How the Failure To Identify, Prosecute
and Convict President Kennedy's Assassins Has Led To Today's Crisis
by Joan Mellen, author of 'A Farewll
Lecture Delivered at the Ethical
Culture Society, New York City, January 24, 2006
The last time I was in this room was
for the memorial service of a distinguished American author, J.
Anthony Lukas, who wrote "Common Ground," about race
and class in Boston. During the course of his career, Tony came
into conflict with an institution that I will discuss this evening,
"The New York Times."
"A Farewell To Justice" is about
the Kennedy assassination. It opens as a biography of Jim Garrison,
district attorney of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, who remains the
only public official ever to have brought anyone before the bar
of justice for participation in the conspiracy to murder President
Kennedy. Garrison assumed that role when he discovered that the
person framed for the crime, a low-level intelligence agent named
Lee Harvey Oswald, resided in his jurisdiction between April and
September of 1963. The Biblical metaphor is inevitable: that great
harlot city New Orleans, destroyed by flood, with, among its many
sins, incubating the Kennedy assassination.
After his suspect Clay Shaw was acquitted,
Shaw the man whom the new evidence reveals was a CIA operative
guilty of participating in the implementation of the murder of
President Kennedy, Garrison was asked how he imagined that he
could convict someone of conspiracy in the murder of President
Kennedy in a Louisiana state court. Garrison said: "I guess
I thought I was living in the country I was born in." He
wasn't and we aren't.
I would like to suggest that the truth
about the Kennedy assassination, far from being a matter of interest
only to historians, and not even to most of them, will help us
understand how we have arrived at a point where people as respectable
as New York attorney Martin Garbus are comparing the current U.S.
government with the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century.
It's my belief that the present state of our political culture
is a direct result of the fact that those responsible for the
murder of President Kennedy have never been brought to justice.
To sum up: "A Farewell To Justice"
suggests that the clandestine service of the CIA not only covered
up the truth about the Kennedy assassination - that's easy to
demonstrate from the four million documents now residing at the
National Archives - but organized the event itself. That the CIA
escaped without penalty, this extraordinary fact, has been integrated
over these forty-two years into the body politic. It has produced
a political culture where the unthinkable has become accepted
practice. Meaningful freedom of the press has fallen into serious
For a flagrant example of what we have
come to, we might revisit the scantily reported exchange on December
1st (2005) between Notre Dame professor Doug Cassel and John Yoo,
a former deputy assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft, a
participant in the writing of the Patriot Act, and now a Berkeley
The subject of the debate was the illegal
expansion of presidential powers.
Professor Cassel asks, "If the President
deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing
the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can
stop him?" And Yoo answers, "No treaty."
Cassel follows up: "Also no law by
Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo."
And Yoo replies, "I think it depends on why the President
thinks he needs to do that."
If Professor Cassel's hypothetical question
seems melodramatic, we have Martin Garbus, alarmed by the twin
expansion of Presidential and police powers, writing in the "New
York Observer": "This country is approaching a dangerous
turning point," and suggesting that the United States today
bears some similarities to Weimar Germany where liberal democracy
was not able to contend with the fascist onslaught.
In Miami a few weeks ago I was struck
by the omnipresence, on the streets and restaurants, of police
officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies. Famously,
Benjamin Franklin replied to a question of whether this new land
should be a monarchy or a republic with the line, "A republic,
if you can keep it."
What begins as surveillance moves to wiretapping,
then COINTELPRO tricks, and finally to murder - a diagram of what
happened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why the illegal NSA
surveillance is so alarming.
We have not been aided in understanding
the meaning of the Kennedy assassination by the continued public
silence of those closest to President Kennedy. One day I requested
of Wilmer Thomas, one of Jim Garrison's law school classmates
(Tulane School of Law, Class of 1949) to ask his acquaintance,
Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., whom he believed was
behind the assassination of President Kennedy. Professor Schlesinger
observed, quietly, "We were at war with the National Security
That the CIA at its highest levels exacted
its revenge on President Kennedy has been an open secret since
1963. A Gallup poll on the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination
in 2003 found that twice as many people believed that the CIA
was implicated in the assassination as there were who accepted
the official fiction that Oswald had acted alone.
In 1963, people were already worried
abut the CIA's extraordinary use of its powers. In the "New
York Times," Arthur Krock wrote in October 1963 that if ever
there would be a coup in the United States, it "would come
from the CIA and not the Pentagon." The CIA, Krock wrote,
was a "malignancy" on the body politic. It is difficult
to imagine such words being printed in the "Times" today,
so profoundly has our freedom of the press eroded since the time
of the Kennedy assassination.
After the death of President Kennedy,
ex-President Harry S. Truman, under whose watch the CIA was created
in 1947, wrote on the front page of the "Washington Post,"
that the CIA had been running a "shadow government,"
becoming "operational." Brazenly, Allen Dulles at one
point even told a reporter to think of the CIA as "the State
Department for unfriendly countries." The CIA's policy-making
also involved interference in the electoral process in Italy and
France, funneling money to certain political parties - in Italy
it was the Christian Democrats whom the CIA funded in an effort
to prevent a coalition of socialists and Communists from taking
power. The assassination of Prime Minister Aldo Moro was connected
to that CIA campaign.
At the time of the assassination, Charles
de Gaulle remarked that John F. Kennedy, whom he admired, had
died as a result of an intra-government conflict, a situation
not uncommon in many countries. The documentation available since
the passage of the JFK Act in 1992 overwhelmingly supports de
The rubber-stamping of the Warren Report
by the press in 1964 seems to mark the moment when the mainstream
press became "embedded" in official versions of events.
Traces of that process have surfaced. In April 1967 the CIA issued
a memo (available at the National Archives) instructing friendly
reporters on how to reply to challenges to the Warren Report,
recommendations that have resurfaced in the past few years in
a renewed set of attacks on Jim Garrison, a decade after his death.
So it should come as no surprise that
the "New York Times" for a year covered up the National
Security Agency domestic surveillance of citizens with rubber-stamped
search warrants issued under a "Foreign Intelligence Services
Act" (FISA) run by the Pentagon, or with no warrants at all.
Only when their own reporter was about to publish a book detailing
the evidence did the "Times" run that story. It should
be horrifying that the Congressional debate about the Patriot
Act has not been over whether there should be such a government
capability, but how long it should be extended.
Ponder the "Times'" treatment
of Jim Garrison, and later of Oliver Stone, who dared to make
a film with Jim Garrison as its central character. When Garrison's
first book, "A Heritage of Stone," appeared in 1969,
John Leonard gave it a positive review in the daily "Times."
In his final paragraph, Leonard recounted a few of Garrison's
challenges to the Warren Report.
"Something stinks about this whole
affair," Leonard writes. "Why were Kennedy's neck organs
not examined at Bethesda for evidence of a frontal shot? Why was
his body whisked away to Washington before the legally required
Texas inquest? Why?"
By the next edition, Leonard's final paragraph
had vanished, a third of a column slid down the memory hole. Leonard's
review now closed with these words: "Frankly, I prefer to
believe that the Warren Commission did a poor job, rather than
a dishonest one. I like to think that Garrison invents monsters
to explain incompetence." It was an extraordinary example
of management censorship of a book review. To this day, the "Times"
tolerates no factual challenges to the Warren Report.
They appear to be the only people who
still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible for the death
of President Kennedy. I spoke in Clinton, Louisiana last month,
at the oldest working courthouse in the United States, I believe.
The judge who introduced me asked the audience how many believed
that Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty. Not a single hand went up.
That audience knew the Warren Report was nonsensical because it
was in East Feliciana Parish, in the hamlets of Clinton and Jackson,
that Oswald appeared in the company of Clay Shaw, and a CIA contract
pilot named David Ferrie, in the late summer of 1963, three months
before the assassination. In the audience were actual witnesses,
including the barber who cut Oswald's hair.
That the Warren Report could so flagrantly
lie, and present itself as a homicide investigation, while doing
virtually no investigation at all - neither Clay Shaw nor David
Ferrie were interviewed, inspiring Jim Garrison's quip, "they
didn't call anyone who WAS involved" - has resulted in other
Presidential Commissions taking similar liberties with the truth.
I wrote an op-ed piece comparing the
deliberate ignoring of crucial information by the 9/11 Commission
with a similar failure to investigate a key lead by the Warren
Commission. It began with the information released by Lieutenant
Colonel in Army intelligence Tony Shaffer that the Able Danger
intelligence unit had identified Mohammed Atta and other accused
hijackers as part of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United
States at least a year before 9/11. Colonel Shaffer had wanted
this information to go immediately to the FBI only for Defense
Department lawyers to forbid Able Danger from contacting the Bureau.
The "New York Times" buried
this extraordinary information two-thirds of the way into the
paper. The "Washington Post" ran a Pentagon denial.
"Information has to get out, and
I think we have to account for why some of these things weren't
looked at as part of the overall report," Colonel Shaffer
said on NPR.
Shaffer then revealed something else:
he had presented the findings of the Able Danger team to Philip
Zelikow, that same executive staff director of the 9/11 Commission
who has defended the recent attacks on Jim Garrison as a dupe
of the KGB! Zelikow saw to it that the Able Danger information
never appeared in the 9/11 Commission Report, and went on to deny
that he was given the information. He now works on the staff of
One might ask: could Zelikow and company
have gotten away with denying the reality of a cover-up of vital
information about 9/11 if we had demanded the truth from the Warren
Commission? I sent my Op Ed piece, "9/11 and 11/22,"
to 34 newspapers. Only one would print it, the "Key West
What has all this to do with the Kennedy
assassination per se? I'm suggesting that demanding the truth
about the Kennedy assassination, even at this late date, is a
step toward restoring our basic freedoms. The discourse needs
to go even further than point to who planned and implemented the
crime. Was the CIA acting alone on its own behalf? Whose interests
did the Agency serve in 1963 - because the CIA eviscerated by
George W. Bush was a very different institution from the Agency
that waged war against President Kennedy?
The discussion of who rules America might
begin with President Eisenhower's heroic warning against a military-industrial
(and we need, of course, to add national security) complex. "We
must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties
or democratic processes," President Eisenhower added. He
cut the military budget as soon as he took office; he didn't believe
the U.S. should be a militarized nation. The CIA, the research
reveals, sabotaged President Eisenhower's effort to achieve détente
with the Soviets in the final year of his presidency through the
downing of Francis Gary Powers' U-2 overflight into the Soviet
Union. President Eisenhower had a good definition of "National
Security." He said "national security" meant that
the country was proceeding in peace and without a deficit.
Jim Garrison often asked during his investigation:
Cui Bono? Who benefits? A friend of mine living near "Langley
Forks" in Virginia pointed out to me some interesting connections.
The Texas School Book Depository, from which some, but not all,
of the shots were fired on November 22, 1963, was owned by one
D. H. Byrd. Byrd also founded and was the commander of the Southwest
post of the Civil Air Patrol, which included Louisiana and the
troop led by David Ferrie, among whose cadets was Lee Harvey Oswald.
In November, 1963, one of Byrd's companies,
LTV, a major defense contractor, was almost bankrupt. Defense
contracts flowing from the Vietnam War changed that, and by 1968
the stock had increased geometrically in value. Meanwhile we know
that President Kennedy opposed vehemently a protracted ground
war, and that as soon as he was dead, Lyndon Johnson dispatched
thousands of troops to Vietnam.
Among Byrd's associates was a man named
Neil Mallon, the skull and bones classmate of Prescott Bush. Mallon
headed a company called Dresser Industries, and it was Dresser
that sent George H. W. Bush, his friend Prescott's son, west to
Texas in 1949. It was for Mallon that the first President Bush
named one of his sons. Mallon built Byrd's barite plant in Mexico,
barite a product involved in oil drilling.
Dresser Industries was bought by Halliburton
in 1998, and at that time the Kellogg subsidiary of Dresser became
part of Brown and Root. Brown and Root itself had been bought
by Halliburton in 1962. It is less well known that Brown and Root
profited not only from the war in Iraq, but first from Vietnam.
Having recognized the role of Brown and Root, and discovering
that George Brown was a CIA asset (as the CIA's own released documents
confirm), Jim Garrison hoped to investigate Brown's role.
Was the CIA acting on behalf of President
Eisenhower's military-industrial complex? As a matter for further
research, the intelligence connections of the Bushes date from
before the very founding of the CIA: the Agency's mandate was
outlined in 1946 by Robert A. Lovett, who was a partner of Prescott
Bush at Brown Brothers Harriman.
Not least, as readers of the "Nation"
magazine know, after the Kennedy assassination, the FBI was enlisted
to brief CIA asset George Bush, THE George Bush, and not a low-level
man in the Agency by the same name, as was at first claimed, on
the reaction of the Miami anti-Castro community to the event.
To the general observation that the CIA
represented the interests of the oil-defense industries, and the
Pentagon, must be added another motive for the involvement of
the CIA in the assassination. Almost from the moment Kennedy took
office, a conflict raged between the President and the CIA. Once
Kennedy refused to be blackmailed by the CIA into a full-scale
invasion of Cuba at the time of the Bay of Pigs, de Gaulle's "intra-administration
war" erupted. The clandestine service of the CIA pushed for
an invasion of Cuba. President Kennedy declined, and went on to
fire the Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles, who re-emerges
as the central figure at the Warren Commission.
Throughout Kennedy's brief presidency,
the CIA treated him as an enemy. They withheld information, which
included details about the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Also concealed
from President Kennedy were the CIA's continuing assassinations
and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.
John F. Kennedy, in turn, sought to reign
in the CIA, and to limit the scope of its activities, including
reducing the powers of the Director of Central Intelligence. He
intended to transfer the overflight U-2 program from the CIA to
the Strategic Air Command. He intended to cut the CIA budget.
He sent, I discovered, Richard Goodwin down to No-Name Key to
ask the Soldiers of Fortune training there to take over Radio
Swan, the CIA radio station, on behalf of the President. They
declined. Kennedy threatened the existence of the Agency as they
Richard Reeves, in his very honest biography
of John F. Kennedy, quotes the President repeating over and over
again: "I've got to do something about those CIA bastards,"
and "Those CIA bastards. I'm going to get those bastards
if it's the last thing I ever do." It was the persistent
refrain of the Kennedy presidency.
The current President has also had his
conflicts with the CIA. He, however, has espoused the very policy
favored by the CIA under President Kennedy, the relentless pursuit
of foreign wars. To achieve his end, that war in Iraq, no matter
what lie he had to tell to implement it, George W. Bush had to
do what Kennedy knew he had to do as well: eviscerate the CIA.
So the disinformation was spread that the CIA had fallen down
on the job.
In fact, the CIA had reported accurately
about the situation in Iraq, and this before the Iraq War. CIA
noted that an invasion of Iraq was likely to lead to civil war;
the CIA reported that there were no weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq. Rather than give up his war, the President undercut the
Then Bush attempted to subvert the CIA
further by claiming that the CIA had endorsed what it had not,
but which fit his projected policy. He claimed that the CIA had
told him first that there WERE weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq. Then he said CIA had been wrong. Neither claim was true.
The outcome was the subordination of the clandestine services,
and of the Agency itself, so that the CIA director no longer enjoys
a daily briefing with the President, and is subordinate to a new
Director of National Intelligence, whom the President can control.
We should not be surprised that the National
Security Agency, empowered only to spy on foreign agents abroad,
is spying on US instead. Research into the Kennedy assassination
reveals that although the CIA was supposedly created to deal with
foreign threats, the CIA operated together with the FBI in the
cover-up of the Kennedy assassination. Documents reveal that this
mutual cooperation dates from the moment of the founding of the
CIA. In Louisiana, the sabotage of Garrison's investigation was
led by the CIA, operating beyond its mandate, domestically.
Let me return to some details of what
Jim Garrison accomplished. As Garrison once quipped about the
supposed "lone assassin," Lee Harvey Oswald, in fact,
Oswald was virtually NEVER alone. Moreover, he was not involved
with anyone who was NOT connected to the CIA. Oswald was an FBI
informant, Garrison learned from Louisiana representative Hale
Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission, defying Allen Dulles'
demand that everyone be silent about this fact. It was this single
piece of information that in 1965 led Jim Garrison to resume his
investigation begun in 1963.
I discovered a conversation that Garrison
did not know about. At the First District police station, where
Oswald was taken after he was arrested for a disturbance when
he was handing out his pro-Castro leaflets, he requested of Lieutenant
Francis Martello of the New Orleans police that Martello call
the FBI field office. "Call the FBI," Oswald ordered
Martello imperiously. "Tell them you have Lee Oswald in custody."
Oswald asked that Special Agent Warren de Brueys come down to
see him. Obviously, Oswald was someone the New Orleans field office
of the FBI knew well.
The Agent on duty that night, John Quigley,
then asked a young clerk named William Walter, the person who
took Martello's call, to check all the files, locked and unlocked,
for what they had on Oswald. On one file jacket, in the locked
filing cabinet of the Special Agent in Charge, where security
files were kept, were two names, Lee Oswald and Warren de Brueys.
To this day, Mr. de Brueys denies that he ever knew Oswald. I
called him just before my book was published on the pretext of
spelling his name correctly: was that a capital "d"
or not? Mr. de Brueys amazed me by remarking, after forty years
you wouldn't be a very intelligent person if you didn't change
your mind about things. This statement might not hold up in court,
but I accepted it as a confession for history.
Oswald had also been part of the CIA Counter
Intelligence false defector program. Oswald, I found new evidence
to show, worked also for U.S. Customs in New Orleans, as many
CIA people worked for Customs. One Customs officer told the Church
Committee, "I've waited ten years for someone to talk to
me" regarding what he knew about Oswald.
Garrison began by exploring Oswald's
government connections. He indicted Clay Shaw for participating
in the conspiracy, without having access to the government records
released under that JFK Act, an extraordinary development we're
not likely to witness again any time soon, records that establish
that Shaw was a CIA operative.
By shepherding Oswald around Louisiana,
Shaw was repaying the CIA for considerable favors rendered. Because
Shaw was acquitted, Jim Garrison chose as the title of his third
book, "A Farewell to Justice." He never used that title,
and so I appropriated it. Lillian Hellman taught a course to writing
students at Harvard called "Stealing." It was bad to
imitate, but fine to "steal" from authors you admired,
so long as you made their strategies your own. Garrison's ambition
was to be an author. He was no stranger to Shakespeare, nor to
novelists like Graham Greene, and of course Hemingway.
Part of my book includes how federal agencies
worked actively to thwart Garrison's investigation. Garrison was
astonished that the FBI refused to cooperate with New Orleans
law enforcement in an investigation of the Kennedy assassination.
In fact, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover subverted Garrison's effort.
Witnesses came forward to the FBI, believing that in providing
the FBI with information, they were simultaneously reaching the
"Give Garrison nothing!" Hoover
wrote to all special agents in charge, adding, in reference to
the Special Agent in Charge in New Orleans, Robert Rightmyer:
"Tell Rightmyer that I want him and all personnel in New
Orleans to keep their mouths shut!" This was February 1967,
a week after Jim Garrison's investigation became public.
Bobby Kennedy's right-hand man, Walter
Sheridan, had spearheaded the blackmail, bribery and wiretapping
that accomplished the conviction of Jimmy Hoffa. The evidence
of Walter Sheridan's illegalities in the railroading of Jimmy
Hoffa is chronicled in Fred Cook's three part series in the "Nation"
magazine. A further irony is that Chief Justice Earl Warren, enlisted
by Lyndon Johnson to rubber-stamp the preordained conclusion that
Oswald murdered President Kennedy, wrote what seems to me to be
a brilliant dissent when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Hoffa
Bobby Kennedy then sent Sheridan to New
Orleans, as Sheridan freely admitted, to "destroy" Jim
Garrison. That same National Security Agency spying on American
citizens today spawned Walter Sheridan, who was also cleared for
service with the FBI and CIA. Sheridan personally telephoned the
governors of several states to ensure that Garrison's subpoenaed
witnesses not be extradited back to the state of Louisiana. Not
a single witness was returned to New Orleans.
In the recent attacks on Jim Garrison
may be found the preposterous notion that the only reason Garrison
focused on the CIA was that he was the victim of KGB propaganda
flowing from an Italian newspaper, "Paese Sera." This
total falsehood has been defended by Philip Zelikow, the executive
director of the 9/11 Commission. One of the half-dozen anti-Garrison
articles appeared, not surprisingly, on the CIA's own web site,
"Studies in Intelligence."
As a biographer, among the questions I
asked was: did Jim Garrison take bribes from executives profiting
from pinball machine gambling (then illegal in Orleans Parish),
for which he was charged by the federal government? Was Jim Garrison
dishonest? The new documents reveal that after Shaw's acquittal,
after he perjured himself, and suborned perjury, Garrison was
ready to continue his investigation, only for that same operative,
Walter Sheridan, to return to New Orleans and blackmail Garrison's
friend and former chief investigator, Pershing Gervais.
Would Gervais not help them to nail Garrison for taking bribes
from pinball gambling interests, Gervais would go to jail for
eight years (the document is that specific) for income tax fraud.
So we see in this story, the mutual cooperation of agencies: the
FBI helping the CIA, the IRS enlisted by the National Security
Agency and the CIA. Years later, on the occasion of Oliver Stone's
film, "JFK," Anthony Lewis wrote in the "New York
Times" that Garrison had taken bribes. In fact, Garrison
had been acquitted. The bribes were indeed going to a "big
man" at Tulane and Broad, but it was not six foot six inch
Jim Garrison, but Chief of Police, Joseph Giarrusso.
Addressing a frequent attempt to discredit
Jim Garrison, I also had to ask: was Garrison tied to the Mafia?
Did he blame the CIA for the assassination as a way of protecting
the Mafia? I learned that Carlos Marcello, the Mafia chieftain
of Louisiana and Texas, despised Garrison and wanted him out of
office. Garrison was "unreliable," Marcello complained
to Governor John J. McKeithen, whose assistant, John Tarver, relayed
this to me. (McKeithen himself did take bribes from Marcello by
the way. John R. Rarick ran against McKeithen in 1968 and the
Marcello people talked to Rarick's campaign manager, who refused
a $50,000 contribution from Marcello. Marcello's man was incredulous.
"Big John took his," he said).
The final chapter of my book, entitled
"Rabbi," reflects my interviews with a person who was
involved in setting up the assassination, a man named Thomas Edward
Beckham. It describes his CIA training at a facility in Virginia.
Beckham presented me with a government document which describes
him as a man who would feel no guilt about killing. This phrase
matches in language documents released by the Church Committee
describing the assassins hired by the CIA in their assassination
attempts against foreign leaders: Lumumba, Trujillo, Diem, and,
of course, Fidel Castro.
Beckham had been subjected to a polygraph
by the New Orleans police in the late 1970s: when Robert Blakey
and Gary Cornwell, who headed the House Select Committee on Assassinations,
discovered this, the Louisiana investigators were suspended for
conducting a polygraph without authorization. The CIA controlled
that investigation as it did the Warren Commission. My favorite
anecdote concerns the moment when former Justice Arthur Goldberg
was asked to head the Committee after Philadelphia prosecutor
Richard A. Sprague was fired. Knowing that the CIA held the truth
about the assassination, Goldberg telephoned the Director of Central
Intelligence, Stansfield Turner, and asked whether, should he
take the job, he would be given full CIA cooperation. His question
was met by silence.
Goldberg persisted. He posed his question
again. Only then did Turner reply, "I thought my silence
was my answer." Goldberg did not take the job.
My final question came at my last interview,
in Miami in June of 2005. It was one that also perplexed Jim Garrison:
why did Bobby Kennedy try to sabotage his investigation? I interviewed
a Cuban close to Robert Kennedy, who revealed that Robert Kennedy
had Oswald under surveillance in New Orleans during the summer
Like Professor Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy
looked first to the CIA for responsibility in the murder of his
brother. On the day of the assassination, Bobby confronted John
McCone, the Director of Central Intelligence, with this question:
"Did the CIA kill my brother?" He told Harry Ruiz Williams,
one of the Cubans working for him, confirming his prior awareness
of Oswald, "One of your guys did it!" and it was not
a question, but a statement.
Wanting to be certain, Bobby sent that
same Walter Sheridan to Dallas to find out if the Mafia had planned
the crime. They had not. Bobby also asked a Mafia-connected Chicago
lawyer, Julius Draznin, who worked for the NLRB, the same question.
The answer, as Draznin reported to Walter Sheridan, was that the
assassination was not a Mafia hit. Years later, Sheridan would
testify under oath that the Mafia was behind the assassination!
It was in the circles of the anti-Castro
movement that Bobby Kennedy directed his attention, his aim to
protect the life of his brother from some Cuban still furious
about the Bay of Pigs. His other aim was to "neutralize"
Fidel Castro. Since the Church Committee hearings, newspapers
have reported on Operation MONGOOSE, the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate
Fidel Castro. Bobby Kennedy's separate efforts have been less
It was in this Miami research that I
discovered my parallel between the cover-up by the 9/11 Commission
of the Able Danger information and a similar set of facts that
faced the Warren Commission in its closing days. It reveals information
that bears upon why Robert F. Kennedy was nervous about Jim Garrison's
investigation, and about any investigation of his brother's death.
This began at the Bethesda autopsy; one of the doctors, Pierre
Finck, testified for the defense in New Orleans at State of Louisiana
v. Clay Shaw that the Kennedy family had requested that the trajectory
of the President's wounds not be examined.
"If my brother were killed,"
Garrison said, "I would be interested in getting the individuals
involved, no matter who they were." Garrison made this statement
on national television, exasperated by the persistent question
by news people: if you're on the right track, why isn't Bobby
Kennedy helping you?"
Late in its deliberations, the Warren
Commission discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited a Cuban
exile and former law student named Sylvia Odio in Dallas in late
September 1963. During the weekend of the assassination, Mrs.
Odio and her sister Annie both at once identified Oswald as the
man who had visited her in the presence of two Cubans, whom Sylvia
has yet to identify.
Mrs. Odio testified before the Warren
Commission. She said that the day after that visit, one of the
Cubans had telephoned her and in the course of the conversation
remarked that "Leon Oswald" had said, "President
Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs and
some Cubans should have done thatit's so easy to do it,"
indicating both foreknowledge of the assassination and that Oswald
was being set up. The Warren Commission never adequately investigated
this information - they certainly didn't call "Leopoldo,"
just as the 9/11 Commission didn't feel obliged to investigate
the Able Danger documents.
The Warren Commission's chief counsel,
J. Lee Rankin, expressed irritation at the very suggestion that
Sylvia Odio's story should be fully investigated, muttering, "we
are supposed to be closing doors, not opening them." Years
later, Rankin was bitter that the FBI and CIA had concealed vital
information from the Warren Commission. Deposed in the late 1970s
by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Rankin admitted
that he regretted that he had taken the CIA's word that Oswald
"was never a CIA agent."
Invited to ask if he had anything further
to say, Rankin had a question for the lawyers and committee members
in the room. Was the HSCA investigating whether the people involved
in the CIA cover-up were involved in the assassination as well?
He received the identical response Arthur Goldberg had: silence.
The Warren Commission lacked a context
in which to evaluate the incident of Oswald visiting Sylvia Odio
because the FBI and CIA both, on the instruction of Chief of Counter
Intelligence James Angleton concealed the CIA's history of attempts
to assassinate Fidel Castro, now a matter of public record.
In my pursuit of the question of why Bobby
Kennedy tried to sabotage Jim Garrison's investigation - Garrison
used the word "torpedo" - I studied the minutes of the
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Church
Committee papers (the 25 per cent that are open to the public).
I tried to interview Cubans who worked closely with the Attorney
General. This is some of what I discovered.
Bobby Kennedy had assembled a team of
anti-Castro Cubans. One, Manolo Reboso, is now living in Nicaragua,
having married into the wealthy Somoza family. Another, Manuel
Artime, is dead. But I did locate a man named Angelo Murgado,
a man so devoted to the Kennedys that, at his citizenship hearing,
he changed his name from "Murgado" to "Kennedy"
in homage to a person whom he admired, Bobby Kennedy.
Angelo told me that Bobby's instructions
to his special team were twofold. One aim was to find a means
of getting rid of Fidel Castro. Bobby's other aim was to protect
his brother. He sent these Cubans to New Orleans. Moving among,
as Angelo put it, "Castro's agents, double agents, and Cubans
working for the CIA," they hoped to "neutralize"
a future assassin. You can deduce what he meant by "neutralize."
In New Orleans, Angelo Murgado ran into
Lee Harvey Oswald, who was moving among the anti-Castro community.
He put Oswald under surveillance. When I mentioned that I had
discovered Oswald's acquaintance with an anti-Castro Cuban named
Juan Valdes, who worked at Clay Shaw's International Trade Mart,
Angelo was dubious. How could that be? He knew everyone Oswald
was acquainted with, and he didn't know of this man. That's how
close to Oswald they drew.
Scrutinizing Oswald, and reporting back
to Bobby, his team discovered that Oswald was an informant for
the FBI. Learning this, Bobby reasoned, "If the FBI is controlling
him, he's no problem." Bobby underestimated the role Oswald
had been induced to play in the plans to murder of his brother
and ceased to make him a major target of his concern. Bobby knew
"something was cooking in New Orleans," Angelo Murgado
told me. But Bobby urged "caution." He was out of his
In September, it was Angelo and a fellow
veteran of the Bay of Pigs who traveled from New Orleans to Dallas
to visit Sylvia Odio. Angelo believed they were there to marshal
help for their anti-Castro efforts, and talked about buying arms
to support an anti-Castro movement within Cuba. Mrs. Odio's father,
in jail in Cuba, headed a liberal organization called JURE, its
position, "Fidelismo sin Fidel." Angelo believed he
could trust his companion, referred to in the Warren Report as
"Leopoldo," because not only was he a fellow veteran
of the Bay of Pigs, but his brother was running for Mayor of Miami.
He was respectable.
The next day, out of Angelo's hearing,
"Leopoldo" phoned Mrs. Odio to tell her how "Leon"
Oswald had talked about the need to murder President Kennedy.
"Leon is kind of nuts," Leopoldo stated, setting up
Oswald as the patsy. Oswald's mental imbalance forms the conclusion
of the Warren Report, and Oswald was called "Leon" a
number of times, not least at a gathering at David Ferrie's apartment
where Clay Shaw and Ferrie, Garrison's chief suspects, discussed
what their alibis would be for November 22nd. At Sylvia Odio's,
Angelo used his true given name. "Leopoldo" was an alias.
Placing Oswald in the company of so close
an associate of Bobby Kennedy, in an incident that points to foreknowledge
of the assassination as well as the framing of Oswald, created
the trap that would silence Bobby forever. Bobby asked his aide,
Frank Mankiewicz whether "any of our people were involved,"
and, Mankiewicz told me, he had asked himself, did you think there
Angelo, meanwhile, had been betrayed by
a companion he believed he could trust, a man not so much assigned
to the overthrow of Fidel Castro, as Angelo believed, as he was
enlisted to arrange for Oswald to be blamed for the murder of
"Leopoldo" was a Cuban named Bernardo de Torres. A
virtual flood of documents reveals that he was an asset of both
the CIA and military intelligence. When he was subpoenaed before
the House Select Committee, CIA arrived on the day he was deposed
to insist that de Torres be granted immunity. The CIA so totally
controlled that Committee that they agreed to the CIA demand that
de Torres not be questioned about the period of time leading up
to the Kennedy assassination. Both the Warren Commission and the
HSCA buried what they knew about Oswald's participation in ANTI-Castro
activities, information that would have led directly to the role
of the CIA in the assassination.
I believe that we are now suffering the consequences of allowing
lies about what happened to President Kennedy to remain unchallenged.
The consequence of the public not demanding that the murder of
the head of state be properly investigated has led directly to
the current undermining of the integrity of our democratic institutions,
not least the press. An obvious consequence of the obfuscations
of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee both has
been the ease with which the 9/11 Commission was able to conceal
I wrote my book to make a small contribution
to the need for government accountability and openness because
what is at stake, to be a bit grandiose, is democracy itself.
I'll close with a line by Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., from a sermon a year before his death: "No lie
can live forever."