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.

Classified Intelligence Reveal – Not

In looking at today’s news leads I was surprised to find that one of the top stories was that the “twitterverse had exploded” (not necessarily a bad thing) over the fact that Hillary Clinton might have revealed classified information in the third debate. The concern seemed to be that in demonstrating her knowledge of actual Commander In Chief protocols she had revealed classified information – speculation being that it was from an intelligence briefing.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/politics/hillary-clinton-classified-information-debate/index.html

First off, let me say that is utter nonsense. In my book Surprise Attack I cite numbers of open sources – going back to the early 1960’s – that give specific details about ICBM launch times and about the actual sequence of events, along with the timing and protocols required for launch. One of the most often discussed topics in all of those sources and for that matter in the press is the so called “3 AM call” in which the sequence of events from missile strike detection to Presidential launch authorization is within a 15 min time frame and the National Command Authority (President/SecDef) has no more than four to five minutes decision making time.

This scenario has appeared in dozens if not hundreds of fiction novels and stories, over some five decades. If those going to twitter had gone to Google or even Amazon with a word search we could have saved the twitterverse – truly not the best place to go for fact checking.

The good news is that Clinton knows how these things work and the parameters for the CIC in regard to national security at such a level. In Surprise Attack I discuss a series of  incidents which demonstrate that a good number of our former presidents and national security advisors really did not know the protocols/constraints and were never trained on such things. Generally the SecDef has had a clue; no Vice President appears to have had any idea of such matters and things only get worse as you go down the down the chain of designated successors.

In terms of a classified reveal, Clinton’s remarks simply show she knows what she is talking about in regard to such matters.

Which I must say is a lot better than most of the commentary that  I read in the news articles on the issue. Frankly I was pretty amazed to see that mainstream media folks carrying some sort of national security byline seem to have done a very poor job in addressing the question.

OK, so I’ve attacked the twitterverse and returned to attacking the main stream media – probably enough for the day.

Its not all about WikiLeaks

It’s not all about Wikileaks.  At least psychological warfare is not all about Wikileaks and whether or not Russian hackers used it as an outlet to insert information into the America presidential campaign. It’s true that a skeptical person might wonder about why all the recent email hacks being leaked targeted only one candidate, or about the timing given that many of the emails in question are several years old. Certainly an agenda is obvious, regardless of whoever is logistically involved.

What seems strange is that some of the same skeptics who have long been suspicious of Wikipedia as a tool for manipulating history and opinion don’t seem to realize that same exposure when brought to the table in the form of Wikileaks. From an actual tradecraft standpoint Wikileaks is far better for psychological warfare since the insertion of both real and crafted documents offers much more potential. The news media live on leaks and protected sources, mysteriously appearing documents have always had great impact – whether they turn out to be totally true as with the Pentagon papers, totally false or a well-crafted combination.

But the Russian psychological warfare I’ve been blogging on, and will continue to, is far more complex and has been in play for at least four years now. Perhaps that makes it harder to recognize?  I don’t know but I began writing about it when I was working on Surprise Attack. The key point is that psychological warfare is all about reducing the will to resist – it can be the will to resist an attack during wartime, the will to resist a geopolitical initiative during peace time or even the reshaping of your target’s political system before either of the those – “shaping the battle” doesn’t just occur during combat.

And psychological warfare always includes at least three elements – intimidation, the creation of doubt and the diminishment of the will to resist. Diminishing the will to resist includes convincing the target that whatever is your goal may be, it’s not really that bad, not really harmful and actually may be in the best interests of peace, morality, and maintaining the status quo.

So – back to Mr. Putin and his agenda (which over the last four years he has been able to make the Russian agenda – certainly the two were not one in the same for some years following the end of the Soviet hegemony). The earliest years of the Putin campaign truly focused on Eastern Europe and involved a push back against Western influence in former Soviet bloc nations. While much of that influence was economic and even cultural, there was a military element to it and the expansion of NATO provided the context for what began as a campaign to reinvigorate Russian nationalism domestically (and to insert Putin back into power) and military intimidation against NATO nations in support of that nationalism. The intimidation included not only conventional Russian military activities but seemingly out of the blue, the frequent assertion of Russian nuclear capabilities. I’ve covered all this in the book and in earlier blog posts so for the moment I’m going to try to illustrate my point that psychological warfare is not all about Wikileaks by turning to a smaller venue and certain less dramatic – but very effective psychological warfare tactics relating to Russian involvement in Syria.

Given that the Russian objective was to maintain a vital position on the Mediterranean Sea and grow influence in the Mideast (not an easy feat given their fiasco in Afghanistan) they needed to maximize intimidation – which they did though the use of sub launched cruise missiles out of the Baltic (totally unnecessary), tactical air strikes with nuclear capable strategic bombers (also not necessary) and finally the deployment of their most advanced Anti-Aircraft defense systems (not all that helpful against either ISIS or the Syrian rebels who have no air assets). It all sent a very strong media message, highly publicized by Russian outlets from Sputnik to RT (which had made a large expansion into the American media market, even bringing on respected liberal American news commentators).

But following intimidation comes “shaping”, convincing the American public – which at one time was strongly supportive of major American military involvement in Syria. First that involved the story line that Russia was actually wanting to work with the U.S. targeting ISIS. And that became the Russian media line – regardless of what the actual air strike data showed. You can check that out for yourself – and of course it’s even more effective if your stories get repeated into the American presidential campaign so as to create an instant base for your theme.

http://dailycaller.com/2016/10/10/russia-says-its-fighting-isis-in-syria-this-map-proves-its-not/

https://www.rt.com/usa/362259-trump-syria-ap-factcheck/

http://www.liberalamerica.org/2016/10/11/trump-quotes-russian-propaganda-piece-as-truth-video/

To take a step further, doubt and confusion are very handy, perhaps a few news stories to convince everyone that the American government is really the unseen evil hand in Syria.

https://warisboring.com/no-u-s-jets-are-not-masquerading-as-russians-over-syria-7070718d190d#.p325e8yfs

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1968311/america-plotting-to-allow-9000-isis-fighters-to-escape-terror-capital-mosul-so-they-can-attack-russian-troops-moscow-outrageously-claims/

First intimidation – accept that Russian forces are really in control of Syria already – then doubt as to who really is the bad guy and finally diminished will on the part of your target.  There are many ways to do that but one is to shape matters so that your target appears to be the trouble maker, the adversary of peace. If the target would only be more accommodating things would be far less dangerous, if not – it could mean war or a full return to a Cold War.  Again, if you think that is an exaggeration check out these links – and remember, these story lines are being carried as heavily inside Russia as they are internationally:

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/10/13/putin-ally-us-election-comments-todd-tsr-dnt.cnn

http://www.ibtimes.com/cold-war-2016-russia-hopes-open-cuba-vietnam-military-bases-expand-presence-around-2430367

http://rbth.com/defence/2016/10/13/why-does-russia-need-bases-in-cuba-and-vietnam-again_638391

I’m sure this will be controversial but I offer it for your consideration.

 

PsychWar 2.0

When you are in the midst of a major geopolitical event sometimes you see it – sometimes you don’t. At the moment domestic American politics are covering up a story which began years ago and which the media is actually trying to cover (see, I can say nice things about the media).  But that media coverage is getting as little public traction as the initial investigative reporting on the CIA related aspect of Benghazi did, to some extent because the context is simply outside most people’s experience.  Beyond that the implications are such that its much more comfortable to ignore it – if you accept it you have to do more work, maybe even gossip less and what fun is that.

I can only skim the surface in blogging on it but the basic point is that the advent of the internet as the general public’s primary news source represents a tremendous opportunity for those parties who choose to use it for psychological warfare. To a large extent the United States pioneered the concept of using media as a psychological warfare tool in the early 1950 – primarily focused on radio and to a lesser extent physical mail.  I’ve written about one of the CIA’s most famed practitioners, David Phillips, who mastered the art of counter spin – planting news stories that the government would rightly deny but which were spun with just enough truth that the public would assume it was true because the government was denying it.  His techniques contributed to the fall of at least one Latin American government.

The British had practiced certain elements even earlier, their specialty was inserting faked documents and leaked diplomatic communications inside third countries in a manner that they would be discovered and influence the target country. In one particular instance it worked beautifully, with the United States as the country being targeted.

At the moment, Putin’s Russia has become an active practitioner of psychological warfare, in an evolved fashion, taking full advantage of the public nature of the internet. Russia is carrying out its current campaign at both a strategic and a tactical level. The internet campaign is also being beautifully orchestrated by synchronizing it with the editorial controlled content of various stories inserted via Russian press outlets and its RT television network.

These stories are picked up on the internet and become embedded in internet media outlets – where they are less obvious – and then are repeated both by individuals and at the moment by Donald Trump.  He represents a perfect target for psychological warfare as he clearly gets most of his news off the internet but from a limited set of  internet sources that seem eager to pass on material that in some instances can be traced back to Russian media stories. Several recent instances of this have even been noted in the media, revealed in their fact checking coverage.   The way the Russian psychwar folks are managing this is truly brilliant, David Phillips would have to admire it.

But there are much more advanced efforts in play as well, taking advantage of open source news and the ability to use hackers to obtain and then – either anonymously (or via faked identities) – plant either actual content, whether it be actual emails or possibly even documents. All this is relatively inexpensive – and allows Russian govt hackers to take advantage lone wolf, independent Russian and Eastern European hackers/hacker groups already in operation for financial purposes – using them and their servers as covers.

The next phase is obvious – they begin taking real hacked emails,  tweak them appropriately and leak them. Or, even more aggressively, inserting them into real world email exchanges  – the potential for for generating confusion as well as organizational hate and discontent is immense.

As I said, it a big and complex subject, and one that all of us who rely on the internet would prefer to avoid because it suggests we have to put in a lot more work and a lot more diligence on where we get our information.  And if you think I’m still being alarmist or just making this stuff up, check out the following links:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/russia-hack-u-s-politics-bigger-disclosed-includes-gop-n661866

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/trail-russian-hackers-putin-s-revenge-siberia-n662571

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-government-officially-accuses-russia-of-hacking-campaign-to-influence-elections/2016/10/07/4e0b9654-8cbf-11e6-875e-2c1bfe943b66_story.html

http://www.newsweek.com/2015/05/15/russias-greatest-weapon-may-be-its-hackers-328864.html

 

Presidents as Commander in Chief

Presidents may not know what to do in a military crisis but they have advisors who do.  That’s not me speaking but something that came up in a conversation I was having a couple of weeks ago and I had a hard time responding to it in an impromptu fashion. Of course the discussion was political, at this point in time everything seems to be – and I was expressing my strong concerns about one of the candidates who is notorious for talking and acting off the top of his head (well I suppose that gave it away right there).  The thing is, the original statement is true – Presidents do have advisors who are on hand and ready to offer experienced advice in contemporary times.  Since the early 1960’s,  Presidents have also had some level of direct communications with the actual point of the crisis (if they choose to use it).

The thing is that before I researched and wrote Surprise Attack I was a lot more comfortable about Presidential action at moments of crisis than I am now – because they do have resources available.  What I learned in doing that work is that their personal agendas and modes of action quite often override everything else including their advisors and what is going on at the crisis point. Their seems to be an intense personal motivation to take control and do so with immediate decisions.

To be clear, taking control can be issuing orders to do something, or orders to stop doing something.  That sounds convoluted so a couple of illustrations are in order.

The first takes us to 1964 and the destroyer Turner Joy in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam.  Word reached Washington D.C. of a possible attack on the American destroyer and within the span of some three hours President Johnson, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense, ordered a series of intense air strikes which essentially committed the U.S. to full scale conventional warfare against North Vietnam.  Before those orders could be carried out the U.S. Admiral responsible for the ships advised Washington that he was already receiving information suggesting that the destroyers had actually not been attacked and requesting a delay in any retaliation.   A Navy pilot observing the purported attack confirmed by radio that there were no signs at all of North Vietnamese boats anywhere near the destroyers. And on the Navy carrier which was preparing for the strikes,  there was general knowledge that it was a false alarm. The carrier commander is on record as being quite clear that the U.S. attack was launched under false pretenses, contrary to advice and requests from the senior on-scene military commanders.

Johnson rejected all that advice, moved forward and the rest is history.  Worse yet there was a cover-up of NSA signals intelligence proving no attack had occurred.

The second takes us to the Israeli attack on the Liberty signals intelligence ship in 1967, an attack which killed and injured dozens of Americans.  Once aware of the attack in progress, military commanders in the Mediterranean had scrambled Navy jets to defend the ship and repel attacks that continued to go on for hours. When President Johnson was advised of the situation and of the military action being taken, he ordered it stopped, leaving the Liberty alone and undefended. We have copies of the American carrier messages of support to the Liberty, we have confirmation of Johnson’s orders, beyond that we have anecdotal stories that he even considered sinking the American ship over political concerns.  Its clearly one of the most damming stories relating to any Presidential action and it was in direct contradiction to all advice  from military commanders on the scene, senior military advisors – and ongoing pleas for help from the ship.

Unfortunately these are only a couple of examples, there are far more in Surprise Attack. My problem is that after having written the book and having become familiar with what Presidents do and don’t do under pressure, I tend to become speechless when trying to respond to the point that things will be OK because President’s have advisors.  President GWB had advisors as well and after 9/11 swore that the US would act militarily but would never become a policeman or get into nation building – but of course he had advisors too.

Experience makes such a huge difference under crisis situations; you can see it in JFK’s character and in his personal experience in combat and having been involved with almost going to war over Berlin.   The other good thing is to have a CIC that thinks a bit before they actually act….

And if you think this is a bit alarmist, just remember that we have ships and planes operating in the South China Sea and in several areas with increasingly hostile contact not just from the Iranians but from the Russians and that the probability is that we will have an aircraft or plane damaged withing the near future, even if accidentally, because the contacts are becoming too close and too dangerous.  All that without even weighing in the insanity of  the North Korean leadership.  A moment of military crisis similar to the Tonkin Gulf or the Liberty is coming to the next President..count on it.

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:

ww.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/13/duterte-wants-us-forces-out-southern-philippines.html

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.

Afterwards

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.

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=16071#relPageId=11&tab=page