For those interested in further discussion of the RFK assassination, cover up and conspiracy – Chuck Orchelli was kind enough to have Stu Wexler and I on his show for a two hour discussion and as you can imagine we managed to cover a great deal of ground in that time. Stu had to leave after about half an hour because he was involved in a real time, time sensitive legislative initiative related to cold cases. As I’ve mentioned he and I remain active in ongoing research, primarily on the MLK and RFK cases but we tackle new leads on JFK when the opportunity presents. As you will hear, if you listen to the interview, we both consider the RFK assassination to still be very much an open case. Enough of that here, there’s two hours more at the following link:
Going further with the subject of the RFK assassination and conspiracy, I’d like to bring up the premise that the key to that conspiracy lies in the identity of the “polka dot dress” girl and her associates. Certainly anyone reading about the attack on RFK will come across this subject at some point, and across her association with Sirhan Sirhan – which was probably much closer than Sirhan has ever admitted, although he has moved to focus more on her in recent years. During his trial, Sirhan was hesitant to discuss his association with any women, going so far as to offer to plead guilty and take the electric chair simply to avoid the issue of two young women he had known and at one time tried to chat up, paying for their coffee. That strong reaction provides a valuable insight into Sirhan but that’s a different story in and of itself.
In the beginning the Los Angeles police took Sandra Serrano’s encounter with the “polka dot dress” girl very seriously and it drove a good bit of their early investigation. The problem was that they failed to identify the girl and that became a serious embarrassment. In addition, as the prosecution began to focus exclusively on Sirhan, the concept of accessories represented a complication to the case that no prosecution team ever is excited to pursue, simply because it dilutes their presentation. That’s especially true if those potential associates remain unidentified. In turn the defense team is always happy to avoid the subject since associates imply premeditation and premeditation can undermine plea deals and ultimately lead to the death penalty.
Ultimately the LAPD resolved their problem is an amazingly transparent miscarriage of procedure – amazing that this point in time but not an issue during the trial because as with so many things Sirhan’s defense restrained from virtually any objections or challenge to the evidence being presented by the prosecution. Anyone reviewing the case will find a great similarity to the defense of Sirhan Sirhan and James Earl Ray. Although the LAPD had a number of witnesses describing the mystery girl – and her associates – including one of their officers who independently obtained witness descriptions of them only minutes after the shooting – they managed to focus the whole issue around Sandra Serrano and her statements. Following a memo remarking that the polka dot dress girl story had become a serious problem in their investigation, certain officers violated both procedural and professional protocol in obtaining a polygraph which showed Serrano to have created the story on her own – and they pressured her into officially recanting her statements. Their scenario, which she swore to under polygraph and which the polygraph operator himself witnessed to have been truthfully stated, was that she had discussed the shooting with a busboy and had taken her description of the girl from his remarks.
What gives lie to the whole police procedure is the fact that the LAPD files themselves show that Serrano had fully described the encounter and the girl to an assistant LA District Attorney while outside the hotel following the shooting – well before she went back in and was seated in the vicinity of the busboy. The DA himself officially reported her information to the police and repeatedly brought it to the attention of the LAPD. Of course that means that the polygraph statement stated to be true – that she had made up the story – was demonstrably false. Which in turns would bring into question any and all of the police polygraph work as well as the behavior of the officers involved in it (not to mention the polygraph officer taking her out to dinner and buying her a drink before the session). It is one of the most egregious examples of police investigatory action you could possibly find, magnified by the fact that all the information needed to reveal it is in the police files themselves.
Beyond that, the LAPD can clearly be shown to have obfuscated and suppressed the police officer’s reports and statements which independently verified the descriptions of the girl and her associates obtained from two people who observed them fleeing from the hotel….exactly where Serrano described them as exiting.
Clearly there was conspiracy in the attack, clearly it involved some young people who were highly enthusiastic but not all that covert in their actions. If you want to dig through the whole story, I would refer you to my Incomplete Justice essays on the Mary Ferrell site:
In recent years my participation in JFK forums has declined a good bit, to a large extent because the same subjects are debated time after time and after researching the assassination for some twenty five years, I’ve seen enough to know how most of the dialog is going to go. However I still do visit occasionally and respond to questions on some Facebook groups – to the extent that space allows. What I’ve be noticing lately is that even among the most informed groups, some of the information which has surfaced over the years is not widely known. Certainly some of that has to do with individuals not having been immersed in all the political assassinations of the sixties or following the subject over as long a span of time.
The net result is certain things that initially were either very mysterious or seemed to be earthshaking seem to emerge time and again – and since its all on the internet that makes sense given that nothing really “ages” or for that matter “dies”. I joined a conversation the other day, with some very informed folks, who were discussing David Morales – a long time special interest of mine, and his presence at the Ambassador Hotel at the time of RFK’s assassination. Obviously the talk was that his presence confirmed the attack as a CIA covert operation.
The thing is that the perceived fact of his presence there rests in research and conclusions which eventually were shown to have been incorrect, acknowledged as such even by its originator. Yet its still circulating – and give that it was very persuasive in the beginning, it remains convincing if you don’t know the rest of the story. Fortunately some very good researchers pursued the original work, and their efforts (plus further revelations including the actual location of the individuals falsely identified, including confirmation of their presence at of the hotel that evening) needs to be more widely known. Fortunately a good bit of that research is available on the Mary Ferrell Foundation site, at the link below:
I encourage all those interested in either Morales or the assassination of Robert Kennedy to take a look, as time permits I plan to address a few other similar items in the future.
It’s pretty easy to understand why once again the “doomsday clock” setting has been moved back closer to midnight. As I predicted in Surprise Attack, Mr. Putin continues to practice the classic Cold War posturing which he has successfully used to regain his internal popularity and preserve his “base” within Russia’s military-industrial complex. It seemed clear to me at the time I was writing that the likely outcomes of Putin’s strategy were two-fold. First his actions would ultimately undercut the attempts to freeze or reduce American and European defense spending. It has now done that. Second, while his strategy was at grave risk due to the exposure to oil pricing, his personality is such that if pressed he would push even harder – which we see in the Russian military campaign in Syria and most obviously in the tactically useless (and expensive) practice of launching long range bombing and cruise missile strikes from within Russia against Syrian targets.
Militarily it’s extremely questionable, but it makes for dramatic Russian TV and complements the increasing internal coverage given to the Russian military.
Beyond Syria, while there is no reality that would justify Putin’s reigniting the nuclear warfare card, he has clearly done so, with an emphasis on nuclear ICBM’s and nuclear submarine deployment. The Russian nuclear sub force in the Pacific has doubled and the surge has now increased to the point that the Russian nuclear submarine force deployment into the Atlantic is back to some of the the highest levels seen during the Cold War. You won’t find much of that being discussed in the current political debates (which is probably a good thing) but you see it if you lurk in the military blogs I tend to frequent.
Of course all this is just the opposite of Cold War covert warfare and deniable operations, its posturing and it will drive budgets and military spending and may well lead to actual live fire situations which could trigger regional warfare – the Turkey/Russian confrontation is obvious but it’s not the only potential flash point.
What worries me more though, is that a new type of covert/deniable warfare has emerged and it carries the risk of igniting something even worse – full scale cyber warfare. Several years ago counter terrorism specialist Richard Clarke wrote about North Korean cyber warfare teams actually operating from within China, very capable teams whose full capabilities and activities might or might not have been known to the Chinese. The real danger is that national or rogue cyber-attack teams could operate from virtually anywhere, intentionally implicating nations or groups with their attacks. Tracing the actual source and proving guilt in cyber-attacks is extremely difficult. Attacks in recent years have included either American or Israeli attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and Israeli attacks on the Syrian air defense system. Most recently Russian appears to have sponsored a massive attack on the Ukraine’s power system infrastructure.
Over time, such attacks can generally be traced, but not with the certainty that allows absolute proof. What we are seeing is the emergence of a new type of deniable warfare. America has suffered a number of attacks to date, one of the most potentially being an attack on the New York Stock exchange and through it the international financial community. In retrospect that attack was perhaps only a test – or a message – but it allowed the Obama administration to actually get legislation through Congress which elevated the level of response to such attacks – actually allowing the sort of preemptive response previous sly authorized only to a massive nuclear attack on the nation. I discuss that in Surprise Attack, it has received little attention overall but it demonstrates the real risk of this new deniability. If a major attack takes were to take out major sections of the U.S. power grid (such as the recent attack on the Ukraine did), the FAA traffic control network, or the banking system I can promise there would be a response. The problem would be who to target.
In 1946 an alarming science fiction novel was published, the title “The Murder of the U.S.A.” Its premise was that by placing undetected nuclear missiles in orbit, and then only launching them at a later point in time, a deniable nuclear attack could be conducted. It would be impossible to identify the actual source and retaliation would be precluded or intentionally directed the wrong adversary. Fortunately the timing of rocket and atomic weapons development precluded that scenario. The question now is, decades later in 2016, are we more literally exposed to the same sort of risk, given the possibility of deniable cyber-attack?
I’m afraid that clock setting is far too accurate for comfort…
One of the things that actually hooked me on digging deeply into the Kennedy assassination was the realization that actual people, with real names and personal histories were involved, and that those people operated within a knowable historical context of work and social relationships. Up to that point I had read a few books, Jim Marrs’ Crossfire being one of the first, and lurked in the CompuServe JFK chat area (yes, it was that long ago). OK, you might be laughing but even today if you just browse YouTube or visit a few forums you could easily get sucked into the Zapruder film debates, the extensive dialogs and arguments over film and move footage from Nov 22, 1963, the unending exchanges over Oswald’s rifle, the back yard photographs, the infamous paper bag or even whether Oswald was holding a Dr. Pepper, a Coke or anything at all when first encountering motorcycle officer Baker that day – all activities focused on things/evidence rather than groups and individuals either as suspects or accessories.
I got mired down in all that myself…but one day in a Dallas airport, coming back from a business trip, I happened to buy a JFK book that talked about very specific people, their connections to each other and their personal involvement in the assassination. Of course it took me a few years to determine that book and its scenario were both as totally bogus but it definitely sent me off on a different tangent, one dealing with people rather than things.
That was exciting but after a few years I began to realize that most people discussing or even writing about people and groups as suspects painted with very broad brush strokes. You had the Mafia and Godfathers, or the ultra-right, the CIA or perhaps even larger and more nebulous groups such as the Military Industrial Complex or the Eastern Establishment (or maybe it was even more generic – the Cowboys or the Yankees). Later, the Aliens and then the Alien/MJ 12/JFK conspiracy jelled, but the Majestic 12 were relatively late comers as villians.
The problem is that operating with such broad categories of suspects doesn’t take you all that far…well tends to leave you with basic sociology and the six levels of association, or perhaps 12 levels etc. At some level of association almost everybody can be linked to everyone else (which works in genetics as well). Not that social network diagraming and dynamics are not important, they are – but when you start looking at individuals as suspects, you need to understand their day jobs as well. More specifically what were they doing in 1963, who were they were talking to, what official and unofficial sources of information did they have and who did they really trust vs. who were in competition with. In other words what were they really hearing that would evolve not just a general motive but push them into actual steps towards something as mind-blowing as a conspiracy to kill the President of the United States. Not just talking about him, cursing him, hating him – but actually committing to the capital crime of killing him.
So where am I going with this rather than just sharing (we called it that in the 70’s, this Century it’s become less friendly and more bitter – with a lot fewer hugs). As most of you reading this know, my own path led to suspects inside or at least provably associated with the CIA. Not the CIA as some generic entity but specifically within the Operations Directorate (Plans) and the Office of Security. A years and a few thousand documents later I felt I was almost beginning to understand that area of the Agency, focusing on the PP staff (psyops and paramilitary staff), a few more years and I gained a grasp on Technical Services, CI, Staff C and Staff D. In more recent years I’ve ranged much further afield, moving from upwards to the analysts, the Intelligence Board, Joint Chiefs, etc as well as more broadly throughout the intelligence community, the NSA, DIA, military services groups and their extensions. And in pursuing a broader view I often come across something that leads me back to JFK, my suspect’s day jobs in 1963 and what they may really have known that motivated or aided them.
If you have read NEXUS you know that I focus in on James Angleton and William Harvey as principal suspects in regard to the higher level origins of the conspiracy that evolved to the point of the Dallas attack. Over the past few years my friend Bill Simpich and I have spent a good deal of time looking at Lee Oswald in Mexico City, the spy games going on there and the role of Oswald impersonation in regard to the conspiracy. One of the key points to pursue in regard to Mexico City, in terms of our suspects, is to establish what connections Harvey and Angleton might have had to the intelligence sources and methods being used to collect covert intelligence in Mexico City – giving them insights into how to manipulate and use that information (or advise others on how to do so). The collection in question would have involved the targeting of the Cuban and Soviet diplomatic missions in Mexico City – both associated with Oswald and with impersonations.
As it turns out both men had been involved with a CIA group designated as Staff D, Harvey most recently. Finding information on Staff D has been challenging, you don’t find it called out even in some of the best books on the intelligence community (such as Richelson’s). You do find division D/staff D as a function under the Foreign Intelligence Staff – and if you dig you find that its activities ranged from bugging foreign embassies and burglarizing diplomatic missions to bribing or strong arm work with diplomatic staff and couriers. In more polite terms that’s a mix of signals intelligence and human intelligence. And of course in those days signals intelligence was a main point of both cooperation and contention between the CIA and the NSA (primarily in regard to satellite based collections).
What gets really interesting is the extent to which both the CIA local station staff, the headquarters and field Staff D staff, and the NSA might all have been involved in collecting and sharing (or not) information coming off the phone taps, building bugs, radio transmissions, cable traffic and telephone trunk calls into Cuba (all a mix of both CIA and NSA collections). It would also be interesting to know specifically what targets or individuals NSA was being tasked to collect information on during 1963. Both Bill and I discuss parts of that in our writing but it poses serious and ongoing questions in regard to what extent Lee Oswald (ex military, ex Soviet “defector” and suspected Fair Play for Cuba chapter head) was being talked about by the Cubans and Soviets during his time in Mexico City. David Phillips wrote that Oswald was simply not “on the radar” during his visit – that is a provable lie. The real question is how many radars he was on and who was really tracking him. What is clear is that with their former connections and longtime “friends” in place, both men would have had access to whatever information they wanted from Mexico City collections – all as part of their day jobs and with no questions asked.
For more detailed background on CIA and NSA joint activities, and some minimal references to Staff D, check out the following link:
Its not uncommon to find public discussion and concern about the reasonable limits to privacy in the face of ongoing terror attacks – if you haven’t counted lately, the United States has now been involved in its unofficial war on terror for almost forty years, we just didn’t start calling it that until 2001 and of course its still legally undeclared. That discussion, and the corollary discussions of covert action oversight and transparency in government have slipped in the background during what has become a multi-year presidential election campaign. The subjects emerge periodically but in terms of news last no more than headlines for a day or so, the fate of most challenging topics.
When the subject of transparency does come up it can get pretty confusing, bringing forth the subject of security classifications, legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, and slippery terms such as “redaction” and “sources and methods”. Having been waist deep in such things for a couple of decades myself, and being heavily involved in document access in my work with the Mary Ferrell Foundation, I recently took the time to share some thoughts about the subject, including the realities of what to expect if and when you do start pursuing government documents. It is actually possible to get an amazing amount of previously restricted information and I’ve listed a couple of places to find such things on line. But you have to understand the system, and have some concept of what will and will not be released.
Those interested in such challenges can find the essay at the following link:
Stu Wexler and I were fortunate enough to be guests on Chuck Ochelli’s radio show late last week – in a two hour interview dealing primarily with our study and findings in regard to the conspiracy associated with Dr. King’s murder.
Actually two hours turns out to be just enough time to bring out some of the differences paths we followed in our research and to surface information and names that you probably have not come across if you have explored previous books on the King conspiracy. It’s in not enough delve into all the areas we cover in The Awful Grace of God or give the details of the data we turned up, but its a start.
If you have some time, or happen to be locked inside during this weekend’s snow storm, hopefully you would find it interesting – its archived at the link below. Chuck also offered us the opportunity to come back on and discuss our RFK research and we will probably be doing that some time in February.
Having written, along with Stu Wexler, one of the most contemporary books on the King assassination, it’s surprising to me that I rarely blog about Dr. King, his murder or the related conspiracy – and certainly there was a conspiracy in his murder, one that had been ongoing for some four years at that point in time.
The common failure to acknowledge the true nature of that conspiracy truly undervalues his steadfast refusal to turn anything other than peaceful pursuit of his cause – and having been there during that period of time, I can swear to how frequently various movements were tempted to respond to violence with violence. Unfortunately by 1968 Dr. King was becoming one of the few leaders still arguing for totally passive resistance. That stance was costing him followers among the young but more significantly it was making him an even more attractive target for the clique that had been trying to kill him since 1964.
Regardless of what you may have read (or worse yet seen on YouTube) Dr. King was not viewed as a danger in 1968, other than in the mind of FBI Director Hoover, who was himself drawing increasing distain and even jibes about his personal obsession with Dr. King. In contrast the anti-war movement was increasingly viewed as almost an existential danger, it led to the virtual resignation of President Johnson, a level of paranoia rarely since outside the McCarthy era (and today’s election campaigning) and a domestic intelligence/active harassment response that very few people still appreciate.
What is even less appreciated is the fact that rather than being a major threat as of the spring of 1968, Dr. King was struggling to maintain his non-violent approach and to extend it to Washington. That effort had become burdened by the violence that accompanied his offer to lead a sanitation worker protest march in Memphis; he had agreed out of personal friendship but the resulting rioting raised real concerns as to whether he could indeed carry out a massive peaceful protest in the nation’s capital – and that led him back to Memphis in April, 1968, to prove that he could carry that off and to essentially prove that peaceful resistance was still workable.
Unfortunately what was a challenge for Dr. King proved to be an irresistible opportunity for those who had been working on killing him, individuals who had tried it themselves with guns and bombs and when that failed had turned to actual bounties, extended through their prison contacts. The story of that effort, and the involvement of James Earl Ray, is what we tell in The Awful Grace of God and in Killing King. And we continue our work on that conspiracy, new leads and new corroboration continue to emerge and we are still actively engaged in that research.
So, since I rarely blog on the subject, in respect to the upcoming observance of Dr. King, I’ll be happy to take questions on the subject here on the blog or privately if you wish to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll tackle the questions, leaving Stu to continue with the slogging research work, he’s younger and should have more energy.
Normally I hate public name calling, although I must admit that contemporary congressional antics and sound bites move my blood pressure to the point of doing so in private. The title of this post isn’t really just an expression of frustration though, it is actually a serious question.
Once again, the subject of authorizing military force against ISIS is in the news. Its a continuation of the dialog which started back in February 2015, one based in a furor of Congressional calls for military action against ISIS that had begun months earlier.
This week, the leader of the House told the press that he was once again talking to colleagues about an Authorization for Military Force against ISIS. He referred to a recent “productive listening session” on the subject and the need for providing flexibility to the military. Yet beyond that, the statement quickly moved on to politics and criticism of Presidential leadership – with the disclaimer that the Administration does not really need a new AUMF because it “already has all the authority to take the fight to Islamist terrorists that it needs.”
Now the question is, does Mr. Ryan actually believe that and despite the staff and legal resources available to him is he ignorant of the fact that the only AUMF approved by Congress specifically stated that the President is only authorized to use force against those individuals and groups which had carried out, supported or enabled the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. Is he not aware of the fact that the language in that legislation was altered to ensure that in a concern for Congressional caution, the Presidential authority did not extend beyond those individuals or groups personally involved in the 2001 attacks? If you would like the details of that, I refer you to in Shadow Warfare were we discuss the give and take on that AUMF in some detail as well as the fact that President Bush intentionally asked Congress not to give him the broader powers associated with a declaration of war – yet immediately began using the term “war on terror”.
Later, after military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress commissioned a legal assessment on the 2001 AUMF and its limitations; the opinion provided to them was that the language in the AUMF had been specifically crafted to focus only on the 9/11 attackers. Which leaves us with the only Congressional legislation in place being designed to be limited, legally not extending to a broader war on terror and with Congress obtaining the legal opinion confirming that to be true.
So does Mr. Ryan, as speaker of the house, not have anyone who can give him a true read on an authorization now some fifteen years old, which clearly limited Presidential authority – yet which everyone has been using as justification for an immense level of global military action? At this point its clear that the 2001 AUMF is as irrelevant to current military activities as the Tonkin Gulf resolution was to the war across south east Asia. So is the Speaker of the House ignorant of Congress’s failure of actual military oversight – or is this political hypocrisy? I honestly don’t know.
As to the leadership in the Senate, well that is even more confusing. Following Mr. Ryan’s remarks, the leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, announced that Ryan was wasting his time and that no new AUMF was going to be seriously considered. He too seems to have a total lack of knowledge on the history of the AUMF that is in place and its limitations. His reason for opposing any new AUMF is a bit different though, it seems that it’s not an issue of one not being needed, but rather that one passed now might “tie the hands” of the next elected President in regard to opposing ISIS.
“I think an AUMF, an authorization to use military force, that ties the president’s hands behind his back is not something I would want to do to a new president who’s going to have to clean up this mess,” he said.
Let me see if I follow that, so Congress is going to default on setting any specific direction for military action against ISIS – McConnell clearly feels that the current President has not done enough – but rather than taking charge of the matter and directing something more, the caution is to wait for a year so as to avoid constraining whoever might be elected as the next commander in chief. I can see it now on a tactical level, the current commander of a military operation says to his staff – well I’m not going to give you any orders now because I don’t want your next commander to be unduly constrained by what we do when he comes on board next year. (yes, that was intentionally sarcastic).
So is McConnell ignorant of the current AUMF limitations, well it certainly sounds like it. Is he being hypocritical about Congress not exercising its strategic national security responsibility? Without being inside his head I can’t say, but I can say that his logic, and the consistent position of Congress in not exercising any real involvement in national security decisions is agonizingly predictable.
It’s shaping up to be a rough winter here, two major ice storms and power outages, snowing at the moment…all sort of slowing me down. I’m hoping to get back to some topical posting but in the meantime I wanted to post a link to this past week’s two hour interview with Charles Ochelli. A two hour interview is pretty challenging but Chuck is a fine host and we covered a broad range of subjects related to both Surprise Attack and Shadow Warfare. One of the themes for the discussion was identification of “patterns” related to American deniable and overt military actions over the past sixty years. As Charles noted, just reading the subtitle of Surprise Attack leads to the obvious question of what in the world would be common to Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and Benghazi – given the time span, the evolution of international affairs and the differences in the events themselves. Its not an easy question to answer but fortunately this sort of extended interview allows the time to at least begin to do it some justice.
Another area we spent a good deal of time on is one that particularly concerns me, as evident to anyone who has read Shadow Warfare. The privatization of military operations, first seen in Iraq and Afghanistan has a number of negative consequences, and the practice is increasingly buried in the new integration of multi-agency, multi-unit covert operations. Stu Wexler and I coined the term “gray warfare” to describe it, because it crosses the lines between not only military and private participants but even more importantly the lines between actions covered under Title 50 and Title 10, the legal codes that support declared military action with participants subject to the Unified Code of Military Justice to the much more nebulous interpretation of what is permitted under the national security acts of 1947 and 1948. What is of special concern is that its now clear that the “privatization” is being extended to both intelligence collection and even to scientific developments related to military challenges. Its important to remember that the entire post 9/11 water boarding fiasco was based on the opinions of a couple civilian consultants who ended up applying highly questionable techniques, wielding amazing influence and overriding the experience and opinions of virtually all career combat officers involved in actual military interrogation work. And when you see a higher level DIA office take something like the Jasons away from DARPA , making a scientific advisory group even darker and seemingly under even less oversight as to both their selections and assignments, there are questions to be asked (just search for “Jasons” and “research group” if none of that made sense to you) . We managed to tilt open the lid on Pandora’s Box in the 1950’s, how far its being opened now is a real concern and I have a sense that the oversight has become increasingly personalized, and sketchy.
In retrospect, it the scope of the interview was obviously considerable and hardly does it justice – but if these subjects are new to you it would be a place to get started: