Collusion?

Since I’ve spent the last few weeks revisiting areas of the JFK assassination, it’s time for me to return to more contemporary interests and affairs – turning my attention back to an area that Stu Wexler and I explored in Shadow Warfare. If anyone has any outstanding JFK questions or a topic you want addressed, post a comment and I’ll do my best. However current affairs are calling and if nobody has any requests that’s where I will be going.

 

“Hybrid Warfare” is one of the buzzwords being tossed around in relation to what the Russians have been doing in Eastern Europe, SW Asia and now North Africa during the last two to three years. It also applies to the practices they have initiated against the American political system and as importantly – to them – the deconstruction of traditional American global alliances.  If such a strong statement surprises you, then you did not read my posts on information warfare last fall (leading up to the election) or perhaps you think such charges are simply political whining or paranoia.  I assure you they are neither and I’ll be exploring that in my ongoing posting.

 

If you read Surprise Attack, it should be no “surprise” (I don’t know if that’s a bad pun or not, most of my puns are unintentional).  It became clear while I was researching Surprise Attack that Russia under a resurgent Putin was dramatically changing.  I detailed that at some length in the final chapter and laid out what I thought were developing trends – which unfortunately proved to be far too accurate.  I would have preferred to be wrong.  In the interim there have been lots of articles about a return to the Cold War, Cold War 2.0 etc., but I’m pretty sure that is way off the mark.  What’s going on is not about parity, or even deterrence. It’s not about returning Russia to Super Power status.

What it is really about is creating chaos in international affairs, leveling the playing field and deconstructing traditional alliances to create a free a global free for all. Putin (and the KGB political warfare groups of the past) thrives on chaos and random action and the creation of tensions – does that sound vaguely familiar. Where have we seen that recently, yes we have, you can fill in the blank yourself – the clue is “think domestic politics”. Or better yet think about the stated political agendas of President Trumps most influential advisor.

 

So what does all that have to do with Hybrid Warfare, actually a great deal and that is where I will be going. In reality, Hybrid Warfare is a return to deniable warfare, with the same fundamental tactics but simply different tool sets. Stu and I coined the term “shadow warfare” to describe deniable military operations using non state actors and deniable surrogates – think military contractors, think Black Water.  But it also involved the use of very real military and intelligence personnel in extremely low profile operations, some military, some political action – think JSOC and the very special task forces around the globe, originally a concept tested in Iraq and Afghanistan but extended fair beyond that in following years.

 

What we didn’t explore was the information warfare side of that, largely because it was not something the US was doing in contemporary times – not that we hadn’t done it before, especially in the immediate post war years. For over two decades the CIA carried out information warfare (psychological warfare in those olden days) and political action in Europe, SW Asia and Latin America.  Unfortunately the tables have now turned and it’s being played from the other direction, particularly in Eastern Europe and now domestically against the U.S.  It’s a very sophisticated specialty, and a very cunning and indirect one.

 

Which leads me back to the title of this article, and the subject of much dialog in Washington DC over the weekend and no doubt this coming week.  Check the following for what I mean.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/19/politics/tom-cotton-fbi-russia/index.html

 

Do I expect to find actual evidence of collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign in terms of some sort of planning on how to win the election, tactics to influence voters or to leak information?  No, not at all. That would be the worst sort of tradecraft on the Russians part, they have never been that unskilled.

Information warfare (psychological warfare) is far more subtle, and far more manipulative. Which is actually the scary part….I don’t think the current administration is nearly sophisticated enough to know when they are being manipulated; they do have intelligence assets that could educate them but it’s pretty clear they are not listening to them (which may in itself be the result of some absolutely brilliant information warfare).

 

It’s not a pretty picture, but I’ll do what I can to paint at least parts of it in coming posts.

Update:  Further details emerging in the committee hearings offer a great illustration of how manipulation can occur without what might be legally called “collusion” – the White House response also illustrates the risk of denial.  Check out the following, its a virtual lesson in covert Russian political action, played by true professionals.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/20/intelligence-committee-leader-offers-outline-mysterious-russia-trump-associate-contacts/UIsBsDZwmJ2ODBSpN2KZOO/story.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/21/politics/rex-tillerson-nato-meeting/index.html

 

Afterwards – Part 5 Anti-Castro Elements

So finally I get to the folks I’ve been writing books about for a couple of decades. And I think it’s fair to say that this particular category of potential assassination suspects didn’t make any newspaper headlines, didn’t get widely discussed around water coolers or in bars and certainly were not considered or investigated as possible associates or as having influenced Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

A few years later the House Select Committee on Investigations weighed in on a probable conspiracy, but its chair certainly did not devote a book to them, or even mention them for that matter. Before that the District Attorney in New Orleans looked their way, even sending his investigators to Miami to inquire into mysterious Cubans associating with Lee Oswald. That early effort was successfully obstructed (by a very well connected anti-Castro figure who exposed Garrison’s investigation to the press and tried to steer them towards conspiracy and Castro sponsorship) and ultimately Garrison was steered in other directions.

One of the elements that obscured any focus on these folks is that even talking about them was not easy, naming LBJ was simple enough, pointing to public and strident ultra-right figures wasn’t too hard and calling out the mob godfathers that RFK had hassled was no particular challenge. You could put well-known names to those categories.

But the anti-Castro link was “messy”, with names nobody had heard of before (outside Miami) and individuals actively working for or around the CIA’s JM/WAVE covert efforts against Cuba – which nobody would talk about or acknowledge, much less name, even during the HSCA inquiry. Coming up with their names is a long story and a longer book and Someone Would Have Talked does that so I’m just going to pull a few names from that and focus on what happened to them “afterwards”.

The first name is Ted Shackley, certainly an anti-Castro figure although probably not literally a suspect. The interesting thing about Shackley is that he went on record stating that he had done nothing to inquire into possible involvement by the anti-Castro community that the CIA was both engaged with and covertly monitoring – he stated the assassination was the Warren Commission’s concern, not his. It appears that in that regard Shackley lied because we now know that he actually assigned the head (Tony Sforza) of the Cuban Intelligence Group (the AMOTS) to conduct a detailed investigation of exactly that. The investigation was done, a report compiled and submitted – and apparently vanished.

One of Shackley’s personnel (Rip Robertson, working under David Morales, in Operations) was very much involved with an off the books Castro assassination project and was close to certain Cuban exiles as well as other interesting people, such as John Martino.  Within months of the attack in Dallas Rip had been assigned to hand pick a group of Cuban exiles and was in Africa, on a mission in the Congo. While there he would be heard to make interesting comments about the Kennedy assassination and his Cuban friends.

Of course some of the most interesting individuals were not directly affiliated with JM/WAVE at all.  The FBI was tracking Filipe Vidal, a very well respected independent operator – they monitored him on several trips to Dallas that fall (breaking a court restraining order on travel). His closest friend and fellow independent operator, Roy Hargraves, was reported to the FBI immediately after the assassination, as having Secret Service ID and being a suspect in an action against JFK.  Of course at the time Hargraves denied anything of the sort – decades later Hargraves would confirm the he and Vidal had been in Dallas as part of just such an action. More immediately – within weeks – the boat that Hargraves and Vidal were preparing for a mission into Cuba mysteriously exploded, almost killing both men.

And within a few months Vidal was off on his own in a covert mission into Cuba; despite his extensive naval experience in Cuban waters, Vidal was almost immediately captured and executed (almost as if they knew he was coming). Years later Hargraves would voluntarily travel to New Orleans to “assist” DA Garrison with his investigation – much later Hargraves would serve as a consultant for Roger Stone on his movie work.

Tony Cuesta was another very active exile group leader, taking boat missions into Cuba. Cuesta was well connected into the most radical exile circles; one of his raids following the assassination was intercepted in much the same way Vidal’s had been. His crewmen including Diaz Garcia (rumored to have been involved in the Dallas attack) were killed; Cuesta reportedly described what Garcia had told him about exiles being involved in the assassination of the President.

Another individual reported to the HSCA as having inside knowledge of the conspiracy remained in Miami, became very active with the exile Brigade which had reformed after the Bay of Pigs, worked with his brother’s private investigations agency and eventually became the individual to expose Garrison’s investigation to the press and point them towards a Castro connection to Lee Oswald. Bernardo de Torres became a serious person of interest to the HSCA, in particular due to the investigations of Gaeton Fonzi.  However Fonzi received no support at all in his desire for an active criminal investigation of de Torres and when the committee did at least allow testimony (using an alias) de Torres certainly disclosed nothing of interest.

The list could go on, and does in SWHT, but this a long enough post to suggest why certain anti-Castro elements both within and outside the CIA have emerged as potential suspects in the assassination.  It did take quite a long while for them to make the list though; in reviewing the initial FBI investigations of late 1963 and early 1964 it’s very plain – as agents themselves have confirmed – that any time spent on such leads was not a positive career move.

Vetting sources and witnesses – critical skills

I’m going to take a brief break and post a link to a recent interview which I did with my friend Doug Campbell.  It was a fairly lengthy dialog built around a presentation which I delivered at the JFK Lancer conference last fall.  It’s on the subject of using critical skills in vetting sources and witnesses.

You will find the link to the interview below, I hope you find it interesting – you will probably recognize a few of the names that come up during the exchange.

https://22novembernetwork.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/the-dallas-action-104-february-25-2017-critical-thought-analysis-vetting-witnesses-with-larry-hancock/

 

If you haven’t been to Doug’s site, you will also find a few other discussions we have had on his list of interviews.

 

Afterwards – Part 4 Cuba

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Afterwards – Ultra Right Part 3

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

National Security Worries

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterwards – Ultra Right Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterwards – Ultra Right Part 1

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Russian Cyber/Psych Warfare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards – LBJ

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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