2016 JFK Lancer Conference

Almost everyone with any interest in the assassination of President Kennedy is aware of the fact that the initial investigation of that crime as well as a series of follow-on inquires has created an immense body of government documents.   Some people feel that the government actually determined the true nature of a conspiracy in the assassination and that information is withheld in documents – or at least documents suggestive of a conspiracy are still being withheld.

Concerns over “withheld” government documents are so great that as recently as the 1990’s a special body, the Assassination Records Review Board was created, with the expressed purpose of locating records that might be missing, obtaining them and making them available through the National Archives. It’s fair to say that tens of thousands of documents have been made available to researchers over the past decade and there is much anticipation of a “final” release of JFK records by the National Archives in 2017.

Exactly what that release is going to consist of has actually been announced and researchers are already digging into that listing, even though the documents themselves are not yet available.  However those eager for access to additional information have to deal with the fact that agencies can still withhold documents on the basis of national security and can also designate documents at the National Archives to be either redacted (meaning that portions of the document are blacked out) or withheld in full.

In anticipation of the 2017 release, JFK Lancer is holding its 20th research conference in Dallas this November   The conference will be devoted to preparing attendees to deal with the body of data that is already available as well as the information that will be forthcoming in 2017.  Both experienced researchers and newcomers to the events of November 22, 1963 have to deal with an almost overwhelming amount of information available though many sources, many of which are credible and some of which most certainly are not.

The 2016 conference will focus on research techniques that have been proven to work, offering attendees the personal experiences of a group of long time researchers, as well as those recently entering the quest to understand the murder of President Kennedy.  My own presentation will deal with the difficulties in assessing purported “insider” sources – and the type of work that is necessary to separate reality from fiction in historical research.

For those interested in the subject or wish to register for the conference, you can find further details at the link below, I’m happy to respond to questions here or, as usual, you can email me.

http://jfklancer.com/Dallas2016/welcome.html

 

Deep Money / Dark Money

Deep (or dark, your choice) money has once again come briefly into view, the subject of global news attention for at least a few days in the Panama Papers scandal.  If you were away from the news for a time an internet search will give you the basics, this time the news is centered on the customers of a very low profile law firm in Central America – Mossack Fonseca. Mossack Fonseca specializes in the use of shell companies and blind trust accounts to effectively obscure the movement of money and to shield its ownership from those who don’t want their names associated with it. The firm uses the international banking services of firms such as Commerzbank, HSBC and Societe Generale.  The banks themselves simply make their services available without too much concern other than effectively moving money from account to account and location to location.

Technically it’s all a process which had its roots in international banking during the two World Wars, when various corporations determined it would be profitable to conduct business with nations who were at war with their own governments – but wished to avoid governmental scrutiny or public outcry while in search of possible short term, highly profitable business opportunities. Those transactions set the stage for “financial deniability” in the twentieth century.

Following World War II, and during the early decades of the Cold War, a new form of deep money operations came into play, driven largely for the need provide “political deniability” for covert government operations. If you have Shadow Warfare, you find this phase of deep money described in detail in the chapter on “Evolution of a Covert Warfare Infrastructure” and further detailed in a following chapter, “Autonomous and Deniable”. We also discuss the roots of that practice, illustrated by the actions of President Roosevelt in covertly funding a program to provide both defensive and offensive air forces to China – with the intent of preemptively striking Japan.

The lesson to be learned from the early covert operations, especially those in SE Asia, is not only how deep money really works, but how quickly certain of the front and shell companies – and the banking infrastructure put in place to move money through them – were taken over by criminal elements.  The lawyers who put the infrastructure in place proved aggressive in marketing its capabilities to a wide variety of customers, asking few questions along the way. Their Boards of Directors generally asked even fewer questions. Within a short period of time drug money from the Golden Triangle, skim money from Las Vegas and Havana and yet more drug money from New York, Florida and the Gulf states were flowing through the same deep conduits, sometimes even within the certain of the more autonomous shell companies the CIA was using for its own tasks.  The CIA’s surrogates often became quite skilled at using the same deep money practices for their own profit.  In fact, by time of the Contra activities, the CIA actually had to establish an “understanding” with the Justice Department to allow it to remain involved with Contra leaders who were  doing drug business on the side – without reporting them to DEA as the CIA was obligated to do by law.

Today both the CIA and and operational units within joint counter terror task forces find themselves still facing  the reality that the people they need to use/support in their mission are sometimes more than ready to make and engage in illegal activities on the side, once again turning to dark money transactions.  It’s a fact of life, it comes with the territory and its naive to think you can do regime building or collect information on terror groups with their own darn money networks without occasionally enabling such transactions. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as stupid (a little attitude showing) as shipping tons of American cash into Iraq, loaded on pallets.  It would be interesting to compare the amount of actual dollars lost to fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan to the dark money activities of the locals being supported in regime and nation building. Not likely to happen though.

Back to Panama Papers and today’s large scale deep/dark money trends.  What appears most significant to me is not how Mossack Fonseca was gaming the financial system but rather that most of their customers appear to have been politically connected individuals using their services to shield questionable internal financial activities within their own nations (Mr. Putin and his friends come to the fore, as do individuals from China, Iceland, Syria).  Some twenty-nine Forbes-listed billionaires have been named in Mossack Fonseca transactions. No doubt further investigation will uncover drug money and possibly even artifact money, the latter having become really big business following the massive archeological thievery in Iraq and Syria.  But primarily its a matter of individuals with a lot of political reach and/or financial clout hiding their money making from their national media and, of course, from taxation.

So, with the end of the Cold War (well the first Cold War, let’s call it CWI for short) deep financial transactions are no longer primarily a tool for covert military and political operations.  Now the American government just ships cash overseas to fund regime building and military missions. Nothing covert about that. Now the dark money techniques and infrastructures originally built to provide national deniability, quickly penetrated for use in shielding criminal activities, have now become largely devoted to simply protecting ultra-rich individuals and global corporations from paying taxes.

Putting it all in perspective, there seems to be something of a political message in all this.  We used to follow the money to dig into the covert side of international relations.  Now it seems that it’s become much more personal, that in itself suggests some interesting political implications. Almost as interesting as tracking the political contributions and potential legislative manipulation carried out by those same individuals and corporations.  At the moment Supreme Court rulings have left us in a state where those investigations are much more challenging. But who knows, perhaps “anonymous” will turn their attention to the arena of campaign donations?

I also can’t fail to mention the irony in all this – that tools and techniques originally developed for government covert action are now being turned against governments world wide to seriously gut those government’s own tax collections.

Mitch Werbell

One of the challenges for anyone interested in the assassination of President Kennedy is simply dealing with the immense amount of material that has gone into print and onto the internet.  The good news is that in terms of actual data – documents, primary evidence, material from official investigations – decades of research and legal pressure have generated a host of material and  a large amount of it is available online.  In addition, a great deal of contextual historical material for the period available. You don’t necessarily find it in JFK assassination discussions but it is contained in independent historical studies of the early Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations –  especially in the growing numbers of very solid biographies and autobiographies of individuals associated with the Kennedy era – individuals commonly discussed in conjunction with the assassination.

In many instances I’ve found that corollary material to be more important – and more factual – than what may be found in postings and books about the assassination itself.  For example, it is common to find claims that Mitch Werbell, one of the larger than life figure of the 60’s  and a person of interest for both official investigations and JFK researchers, was involved in the assassination.  It has become something of an article of faith for many that Werbell provided advanced silencers that were used in the attack in Dallas.

The problem with the belief is that it literally cannot be true, even if on occasion Werbell himself might have made remarks to encourage such an idea. Being an an expert at self promotion, Werbell happily claimed a great number of things which helped make him a figure of mystery, a man of vast connections and a person of great value to anyone wanting to buy advanced weapons or acquire experienced mercenary personnel.  It’s fascinating to read his media interviews.  I recall one recording a trip by Werbell to Washington, traveling with an attractive secretary, a  locked briefcase and verbally pondering in front of the journalist about which military service to visit first, which foreign embassy to contact next and asking his secretary not to let him miss his appointment at the “farm”.  His sales style was admirable in terms of impressing dictators of small foreign countries, not so much for the CIA office of security.

As for myself, he was one of the figures that intrigued me in my early research so I obtained a good amount of his actual CIA file – which led me to that previous remark about the CIA’s view of him. I wrote about him at some length -” The Legendary Mitch Werbell” – in Someone Would Have Talked.  Of course these days you can search and read online much of what I had to dig out of NARA the hard way back then.  It all paints a much more complete picture of Werbell and his career, but most importantly it allows time stamping of exactly when he became involved with silencer technology including when he acquired the patents and started his weapons business.  All of which occurred well after the Kennedy assassination. The key word there being “after”.  Whatever reputation he developed for amazing silencer technology came about after the events in Dallas, not before.  Its all there in the documents and today its also available in articles such as the one at this link:

http://warisboring.com/articles/mitchell-werbell-silenced-the-u-s-armys-m-14s-and-m-16s/

My point in all this is that it pays to read widely and search broadly when you jump into the Kennedy assassination.  Don’t limit yourself to just the JFK books (even mine) and certainly not to the YouTube videos on the assassination – test what is presented to you with other sources.  The first generation JFK researchers referred to themselves as skeptics – skeptical of the official story on the assassination.  Skepticism was a healthy thing then, it remains so today.

 

 

Eyewitness Issues

 

In terms of research I often describe myself as a “document geek”, there are a number of reasons I tend to focus on primary or at least secondary documents – one may be that some decades ago I had a very good teacher in a graduate course on historiography. We received an intense and clinical introduction to risks of relying on individuals as sources and his remarks seem to have embedded themselves in my psyche.  When I first became involved with research into political assassinations, in particular the murder of President Kennedy, I was fortunate enough to get a complete set of the early Dallas Police hand written statements.   That was back before the internet when scoring such materials was a lot tougher than just using Google and a browser.

One of my first lessons in using the statements was how dramatically witness testimony evolved, either expanding or being refocused within days or at most a week.  Another point was that what researchers focused on in terms of a particular witness was not at all what the witness had themselves focused on in their statements.  Following that I did a lot of work with FBI interviews and reports and quickly learned a) that FBI agents used closed interview techniques rather than open and b) if a subject wanted to talk about something not on their investigation list they closed them down quickly and dug into what their specific interests were – interviews of individuals who knew Jack Ruby are a really good example of that.

In later years, people have asked me why I didn’t really concentrate on follow up interviews.  My response is that while I have talked to many of the people whose names come up in regard to Dallas, both witnesses, police, “suspects”, I just don’t view it as being productive research.  Not when I’m talking to them four decades after the event, and especially when I was talking to really bright people like Gerry Hemming.  I learned I could catch them in misstatements but that only confirmed what I already suspected, which was that I was wasting my time.

More recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time evaluating eyewitness testimony for some new work I’m doing and I’ve turned back to some of the best available professional studies on the subject.  My friend Sherry Feister, a Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst, provides some excellent insight into witness perception – evaluating witnesses to violent crimes, focusing on their observational ability’s during chaotic events such as shootings.  Certainly I would recommend her book, Enemy of the Truth, Myths, Forensics and the Kennedy Assassination to anyone who wades into the JFK, MLK or RFK assassinations.

http://www.amazon.com/Enemy-Truth-Forensics-Kennedy-Assassination/dp/0988305003/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459340294&sr=1-1&keywords=sherry+feister

For a broader perspective, I would also recommend reading Elizabeth Loftus work Eyewitness Testimony, it tends to focus on witnesses from a legal perspective, in particular how law enforcement collects witness information and how it is offered and received in court.  However the basic research that she offers and illustrates should make all of us stop and seriously reconsider witness information taken after the first two hours or the first two days. In addition, it also calls into question the tendency to rely too heavily on witness detail.

http://www.amazon.com/Eyewitness-Testimony-Elizabeth-F-Loftus/dp/0674287770/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459342155&sr=1-9&keywords=loftus

Extensive testing has shown that marked inaccuracies occur in witness reports of the time involved in observed events, the speed of an object or distance of an object – judgement of speed is especially difficult. Witnesses also routinely overestimate the time of their observation and the time of an event – stress or anxiety in the witness magnify the overestimation – duration of an event is perhaps the most common inaccuracy in estimates.

Going beyond problems with the acquisition of information during events, additional and extensive tests show that “forgetting” occurs rapidly and tapers off over time – accuracy suffers with duration but most significantly in the near term.  First day data is far superior in terms of accuracy, one week delay can make a major difference. The reason behind that rapid loss of accuracy is part memory dynamics but also the proven fact that new and even erroneous information quickly contaminates observations- whether it is from the news or from simply talking with other individuals.

Post-event information can actually change memory to the extent of firmly embedding new or false information along with original memories, it becomes almost impossible to separate and witnesses seldom accept the difference even when shown proofs.  One of the classic tests demonstrates that witness will argue against their own written, immediate statements – claiming weeks and years after the fact that they must have been mistaken in notes made within hours since they remember it definitely a year or a decade later.

Loftus continues with a detailed study of the impact of “retrieval”, providing examples of how different questioning techniques, innocently or intentionally, can actually add concrete details to a witness story.   Signs can be inserted or changed in traffic accident reports, Weapons or other evidence related elements can be added or deleted from robbery or even murder testimony.

Lesson learned –  if you are serious about the facts, start with first day statements – to anybody – simple statements to the press are fine, written statements are good but it has to be the witnesses’ own words and not as restated by anyone in a media story or police interview.  Now obviously we don’t always have this information, but the closer you get to it the closer you are getting to the reality the witness.  At least then you reduce the number of issues down to those of witness perception.

Deter or Defer?

As described in recent posts, Russia’s current leadership – which translates quite literally to Vladimir Putin – has chosen to establish and maintain its power through an appeal to national security (NATO as a threat) and Russian nationalism.  In doing so Putin has been extremely heavy handed in returning the Russian media to virtually total government control. For Putin it was simply a calculated risk and one that had to be taken, his only route to regaining and maintaining political power was though the traditional appeal to Russian nationalism, reinforced with an assertive and successful Russian foreign policy. Events in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine quickly validated the approach and also demonstrated that traditional Soviet era techniques were still effective in quashing the free press that had emerged following the collapse of the communist regime.

To this point Putin has proved extremely successful with his political strategy and in managing his resources – advertising Russian strategic and nuclear weapons while selectively using his tactical military assets sparingly and largely for intimidation, letting third party surrogates do most of the actual dyeing in both the Ukraine and Syria. Maintaining the fiction of some undefined but existential western threat has also allowed Putin to funnel virtually all available monies into a resurgent Russian military, including the initial development of new ICBM’s, strategic bombers, powerful naval vessels-  and very advanced submarines.  All of which are highly symbolic of Russian power and make for great internal media opportunities.

After two years of Putin’s strategy,  Russia has seen over two billion dollars leave the country, its gross national product is down by almost four percent in the last year, the Ruble has lost half its value and inflation is now around 17%.  In most other countries this would be politically disastrous, but that assumes a viable political opposition (now nonexistent in Russia) and the fact that Putin has managed to establish his own personal persona as a leader – symbolizing Russian power yet disassociated from the day to day administrative and financial problems of the Russian government.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/15/opinions/russia-syria-presence-aron/

Syria proved to be an excellent example of Putin’s tactical sophistry, allowing Russia to put trade and political pressure on perhaps the most internally challenged and conflicted NATO member – Turkey – while simply using up a portion of their older, “dumb” weapons, showing off Russian air power in a low threat environment against the Syrian rebels and demonstrating new long range cruise missiles to boost foreign weapons sales. When it was becoming clear that Russian aircraft were about to become exposed to man portable antiaircraft missiles being fed into Syria, they began drawing down their air strikes while leaving advisors and advanced helicopters in action, and totally securing at least two Mediterranean ports under their direct control, protected by highly advanced, very long range anti-aircraft missile systems.  I’m going out on a limb here and saying that the Russia will hold those ports for decades, much like is holding the Crimea, regardless of what happens to Assad.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-300_%28missile%29

As an update to the original post, the following link will provide some good insight into the Russian withdrawal from Syria – which is most definitely tactical only:

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/even-russians-withdraw-their-legacy-syria-remains?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syriasatellitelegacybutton&utm_content=topimage&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–qVbylaqA7ggsQTqqXXQezKB72FZgGGUxVNeUnurWb2gqfhnxMgzJGBKX74cJSnRfW4UVAG2eH2G-vu3Z3mHlKOoXdag&_hsmi=27476267&hsCtaTracking=07e585f3-81d9-4e00-aa99-cf5be0c7ac2d|76e4d208-1870-40b9-a56d-79eefd6a8121

So from the Russia perspective all this is really pretty obvious, old school strategy.  The reason I’m writing about it here has to do with the concepts of strategic deterrence and mirroring.  To this point Putin has been highly successful in focusing Russian dollars on a military resurgence, both strategic and tactical. And the Russians are very good at engineering high powered weapons and are coming up with some extremely advanced and capable designs.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/syria-shows-that-russia-built-an-effective-military-now-how-will-putin-use-it/2016/03/17/aeaca59e-eae8-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f_story.html

They are also quietly and very effectively supporting a set of new buffer state armies.

http://warisboring.com/articles/little-armenia-could-play-a-big-role-if-russia-and-turkey-ever-go-to-war/

What is fascinating is that Putin and the successes of his domestic/international power politics strategy seems to be having no significant impact on American politics. That is truly a major change. The American political contests have become so socially charged and so internally focused that Putin is simply not registering as either a threat or a challenge – in fact you have one of the major presidential candidates stating that he views Putin as being a powerful and assertive leader and feels they will have much in common.  This is all something really new, there are no debate questions of weapons “gaps”, of the cost of sustaining the nuclear triad (which is probably good since several of the candidates had no idea what that was), of a European Assurance Initiative which would begin to rebuild NATO capabilities against further Russian territorial moves in Eastern Europe or of national security issues beyond immigration and terrorism.

http://www.airforcemag.com/DRArchive/Pages/2016/March%202016/March%2018%202016/Funding-Full-Military-Might.aspx

Those things have just not been given a place on this year’s campaign table. They will however be very much on the budgetary table and administration table for the 2017 budget. So, the question is, has “mirroring” become a thing of the past, are the politicians now sophisticated enough to understand that Putin is only playing to his internal public and all those new weapons systems and all those troop movements around Eastern European borders are just propaganda (after all, it’s one thing to design new systems or even to build prototypes but to produce and deploy them in quantity is an entirely different financial challenge). Will a new administration be able to resist the national security budget initiatives that the military services have already put on record?  Will someone step forward to propose an international moratorium on hyper-sonic weapons development – a weapons technology which by itself has the potential for starting a highly expensive arms race? Such weapons hold first strike/preemptive strike capabilities and any defense against them would be far beyond that of comparatively simple ballistic missile defense – the military in both Russian and Chinese fully recognize their value in offsetting many of America’s current weapons advantages and are aggressively developing them.

http://www.airforcemag.com/DRArchive/Pages/2016/March%202016/March%2016%202016/Beyond-the-Hypersonic.aspx

As I explored in Surprise Attack, post-World War II American politics has always been highly driven by national security and “deterrence”; the question now is whether or not we have actually gotten smarter about such issues – are we seeing a sea change – or is it all just a matter of an overriding political urge to “defer” national security issues as most all other decisions are being deferred these days.

Deployments and Gaps

Deployments

Any new readers joining this blog for the first time are probably wondering what this JFK guy is doing writing about the political issues relating to deterrence, Vladimir Putin and the American military budget.  If so – good question.  The answer is that my basic interest is history, especially Cold War history, and what we can learn from that experience.  Admittedly I have a more personal interest in the JFK, MLK and RFK assassinations since I “was there for that” and JFK saved all our lives with his decision making during the Cuban missile crisis. But I was also there for pretty much all the Cold War, albeit very young in its earlier years, and I have a personal perspective on that as well.  So – having addressed that – I’ll move forward to post number two in what I anticipate is a three post series.

In order to fully appreciate the “elephant in the wings” statement in my most recent post, it’s necessary to explore some of the military spending issues which are beginning to evolve out of what is increasingly beginning to look like an East/West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War.  It’s a confrontation which is already driving new deployments at sea, in Europe and even in the Artic.

Previously I’ve mentioned the surge, largely unremarked in the general media, in military assistance programs and partnerships – in dozens of countries, primarily across Africa.  Many people would be amazed to find the extent to which State National Guard units are partnering and training with armies across that continent – the media monitors combat boots on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia quite closely but little is written about the growth of “peaceful” military assistance which has grown to a level which appears to be comparable to what was going on in Latin America during the 1960’s and 1970’s.   That seemed pretty innocuous at first, a standard response to the fears of communist expansion then and to jihadi terrorism now.  The end result in Latin America was support for a series of military dictatorships that turned to death squads and killed hundreds of thousands of people.  Hopefully we will avoid that sort of thing this time around in Africa.

What I’m really focusing on here are other types of deployments, those of conventional military forces. During the Cold War we routinely conducted exercises sending B-29 and B-27 SAC squadrons to Europe, and occasionally to Asia. These days a couple of B-52’s, B-1’s or B-2’s, can carry the destructive power of one of those earlier squadrons – and now we are routinely sending them to Europe and into the Pacific.

http://www.airforcemag.com/DRArchive/Pages/2016/March%202016/March%2014%202016/Perception-Matters.aspx

I’m not saying I oppose such deployments, but it’s something that had ceased in the mid 90’s and has now reemerged as a standard practice. Along with the revitalization of forward bases, it’s becoming an expense (and a crew demand) that we thought had been relegated to the past.  In addition, Air National Guard units have begun a series of deployments to Eastern Europe and Baltic countries, both to support routine NATO air defense patrols and to participate in joint confidence building exercises following Russian activities in and around the Ukraine. The same is true in terms of Army forward basing in Europe and the ground force training/exercises which I have written about earlier. All in all, we are seeing a “return to Europe”, not yet at the scale of the sixties and seventies but certainly one which negates earlier initiatives to draw down force postures in Europe and close bases there. In fact certain air bases which were scheduled for closure are now either being taken off the list or actually receiving new units – particularly air assets to support  tactical and rapid deployment forces.  The scale of military exercises in both Europe and the Pacific is expanding, and we are even returning to regions, in particular the Artic, that nobody had seriously considered as a combat theatre since the 1950’s.

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/apache-attack-helicopters-don-skis-and-other-upgrades-f-1764321093

All this is expensive, all of it further strains the military budgets (and service personnel whose foreign deployment time and number of overseas tours has risen dramatically).  But the real exposure for massive new spending is just now beginning to come in front of Congress and it is most definitely being driven by Mr. Putin and his strategic posturing.  Putin’s turn to promotion of a western threat and appeal to Russian nationalism has been key to his surge in popularity; his “seizure” of the Russian media has made Russian military might a national topic, and source of pride.

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/look-inside-putins-massive-new-military-command-and-con-1743399678

However his turn to strategic modernization and “force projection” serves as a trigger for calls for equivalent spending in the West, especially in terms of the American strategic weapons systems. If you think that my description of his “force projection” is overstated, perhaps someone can give me a sane explanation of why the Russian Navy would deploy a ballistic missile sub to cruise right outside French territorial waters?

http://warisboring.com/articles/russian-ballistic-missile-sub-prowls-off-french-coast/

So what does all this mean, well it means that either the next Congress is going to have to deal (or more likely continue to ignore) the reality that the American strategic weapons systems have indeed become dated.  That goes without saying when you look at B-52 bombers (a class of aircraft which first went into service in the 1950’s) as still flying as one of our strategic delivery platforms, at Minutemen missile systems as another class which went into service in the 1960’s and at the aging of the Navy’ nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarine force.  Is the nuclear triad still important – one could have argued against that at the end of the 1990’s, it’s harder to do so with both China and India launching new ballistic missile subs and North Korea desperately trying to do so.

http://warisboring.com/articles/india-prepares-its-first-nuclear-armed-submarine/

In the next post I’ll focus on the new strategic investments that will come before Congress, and on the broader subjects of deterrence, parity, and decapitation. Today’s politics and debates address none of those topics but they will become very real questions/issues during the next two to three years and it will be interesting to see of today’s politics turns (as Russia’s did at the beginning of this decade) back to a focus on national security rather than social issues as the political dynamic. Or more precisely will “gaps” once again become a driving force for the sorts of military spending we saw in during the Eisenhower and Reagan administrations?

 

Hindsight and Foresight

I will be coming forward in time for the next couple of posts, dealing with issues which demonstrate that we really should learn from history, but probably won’t. After exploring the subjects of defense and command and control in Surprise Attack, I concluded the book with a chapter on lessons learned. One of those lessons has to do with the concept of deterrence. There are several aspects of deterrence, including how frequently military deterrence is co-opted for use as a political tool.
One of the most contemporary examples of that is occurring within the Russian Federation and I discussed the power of that tactic, as currently adapted by Vladimir Putin. To get quickly to the point, I predicted that the Putin’s decision to leverage national security and deterrence as a strategy for increasing his popular approval would require massive government military spending. Given the dependence of the Russian economy on energy production, that strategy could easily be undermined by any significant downturn in oil prices. My speculation was that, given Russian cultural history, Putin would likely pursue that course, even in the face of such a risk.
Oil prices have indeed fallen – some three times below the level needed to sustain Putin’s new military spending programs. Beyond that, the massive decline in Russian oil revenues is indeed being felt within the Russian public sector:
http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/29/news/oil-crisis-russia/index.html
That pain will be magnified by general reductions in Russian government spending, on the order of at least ten percent.
http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/13/news/economy/russia-oil-budget-cuts/
Yet there is no sign those same cuts will be applied to the surge in Russian military spending. All indications are that Russia is reinvesting in and reinvigorating its entire military on a scale totally independent of its overall financial condition. I’ve posted on some of those investments previously; it’s not something that is often covered in general news headlines and it’s not much discussed in this year’s election campaigning.
The Russian spending is not on the relatively “tactical” weapons and resources that the United States has focused on during the last couple of decades – special forces, tactical air support, intelligence/ISR, battlefield management, highly targeted weapons – that we routinely see show up in news from Syria, Somalia or Libya. Instead Russia is spending according to its core military values, investing in assets which project brute, overwhelming strength. We have recently seen a taste of that brute force approach in Syria, where Russia uses carpet bombing and massive strikes with “dumb” bombs rather than the extremely expensive, remotely targeted weapons the United States employs.
I’ve posted before on Putin’s constant references to Russian nuclear strength and the deployment of new mobile and submarine launched ICBM’s, but his spending is going far beyond that, restoring some of the largest and most threatening of the Soviet era weapons platforms:
http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/kirov-class-battle-cruiser-the-worlds-largest-surface-1570998551
http://warisboring.com/articles/soviet-era-tu-160m2-is-more-lethal-than-ever/
In a sane world, one would really question why a nation as financially pressed as the Russian Federation would be refitting, rearming and redeploying such large and costly systems – or surging nuclear submarines on a scale hardly seen during the Cold War. Exactly who is the Russian Navy preparing to engage at sea? In earlier decades, when an American president talked of sailing the American fleet right into Vladivostok, perhaps it made some sense. In 2016 it is clearly meaningless – other than in support of Putin’s personality campaign – which links him directly to Russian military strength, associating him with a national resurgence.
All of which brings me to certain questions I’ll pursue in a following post. Historically, whenever one major power makes the sorts of investments Putin is making it results in a “mirrored” expenditure by the other “side” – triggering an arms race. During the Cold War, Russian defense initiatives were most frequently triggered by the United States (if you don’t believe that read Surprise Attack and we can talk). It’s widely agreed that Soviet spending in response to the Reagan administration military initiatives essentially broke the Soviet system.
The questions I pose relate to the extent to which the United States will respond to the Putin’s military spending spree – assuming that his public continues to support it and accepts the financial pain. To what extent is American “mirroring” already occurring and what does it imply for the next administration? To date most election dialog has been about balancing the budget, trade issues, immigration, lowering taxes and dealing with social issues. The political debates have not seen questions referring to the end of sequestration or the two year bipartisan budget deal – one can only imagine candidates responses if such questions had been raised.
http://www.airforcemag.com/DRArchive/Pages/2015/October%202015/October%2028%202015/Two-Year-Bipartisan-Budget-Deal.aspx
There is an elephant waiting in the wings for the next administration and it’s not a political elephant, its Vladimir Putin and Russian rearmament. You may be surprised at the effect that’s already having on American military spending, especially since Congress has become extremely clever at shielding new weapon systems commitments, and obscuring military spending within the separate AUMF budget. That’s worked up to this point but the real spending, on major new weapons systems, has yet to begin. I’ll have some information and thoughts on those sorts of questions in the next post.

Two hours on RFK

For those interested in further discussion of the RFK assassination, cover up and conspiracy –  Chuck Orchelli was kind enough to have Stu Wexler and I on his show for a two hour discussion and as  you can imagine we managed to cover a great deal of ground in that time.  Stu had to leave after about half an hour because he was involved in a real time, time sensitive legislative initiative related to cold cases.  As I’ve mentioned he and I remain active in ongoing research, primarily on the MLK and RFK cases but we tackle new leads on JFK when the opportunity presents.  As  you will hear, if  you listen to the interview, we both consider the RFK assassination to still be very much an open case.  Enough of that here, there’s two hours more at the following link:

Polka Dot Dress Girl and associates

Going further with the subject of the RFK assassination and conspiracy, I’d like to bring up the premise that the key to that conspiracy lies in the identity of the “polka dot dress” girl and her associates.  Certainly anyone reading about the attack on RFK will come across this subject at some  point, and across her association with Sirhan Sirhan – which was probably much closer than Sirhan has ever admitted, although he has moved to focus more on her in recent years.  During his trial, Sirhan was hesitant to discuss his association with any women, going so far as to offer to plead guilty and take the electric chair simply to avoid the issue of two young women he had known and at one time tried to chat up, paying for their coffee.  That strong reaction provides a valuable insight into Sirhan but that’s a different story in and of itself.

In the beginning the Los Angeles police took Sandra Serrano’s encounter with the “polka dot dress” girl very seriously and it drove a good bit of their early investigation.  The problem was that they failed to identify the girl and that became a serious embarrassment.  In addition, as the prosecution began to focus exclusively on Sirhan, the concept of accessories represented a complication to the case that no prosecution team ever is excited to pursue, simply because it dilutes their presentation.  That’s especially true if those potential associates remain unidentified.   In turn the defense team is always happy to avoid the subject since associates imply premeditation and premeditation can undermine plea deals and ultimately lead to the death penalty.

Ultimately the LAPD resolved their problem is an amazingly transparent miscarriage of procedure – amazing that this point in time but not an issue during the trial because as with so many things Sirhan’s defense restrained from virtually any objections or challenge to the evidence being presented by the prosecution.  Anyone reviewing the case will find a great similarity to the defense of Sirhan Sirhan and James Earl Ray.  Although the LAPD had a number of witnesses describing the mystery girl – and her associates – including one of their officers who independently obtained witness descriptions of them only minutes after the shooting – they managed to focus the whole issue around Sandra Serrano and her statements.  Following a memo remarking that the polka dot dress girl story had become a serious problem in their investigation, certain officers violated both procedural and professional protocol in obtaining a polygraph which showed Serrano to have created the story on her own – and they pressured her into officially recanting her statements.  Their scenario, which she swore to under polygraph and which the polygraph operator himself witnessed to have been truthfully stated, was that she had discussed the shooting with a busboy and had taken her description of the girl from his remarks.

What gives lie to the whole police procedure is the fact that the LAPD files themselves show that Serrano had fully described the encounter and the girl to an assistant LA District Attorney while outside the hotel following the shooting – well before she went back in and was seated in the vicinity of the busboy.  The DA himself officially reported her information to the police and repeatedly brought it to the attention of the LAPD.  Of course that means that the polygraph statement stated to be true – that she had made up the story – was demonstrably false.  Which in turns would bring into question any and all of the  police polygraph work as well as the behavior of the officers involved in it (not to mention the polygraph officer taking her out to dinner and buying her a drink before the session).  It is one of the most egregious examples of police investigatory action you could possibly find, magnified by the fact that all the information needed to reveal it is in the police files themselves.

Beyond that, the LAPD can clearly be shown to have obfuscated and suppressed the police officer’s reports and statements which independently verified the descriptions of the girl and her associates obtained from two people who observed them fleeing from the hotel….exactly where Serrano described them as exiting.

Clearly there was conspiracy in the attack, clearly it involved some young people who were highly enthusiastic but not all that covert in their actions.  If you want to dig through the whole story, I would refer you to my Incomplete Justice essays on the Mary Ferrell site:

https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Essay_-_Incomplete_Justice_-_At_the_Ambassador_Hotel.html

 

 

 

David Morales at the Ambassador Hotel

In recent years my participation in JFK forums has declined a good bit,  to a large extent because the same subjects are debated time after time and after researching the assassination for some twenty five years, I’ve seen enough to know how most of the dialog is going to go.  However I still do visit occasionally and respond to questions on some Facebook groups – to the extent that space allows.  What I’ve be noticing lately is that even among the most informed groups, some of the information which has surfaced over the years is not widely known.  Certainly some of that has to do with individuals not having been immersed in all the political assassinations of the sixties or following the subject over as long a span of time.

The net result is certain things that initially were either very mysterious or seemed to be earthshaking seem to emerge time and again – and since its all on the internet that makes sense given that nothing really “ages” or for that matter “dies”.  I joined a conversation the other day, with some very informed folks, who were discussing David Morales – a long time special interest of mine, and his presence at the Ambassador Hotel at the time of RFK’s assassination.  Obviously the talk was that his presence confirmed the attack as a CIA covert operation.

The thing is that the perceived fact of his presence there rests in research and conclusions which eventually were shown to have been incorrect, acknowledged as such even by its originator.  Yet its still circulating – and give that it was very persuasive in the beginning, it remains convincing if you don’t know the rest of the story.  Fortunately some very good researchers pursued the original work, and their efforts (plus further revelations including the actual location of the individuals falsely identified, including confirmation of their presence at of the hotel that evening) needs to be more widely known.  Fortunately a good bit of that research is available on the Mary Ferrell Foundation site, at the link below:

https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Essay_-_The_BBCs_Flawed_RFK_Story.html

I encourage all those interested in either Morales or the assassination of Robert Kennedy to take a look, as time permits I plan to address a few other  similar items in the future.