JFK 101

Over the last couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to join my friends Chuck and Carmine in doing a series of two hour shows on Chuck Ochelli’s program – delving into the basics of the assassination of President Kennedy.  We have been working hard at staying focused, discussing the basic facts and issues of that day in Dallas, the initial criminal investigations and the follow on actions by the FBI and Warren Commission.

Some of it will be quite familiar to those who have researched this subject for years, but if you are a relative newcomer we hope that it will be helpful and a balance to some of the rather sensational things that you can become immersed in by over-dependence  on YouTube videos as your only sources of information. Not that we don’t address suggestions of conspiracy but objectivity is our watchword – well at least it is for Carmine given that Chuck and I might stray a bit now and then.

If it sounds interesting you can find the current show at the following link and Chuck has the others posted as well; along with reference material for each of the shows. We should have another one coming up in a few weeks.

https://ochelli.com/podcasts/04202017-thursday-jfk-101-part-3-larry-hancock-carmine-savastano/

Hope you enjoy the dialog,  Larry

By request, here are the first two in the series:

https://ochelli.com/podcasts/03302017-thursday-jfk-101-part-2-with-carmine-savastano-and-larry-hancock-dpd-in-focus/

https://ochelli.com/podcasts/03162017-thursday-jfk-assassination-101-with-larry-hancock-and-carmine-savastano/

 

 

Russian “Meddling”

One of the things that emerges after even a modest investigation of the subject is that the Congressional intelligence committees ought to be very well aware that it has been standard practice for Russia to insert itself into American politics and American elections. There is simply no speculation on that point. In 1992, the Chief Archivist for the KGB sought asylum, bringing with him a trove of thousands of operational documents describing operations conducted against the Soviet Unions “main adversary” nations, including the United States and Britain.

 

Those documents recorded political action projects which included efforts to circulate damaging personal information – including the use of falsified documents – into American media circles. Individuals targeted in the campaigns included a national security advisor, senators and presidential candidates. One of the most extensive, albeit least successful, active measures programs was conducted against Ronald Reagan, in both his presidential campaigns.

 

Later, in 2000, a senior operations manager in the Russian New York residency defected to the United States – remaining in place for some years before actually seeking asylum. The officer had been on a fast track inside the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service which succeeded the KGB.  His work in Canada had been particularly good, including a proposal which led to a whole series of new practices based on what was called “business recruitment”, gaining control over foreigners seeking to do business with post-Soviet Russia. The practice involved covers which allowed for payments under the guise of both consulting and actual projects such as construction work inside Russia. In some instances the target came to understand the quid pro quo of the relationship; in others they simple became “agents of influence”, apparently with no clear idea that they were being manipulated.

 

Based on this sort of information it is clear that the FBI and other American intelligence organizations are quite well of the evolving Russian practices. Recent events have shown us that they certainly have the capability to target and collect information on American businessmen who become heavily involved financially with Russian oligarchs, agencies, investment firms and even key individuals supportive of the Putin regime.

 

Clearly the long term Russian game is still in play (for some decades it was referred to inside the KGB as the “long war”).  So why is it that the members of intelligence committees seem to be unable to grasp the fact that Russian political meddling is and has been a constant?  The Russian SVR officer who came over in 2000 was amazed that American businessmen and even government officials seemed so naïve – or at least pretended to be – he named some individuals who then defended themselves by denying that they could have actually been manipulated. However none of them denied their extremely close personal relationships with Russians who were shown to have intelligence connections. And the SVR files carried them as key political action assets.

 

Why is it that as of 2017 so many senior people are still able to claim ignorance that there may have been more to their Russian connections than meetings, dialogs, discussions – or speaking and consulting fees?  More in terms of a covert agenda on the part of their Russian associates. Apparently they had never heard of the decades long Russian practice of establishing “agents of influence”. Did they totally lack any sense of history?  Did they not see that as of 2008 Russia under Putin had most definitely begun to slip back into an adversarial position with both NATO and the United States?  I’m finding it hard to believe they were all that naïve…or is it just me being too much of a skeptic.

Shaping the battleground

Context is very important in understanding the Russian connections to the Trump administration – which of course was preceded by the Trump business network, its foreign business dealings and at one point its major need for foreign financial investment – and remember the Trump motto, never use your own money, use someone else’s.

One of the most important pieces of that context is Vladimir Putin. At present, understanding Putin and understanding contemporary Russian actions around the globe means appreciating that Putin is not an ideologue but that he is naturally tactician. For him strategy is simply control and power….it’s a survival mechanism bred within the Soviet leadership structure and especially within the KGB. On the other hand, tactics are how he operates day to day, week to week and year to year and those evolve – a tactician probes, measures responses and resets. In confronting an enemy a tactician also attempts to create as much chaos as possible since that exposes opportunities while keeping the target off balance.

Putin comes out of the operational side of the KGB, not the collections or analysis areas.  Which means his experience was in seeking operational advantages for political action and psychological warfare – experience which translates directly to how he is conducting contemporary Russian foreign affairs.

To elaborate on that, at its most basic a practice called “shaping” comes into play.  In combat it’s referred to as “battlespace shaping” and in sales it’s sometimes called “battleground shaping”. If you have ever been in a good sales war room, and I have, it often sounds like warfare and the terms can be used in much the same way when you are talking about competitors – or sometimes actually about potential customers.

In the military context shaping involves maneuvers to keep the enemy off balance, continually posing new problems for them. It sets the stage to gain operational advantage and hopefully makes any responses ineffective.

In sales – and in political action / psychological warfare – shaping is a matter of building relationships, establishing trust, creating a presence that makes you the one to listen to when your target begins to make decisions. These days there is a lot of talk about people listening only the news they want to hear – which means that in regard to psychological warfare, it’s very important to ensure you can penetrate the media for your target population – you need to become skilled in feeding information and disinformation through the correct channels to perform effective shaping.

All of which is pretty esoteric so back to Putin and context. Putin went through several stages to get where he is today.  Initially in his first Russian Federation presidency he made sure to focus all the state’s resources, including its intelligence and security services, behind Russia’s energy companies – the obvious place to secure massive financial resources. In a way it was relationship building not totally unlike the CIAs early associations with major international American corporations. Of course for Putin it was also more personally rewarding.

Then in his second presidency he began to take positive control, if you played ball you kept your energy company and if not you went to jail and his associates took over your company. Following that, using the huge pool of money he created through such actions, he put selected cadre, including security service personnel, in charge of the banks and financial companies which were going to place it overseas.  Good business but also in intelligence terms a type of “honey trap”. Given that the investment targets were in Europe and America, well you can begin to see the sort of political action shaping I introduced above.  First you get bait, then you hook the little fish and then you go to the ocean and use the little fish for bait the really big fish.

Putin needed no long term geopolitical strategy, he certainly didn’t need to have a plan to put Trump in the Presidency. What he needed was to shape a positive financial relationship with western businessmen and in Europe set leverage by controlling eighty percent of their energy imports. With the shaping in place and in his second presidency, he could begin to get tactical, probing, testing, looking at the response, and maneuvering. The first test was in Georgia…

But for the moment, before we continue, don’t think “collusion” (that is really bad intelligence and political action tradecraft), instead think shaping, manipulation and deniability (it was only a business meeting, we just want positive relationships, check the tape).

Shadow Warfare in the 21st Century

 

In wrestling with the various contemporary Russian political and military initiatives it’s important to remember that Putin is primarily a tactician and we are seeing an iterative series of actions rather than the execution of some long term, grand strategy which would have been more typical of the Soviet Cold War era. In fact one of the points which differentiates the tactics being put into play today is that they are actually more extensions and elaborations of American Dulles era (1950s) covert political/military action than they are historic Soviet practices.

During that era America and the West considered itself to be under siege, facing the existential threat of an expanding global Communist movement and seeing nation after nation fall to socialist or communist regimes. Only during the Kennedy presidency was there any understanding that many of those new regimes owed more to anti-colonialism and nationalist movements than to the root economic and social causes forecast by Lenin.

It was during the Dulles era that the U.S., the CIA, the Directorate of Plans and specifically a cadre of P/P officers began to launch regime change operations to undermine, destabilize and – if possible – remove leftist leaning regimes around the world. For reference, the P/P designation covered political action, psychological warfare and deniable paramilitary activities.

The CIA developed a highly sophisticated set of practices for deniability, establishing both individual and operational covers, using complex financial networks, proprietary businesses and ostensibly independent media outlasts – covering print, newspaper, newsreel and radio outlets. To a great extent these practices were known to Soviet intelligence but given that most often the Soviets were simply providing logistics and weapons support to their surrogates they made much less use of them.

The U.S. took great pains and expended vast amounts of money to achieve “deniability”. In contrast when the Russians preferred not to show their military involvement they simply lied, sincerely and consistently (from Korea and Laos onward).  Otherwise they were quite happy to just ship military weapons to the regimes they openly supported.

This left the CIA as masters of the tools of covert political action, propaganda and psychological warfare. And while actual successes using those tools were few and far between, they were just frequent enough to keep the tools in play (much like gambling).  One of the major problems was that the penetration of the tools was limited. Radio and leaflets could only reach so many people in target nations, the Communist regimes were centralized and extremely security conscious, no matter how well-crafted the content it was extremely challenging to get disinformation in front of enough people (or the right people) to make a difference, to crate truly widespread fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, the Internet, Social media, Wiki’s, and a Global economy where everybody talks to everyone and if possible does business with everyone. A new world and an entirely new set of tools and venues in which to apply some very well developed practices out of the Cold War. In that new venue it becomes far easier to quickly and widely spread disinformation, to circulate leaked or altered documents, to manipulate politics though global business relationships.

And at the beginning of the second decade of the new century the Cold War is history, “nativism” and ethnic identify are in resurgence, and security concerns are pretty much a non-starter except for ISIS or terrorism. The Russians are our friends, they could be great business and military partners. Everybody talks to everybody, why shouldn’t they. And if senior officers of Russian banks and investment groups actually came out of the Russian Federal Security Service, who’s asking…

Then a former senior KGB officer loses power in Russia; and very much wants it back. He turns to a very frustrated military industrial complex, a number of well-placed global business oligarchs and offers a world view more to their liking – and his political aspirations. As with Dulles in the 1950s Putin sees a threat in NATO and the West (or if not a real threat at least a path back to leadership) and a way to ensure that Russia can reassert itself as a global power rather than being just one vote at G20 meetings.

Opportunity knocks…..and this time the P/P tools will be brought to bear on the West.

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…