is entering very dangerous waters with them in charge.  The other thing I know is that when those making national security decisions don’t know history, they will make mistakes and the rest of us will suffer the consequences. Been there, seen that.


What is missing from most of the research and commentary on President Kennedy’s assassination is much attention to what happened afterwards at a national security level.   That would exclude discussion of what happened in regard to Vietnam – which has received a great deal of attention.  What I’m speaking of is what happened among the national security principals over the first 72 hours immediately after the assassination.  It has always seemed to me that actions in the immediate aftermath of such a crisis could reveal a lot about what the most senior people believed – but would never say in public or put on the permanent record in any fashion.  Of course that presents a serious challenge because if its not recorded, you have to look for much more subtle indications. In my JFK research I spent considerable time with Johnson’s telephone log, his meeting schedule, and as far as possible his personal meetings and contacts during the three days following Dallas.  Someone should do the same sort of thing with the other major NSC principals. And that would include a through review of the biographies and articles done by their friends and acquaintances who might pass on personal remarks they heard relating to that period of time.  Writing out a cross linked chronology of activities and comments for about half a dozen of the principals could prove quite interesting.

My own work led me to speculate in SWHT that certain conversations and meetings during the first 72 hours led to the official issuance of a classified Presidential directive (which remains unlisted and classified but legally binding) pertaining to the control of certain types of information and even evidence related to the assassination. More specifically I connect that to certain phone calls and a meeting related to evidence pertaining to Lee Oswald in Mexico City. With that premise, it then becomes quite interesting to lay down what happened with major items of evidence during the first week, including materials related to the Presidential autopsy, the limousine, material evidence taken out of Dallas , the two sets of Zapruder story boards prepared by NPIC and even the convoluted story of the various editions of LIFE magazine (hint – relate that to the phone call from Johnson to Henry Luce on Sunday evening).  Also relate it to the remark by the CIA Director to a friend the following week that he had seen evidence of multiple shooters.

I would love to see serious researchers carry on that sort of study; I think it would prove far more convincing than a great deal of things that tend to drain off energy from some truly innovative research.  Pursuing that line of study – testing the hypothesis/scenario that much of what we see post assassination is damage control related to a legally issued executive order – would be a worthwhile pursuit.  In support of that idea you might start by pondering the following list of meetings and what might have gone on in each of them.  My thanks to Michael Swanson for recovering this link for me; at this point I can remember a great many documents I have seen over the past 16 years – but putting my hands on them again is a lot more challenging.


JFK Suspects

OK, after a foray into contemporary and international affairs I’ll return to the 1960’s and the assassination of President Kennedy.  To be more specific I recently returned to the assassination via a radio interview with my friend Doug.  Our discussion was quite focused since we both feel there is not doubt that there was a conspiracy and one traceable to a well defined network organized at a tactical level around certain CIA officers and fervent anti-Castro Cuban “patriots”. Between us we largely agree on the conspiracy, the unifying motive, the tactic of using Oswald in an attempt to frame Castro and that there was a decision at the highest levels of government not to pursue any actual investigation of conspiracy in fear of exposing intelligence connections and operational activities – not to mention the potential national security risk of where an actual investigation might lead within the CIA.

With that level of agreement the obvious place to turn is to follow the leads to Dallas and to determine credible suspects which might give a more definitive picture of how the Dallas attack came into being. What puzzles us both is that there are people that were known to be in Dallas, specifically reported to the FBI as having been involved in the attack on JFK and with two of them proven to not only have been very close friends but operationally involved in attacks against Castro…both before and after the assassination.  And one of them even admitted going to Dallas, brought in as an actor in the conspiracy.

Given that level of definition, both Doug and I ponder why so much focus and dialog is elsewhere…well we not only ponder it but we go on about it for half an hour…if that sounds interesting, take a listen:



Russian propaganda

OK, so I’m not really planning on turning this blog into a political outlet but in line with my most recent posts I felt I had to continue to give some attention to how a new form of Cold War is emerging.  It’s something I forecast in Surprise Attack and I do think its serious, particularly so since it plays to some of the real strengths of what is a particularly nasty form of psychological warfare – one which integrates a moderate level of deniable military action (most often through surrogate forces) with some extremely effective geopolitical propaganda.  We are seeing that in the Ukraine now, and in Syria. The Russians have always been extremely adept at this sort of thing, much more so than the U.S.   Not that we didn’t try it a great deal back in the Cold War, we just didn’t ever make it work that well.  And it frequently turned back on us in domestic politics while a given administration was trying to execute it internationally.  A two party system helps in that regard. On the other hand, the Russians with their Cold War level of  control over their press were much more efficient. Now with Putin’s renewed control over Russia and its media –  and with what is effectively now a single party system or at best an oligarchy, Russia is once again prepared to be very effective with such tactics.

Actually its a good thing that our open press so often deconstructed our own efforts in deniable and covert warfare – the contemporary problem with the Russians using it against is two fold, first that the Russian press had been brought massively in line and shows some success in channeling their propaganda message – even thought ostensibly independent news channels.  The second is that internet news sources and blogs makes it much easier to feed stories into the American public and into our political process.

We were all rather naive about such things back during the Cold War, we can see it all much more clearly in retrospect. The danger is not applying such history lessons and insights to what is happening today in real time….its not clear to me we are doing that, hence my continued focus on the issue.  For starters, take the little piece of internet news below and just remember that it is all a very artful propaganda construct, actually incorporating pieces of real news stories for a purely dis-informational pitch – a very nice job indeed, so nice its scary (and note how easily it picks up the NATO theme, something omnipresent with Russian propaganda these days).




Political Hacking as psychological warfare

This is a follow up post to the “Russians are Coming” from a week or so ago.  If that raised your interest, you need to read the following article.  I was quite serious in my first post and unfortunately it appears that things are escalating.  The use of cut-outs and “covers” in covert action and spying is well documented and now that same trade-craft is being translated into American domestic politics.  With these sorts of attacks it is very difficult to trace a specific source, although as described in the article, it is possible to focus in on some of the moist likely ones – the easiest way to figure out the who and why is to focus on who is being targeted and what motive that reflects.  Read on, this is very current and its deadly serious…




Gaeton Fonzi on Cuban Intelligence

In late 1995, journalist and former HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi traveled to Cuba and interviewed Fabian Escalante, the former head of Cuban Counter Intelligence. The interview was part of a planned article for Esquire magazine. Escalante talked with Fonzi for hours about his role protecting Castro, and together they toured a museum devoted to artifacts of assassination plots against the Cuban leader.

The article was never published by Esquire. But, through the generosity of Fonzi’s widow Marie, the Mary Ferrell Foundation is now making it available for the first time. It is entitled “And Why, By the Way, is Fidel Castro Still Alive?: The Inside Story of Cuban Intelligence.  You will find the article through the link below.

We were happy to have Marie Fonzi speak at last year’s JFK Lancer conference in Dallas and even happier that she will be returning to present again this November.  She has some fascinating insights into what her husband did while working as one of the few experienced investigators to serve Congressional inquiries – as well as his personal thoughts about the people involved and his inside view of the HSCA  practices.


The Russians Are Coming

The Russians have been and are coming – this time via the internet.  If you follow this blog and/or read Surprise Attack (the final chapter) you know that I take President Putin very seriously – largely because he is very successfully employing some of the most effective psychological and non overt warfare techniques developed during the decades of the Cold War. And this time around, we are far more naive about it than we were back then.

For younger readers, the title of this blog comes from a really great Cold War movie back in 1966, one that portrayed Russians as real people and people who were just fallible and afraid of an actual war as we were – great stuff for 1966.  See the movie at the link below.

But now its a few decades later, and we have the internet and while Putin and his top leadership continue to tout new weapons systems, especially nuclear weapons systems, they are largely using that as a screen for some far more effective geopolitical warfare which they are conducting via the internet.  And yes they are trying to manipulate the current American election, subtly, by influencing just enough rumor, gossip, angst and fear to disrupt the Democratic campaign.  And yes, Putin would truly love to see Trump as the American president, if you find that hard to believe….you need to do some study or we need to chat.  And if you think its the first time they have done it recently, its not, its working very nicely for them in Eastern Europe and across Europe in general where they are fragmenting governments just enough to create increased dysfunction. The is a type of tactic the Russian intelligence community has always been expert at, but before the internet they simply did not have the delivery vehicles to maximize it.  Now they do.  So when you read that next forwarded email about politics, from your friend….fact check it….it may well be a derivative of a well planted “spin” piece coming from foreign intelligence (the Russians are not the only potential sources, but at present seem to be leading the pack).

Now you may think this is nothing but a scare piece from a Cold War baby boomer….OK, fine….but do me a favor and listen to the experts on the subject at the link below.  It begins with the Russian hacking campaign in the headline now and goes on to give an in depth education on the real hacking dangers and the reality of  cyber warfare on the internet (vs in the movies).  As an American citizen you need to take that time and educate yourself, no need to duck and cover this time – the threat is much less obvious and coming to you not via a Russian ICBM or advanced sub launched cruise missile but  through your internet service provider.




Other Threats

If  you follow this blog you are probably well aware that it covers a wide range of topics (some might say it’s all over the place) including a span of history of some sixty years.  Generally it has to do with issues of national security, from the assassinations of the sixties across to covert and deniable warfare and more conventional aspects of military security.  I work with my friend Stu Wexler on a variety of research and book projects but each of us also focus on some of our special interests as well.  In his most recent work Stu has been very focused on the threat of the ultra right in America, something he and I explored in The Awful Grace of God and which he has pursued into more contemporary times in his most recent book.

This last week the Washington Post asked him for some insight into certain of the potential threats related to today’s race issues and increasingly militant confrontations.  I helped him a bit during the preparation of the article, offered some comments and made sure he didn’t take any wording (little humor here) from anywhere for it without using quotation marks or a citation.

The article is strictly his though and I encourage everyone to give it a read and comment to him on Facebook if you find it worthwhile….following Stu gives you a good dose of sports talk as well, something totally missing from anything I write.




Saudi’s and 9/11


The recent release of 28 pages of 9/11 investigative material has been praised by some for highlighting the degree of Saudi obstructionism which undermined American efforts against jihadi elements – al Qaeda in particular –  prior to 9/11.  It was downplayed by others who complained that it contained nothing particularly new. After no more than a day of news stories the dialog has all but disappeared, overwhelmed by the news of the next hour and the next day.  If you didn’t see the stories, you can make your own judgement:

Short attention spans are a curse of contemporary news, there really is no such thing as analysis any longer – discussions of political relevance, yes, but otherwise the news has become important only in context of what it means for a campaign, for political figures or political parties. The real story of the Saudi pages would have led back through the Saudi government (which is actually a Royal family primarily concerned with remaining in power and acting in accordance with that focus). Up to 9/11 that meant pushing threats out of the Kingdom, just as Pakistan originally had tried to deal with the jihadi threat by pushing it all into Afghanistan.  There is absolutely no doubt that the Saudi government obstructed American investigation of attacks tied to Saudi nationals prior to 9/11, to what extent they have done so since is another story completely – and of course it’s complicated by the fact that there are factions within that government and its intelligence agencies.

The real story that the 28 pages should have triggered would have been a retrospective on the current state of jihadi terrorism, one going all the way back to the Reagan administration and the William Casey’s covert agreements with the Saudi’s and Pakistani’s to “bleed” the Soviets in Afghanistan. That will go down as one of the most horrendous moves in recorded history, one which allowed the Saudi’s to channel huge funds into the jihadi movement, and in particular the madrasas (religious schools) that were built up in western Pakistan.  An extension of the radical Wahhabi sect schools in Saudi Arabia, the schools in those two nations have now fueled the world wide violence which created the international terror complex that has evolved over the past several decades.  For those that recall 9/11 one of the first post attack tapes obtained of Osama bin Laden involved his covert  meeting in Afghanistan with an associate who had traveled from Saudi.  Bin Laden’s first concern was how the attack had been received in the “schools”; he was assured it had been hugely inspirational.   For further background on contemporary schools, check the following from PBS.

The impact of the Saudi religious schools in generating radical violence is actually nothing new, in the late 1800’s the Dutch colonies in the western Pacific were largely Muslim and the religious practices there were both inclusive and tolerant.  However beginning in the late 1880’s numbers of students who had traveled for schooling in the Arabian Peninsula arrived back in the islands and “extreme religious zeal” began to appear, with totally unanticipated and brutal murders and fanatic attacks. That provided the context for a much more widespread “peasant revolt” in the Dutch East Indies. Details are available in The Peasants Revolt of Bantan in 1888 by Sartono Kartodirjo, 1966. It was bloody and ultimately its roots were traced back to the religious murders associated with students coming back from the radical schools in Arabia.

For a full understanding of where we are today, and how the Saudi schools became so influential, you have to go back to National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski who began the Saudi/Pakistan entanglement (targeting the Russians in Afghanistan) under President Carter. However it was with the next administration,  under Ronald Reagan and his “push-back” policies, that William Casey exponentially deepened the relationship, while allowing the full American financial involvement to be placed under the control of Saudi Arabia and Pakistani intelligence.  All this has been well researched and written about, I deal with it in Shadow Warfare, beginning in chapter 18.  That history is critical to understanding the total jihadi threat and to what extent it has compromised both Saudi and Pakistan…and is in the process of doing the same to Bangladesh and very possibly Turkey.  It’s a matter of politicians acting strictly into survival mode, allowing private elements ranging from financial contributors, charities and radical social networks to function in support of jihadi oriented Islamist’s.  To be clear, as detailed in some degree of the 9/11 incidents outlined in the newly released 28 pages, that support may  sometimes unknowing. Given the cultural nature of the nations involved, charities and religious schooling have always been heavily supported, and frequently compromised;  I outline that story in Shadow Warfare as well.

Of course all this is well known and well documented – it’s a shame nobody really wants to talk about it or more importantly to deal with it.  It will be even more a shame if Saudi, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey remain in what appears to be a state of denial.  There are signs Saudi understands the situation, even if they cannot admit it openly.  There are no signs that the current leadership in Turkey and Bangladesh understand or wants to deal with the true threat to their nations. To date their covert dealings (Turkey) and total denial (Bangladesh) with ISIS have all the look and feel of the way Pakistan approached the jihadi threat, up to the point it subsumed them.


One of the most challenging tasks in dealing with historical subjects, even more contemporary ones, is evaluating individuals who claim to be primary sources – but whose remarks and observations are not part of the record created at the time of an event. I’ve posted before on the issues of memory in regard to “retroactive” source information, more could be said on that and its pretty obvious that a very large body of information comes to exist based on source statements months, years or even decades after the fact – statements which are almost certainly contaminated to some extent by memory issues, regardless of the sincerity of the source.  You have to pause when you find experiment after experiment demonstrating that witnesses will challenge even their own written or recorded statements prepared within minutes or hours of an event when interviewed at a later date.  Their current “memories” simply override even their own earlier records.

That’s one issue, but there are a variety of others.  All of them are important to me because I frequently do turn to individuals as sources – and have learned the risks of that the hard way over a couple of decades.  Yet on a recent online forum post, I read an individual remarking that they had seen a name mentioned, did a Google search, and began to insert the information they found into the dialog, taking it quite literally.  It had taken me some three years to parse that particular source in regard to whether they were credible or not, or to what extent – in that particular case my conclusion was not at all.

Which raises the point that sources may be credible, partially credible or not at all credible – in some instances certain things they say can be verified, while others prove to be extremely questionable.  And there is the issue of “situational” sources, who provide information over a long period of time and filter it according to personal circumstances.  That is one of the things that makes Richard Case Nagell such a challenging source – he did filter his story over time, in regard to both legal issues and personal ones involving custody battles over his children. Taking any single remark from him, without understanding the chronology and context of his remarks would be a mistake. He is a perfect example of what turns out to be a credible but extremely challenging source.

Some of the other challenging sources that I’ve crossed paths with are people like Fred Crisman, Thomas Beckham and Gene Wheaton.  Each required years to evaluate – especially since the first two can demonstrably be shown to be both con men at certain points, to have used fake religious credentials and in Crisman’s case to have carried out a significant UFO hoax along with forging a document outlining has career as a CIA “asset”.  Not to mention anonymously inserting himself into the Garrison investigation with a letter identifying himself as a suspect – and  yes, the man had some serious problem while being totally sincere and personally convincing.  There is no doubt that some sources are so sincere that they convince themselves of their own alternative history.

Beckham on the other hand proved to be an entirely different story, as he did indeed have certain limited but verifiable personal experiences in New Orleans and could offer some insights into both Guy Bannister and Lee Oswald.  Yet being the kind of guy he was, that grew like Topsy, reinforced by his contact with Crisman, and became yet one more alternative reality. For those of you interested in either man, I have provided Debra Conway with my extensive research files on both of them and hopefully at some point they will be available on CD; I don’t think there is a body of information about them that comes close to that collection which had the benefit of work by a variety of others including people who had been personally scammed by Crisman.

Then you have a source like Gene Wheaton, who has the right credentials, was in the right places to hear and know what he claimed and shared it with the ARRB – yet the ARRB showed not the least interest in him and the staff member who worked with him for over a year eventually told my friend Stu Wexler she did not even remember his file, without doubt the most sensational she would have had go past her during her tenure there.    Stu and I will be talking about that at the Lancer conference this fall and showing an interview with Wheaton – that will give those in attendance a chance to personally evaluate him as a source.  And of course, as I write in SWHT, if you decide Wheaton is telling the truth, then you have a very strong insight into the people who went from Florida to Dallas to kill the President.