One of the most challenging tasks in research is the detection of anomalies. Anomalies are key to everything from market research to solving crimes. The search for anomalies can be really lively and fast paced if you see it in the movies or on TV. Watching a NCIS analyst with a universe of data available at the stroke of a keyboard and a room sized monitor to display it all is exhilarating for any researcher. Those of us who dig into historical events, some decades old, find the process to be a good deal slower, requiring more patience than technology.
Still, if you dig long enough and broadly enough you can get a view as to what is normal and what is abnormal, translated to what is anomalous/suspicious. I spent years studying the behavior of government authorities on November 22, 2963 – with the goal of isolating evidence of prior knowledge or conspiracy in the President’s murder. But it really wasn’t until I was deep into the work on Surprise Attack that I began to really develop a feel for what is SOP in any national security crisis – and especially what Lyndon Johnson’s normal response was to any crisis.
As it turns out, the first thing that any President seems to turn to (from LBJ on Nov. 22, 1963 to GWB on 9/11) is messaging – creating an image of control to reassure the public. Perhaps it’s because they are political personalities by nature but the fact is that they seem to immediately turn to calls to personal calls, speech writing and political agendas rather than actually assuming their national security role as Commander in Chief.
There also seems to be an instinctive desire to mesh the crisis into their own priorities. You see that in LBJ’s decision to order major air attacks on North Vietnam during the Tonkin Gulf incident – even when the military commanders on the scene were cautioning him that the first reports of an attack on the American destroyers were wrong. You see it again when he actually called back the aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty from an ongoing attack by Israeli forces. And we now know that GWB’s first response after the 9/11 attacks was to work on a speech to the nation and then begin pushing his staff to find a connection to Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
Initially I thought Johnson’s actions at Parkland and on board Air Force 1 were so dysfunctional and lacking as to be suspicious. Unfortunately, in view of 60 years of Presidential behavior (with the exception of Truman and Kennedy) they turn out not to be anomalous but typical – which obviously illustrates a major weakness in the concept of civilian command and control. It’s hard to fathom that when Eisenhower was told of an incoming Soviet air strike that he did nothing more than continue with his scheduled meetings, leaving the matter solely to a military response.
What seems to follow after the President’s retreat to politics is a general administrative effort towards what I would call “minimization”, controlling information and communications in the interest of preventing panic. This often leads to some pretty ridiculous statements, and in the case of crimes such as the shooting of JFK or MLK, to “solving the case” in the first 24 or 48 hours, certainly well before any comprehensive investigation would be possible. At first that seems irresponsible but perhaps not as much as we would think. After all, if a conspiracy is in play, there may well be follow on attacks or even attacks actually in progress. When you are actively engaged in trying to figure that out, or if you have solid leads and are already moving on them – you don’t give away information. I’m not saying I like it, but it is standard practice, with some justification.
Of course if you hold to the minimalist story well after you know better, that becomes a real problem and seriously undermines credibility. So why does it happen over and over again, my thought is that because once any administration acknowledges to the public that they are never going to give them the real story up front it’s a political death warrant. That sort of thing is standard procedure in military and intelligence operations – in anything related to national security actually – but it just does not translate to the transparency that any administration would like to admit to, regardless of party.
But things get worse than that; it appears that in many instances – when actual leadership mistakes have been made – that intentional cover up becomes SOP. Now if you read Shadow Warfare you have seen many examples of that in covert operations, where it is endemic. The examples explored in Surprise Attack range of decades of military and terror attacks, with no sign that either political party is immune – the most egregious examples of actual cover up may have occurred during the LBJ and GWB administrations. Perhaps the most egregious being the suppression of NSA information related to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, which led to years of combat in SE Asia.
In short, failures in crisis response and management at the Presidential level turn out to be more the rule than the exception. I started out looking for anomalies in crisis response which might reveal suspicious behavior, what Surprise Attack reveals may actually be something far more dangerous.

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

2 responses »

  1. David Brown says:

    “Oswald’s Politics” is pretty much based on original documents, and the history based there is entirely wrong. What say you?

    • Certainly Oswald’s politics, as implied in the WCR, are unreliable…with all they did they could not translate their version of his politics to motive. I think there is a real temptation for people to assign him politics which fit their conspiracy scenario; I’ve even seen him called a closet NAZI recently. Personally I’m not even sure Oswald had “politics” in the accepted sense given that he did not align himself with any party (certainly not the Communist party) and wrote of developing a whole new, and independent action oriented movement (probably socialist in nature). But as happens with a lot of college age thinkers, it was all pretty nebulous, lets say that he was anti-establishment. DeMohrenschieldt described him as a proto hippie who just liked to debate and could be both opinionated and annoying – reminds me of me in college. All of which leads me to believe that as for myself I can’t tie down his politics and just need to accept that.

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