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FTR #486 Looking Back at the Kennedy Assassination

Record­ed Novem­ber 21, 2004
REALAUDIO [1]

In obser­vance of the 41st anniver­sary of Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion, this pro­gram notes that it is pri­mar­i­ly the media that per­pet­u­ate the pre­pos­ter­ous fic­tion of Lee Har­vey Oswald the “lone nut” assas­sin. The War­ren Report (issued forty years ago) was con­struct­ed pri­mar­i­ly to save the U.S. from severe polit­i­cal embar­rass­ment. In pri­vate, many of this country’s most promi­nent polit­i­cal fig­ures have dis­missed the War­ren Report. LBJ, Robert and Jacque­line Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, Nixon, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and many oth­er nota­bles pri­vate­ly voiced their con­vic­tion that the War­ren Report was non­sense. After dis­cussing this, the pro­gram reviews some aspects of the House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions’ find­ings on the killing of JFK. The broad­cast con­cludes with the read­ing of an account of a Ger­man uni­ver­si­ty professor’s expe­ri­ence of the rise of Hitler.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions’ find­ings that Clay Shaw (tried by Jim Gar­ri­son for JFK’s mur­der) may well have been involved in some aspect of the killing; dis­cus­sion of a film clip that alleged­ly con­nect­ed Oswald with key CIA per­son­nel and peo­ple inves­ti­gat­ed by Jim Gar­ri­son; the House Select Committee’s final con­clu­sion con­cern­ing the like­li­hood that the CIA/An­ti-Cas­tro Cuban/Mafia plots had all the ele­ments nec­es­sary for a suc­cess­ful assas­si­na­tion con­spir­a­cy.

1. Much of the pro­gram is devot­ed to the read­ing of an arti­cle from Salon.com, which is repro­duced here. The focal point of the sto­ry is that the unten­able fic­tion of the War­ren Report is upheld and per­pet­u­at­ed by the media. The vast major­i­ty of the Amer­i­can peo­ple do not believe the War­ren Report and this sto­ry reveals that many of this country’s most pow­er­ful peo­ple do not believe it either. It is note­wor­thy that many of the prin­ci­pal peo­ple involved in the events themselves—LBJ, Robert Kennedy, Jacque­line Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover to name a few—believed Pres­i­dent Kennedy to have been the vic­tim of a polit­i­cal con­spir­a­cy. Sub­se­quent inves­ti­ga­tors such as Sen­a­tors Gary Hart and Richard Schweik­er were con­vinced that the killing was not the work of Oswald. Even Richard Nixon believed the War­ren Report to be a fraud. (Among the pro­grams cov­er­ing the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion are: The Guns of Novem­ber, RFA#’s 11, 12, 13, 15, 37 [2]—avail­able from SPITFIRE—as well as Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M48 [3], also avail­able from SPITFIRE, and FTR#’s 19, 47, 54, 62, 63, 76, 104, 108, 120, 158, 168, 188, 190, 191, 288 [4].)

The moth­er of all cov­er-ups. [5]
Forty years after the War­ren Report, the offi­cial ver­dict on the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, we now know the coun­try’s high and mighty were secret­ly among its biggest crit­ics.
By David Tal­bot (Salon.com)

Sept. 15, 2004 | Once again, we find our­selves in the sea­son of the offi­cial report: the 9/11 Com­mis­sion Report, the Sen­ate Select Com­mit­tee on Intel­li­gence report, the Schlesinger inquiry on Abu Ghraib, among oth­ers. And once again the offi­cial ver­sion is under fire.

The 9/11 Report has been attacked for lean­ing over back­ward, in the spir­it of bipar­ti­san una­nim­i­ty, to avoid pin­ning blame on the Bush admin­is­tra­tion for its casu­al atti­tude toward ter­ror­ist alerts before the calami­ty and for side­step­ping the issue of Sau­di involve­ment. But at least it has won a mea­sure of pub­lic respect, due in large part to the vig­i­lance of 9/11 vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.

The Sen­ate report on the intel­li­gence fail­ures lead­ing to the Iraq cat­a­stro­phe has not fared as well, undoubt­ed­ly because it lacked the same pub­lic over­sight. This report went to even greater extremes to keep Bush out of the cross hairs. As Thomas Pow­ers wrote in the New York Review of Books, “No tyran­ni­cal father pre­sid­ing over an intim­i­dat­ed house­hold was ever tip­toed around with greater cau­tion than is the fig­ure of Pres­i­dent George W. Bush in the [com­mit­tee’s] fat report.”

And the Schlesinger report on Abu Ghraib has quick­ly earned itself an utter­ly con­temp­tu­ous response, elic­it­ing wide­spread out­rage for giv­ing Defense Sec­re­tary Rums­feld and the Pen­ta­gon a sweep­ing pass on the reign of tor­ture at the prison. While the world shud­dered in hor­ror at pho­tographs and descrip­tions of the Abu Ghraib may­hem, James Schlesinger, the for­mer defense sec­re­tary picked by Rums­feld to chair the civil­ian com­mis­sion, was con­sid­er­ably less agi­tat­ed in his response. “Ani­mal house,” he blithe­ly called the pris­on’s cham­bers of vio­lent per­ver­si­ty, a casu­al assess­ment that mir­rored the for­giv­ing views of Rush Lim­baugh, who dis­missed the scan­dal as a frat par­ty gone wild.

So it is only appro­pri­ate, in this stormy sea­son of the offi­cial ver­sion and its dis­con­tents, that we observe the 40th anniver­sary of the War­ren Report — the moth­er of all such con­tro­ver­sies. The vast, 26-vol­ume report was deliv­ered by the com­mis­sion chair­man, Chief Jus­tice Earl War­ren, to Pres­i­dent John­son on Sept. 24, 1964. The War­ren Report con­clud­ed that Pres­i­dent Kennedy was the vic­tim of a lone, unsta­ble assas­sin, Lee Har­vey Oswald, who was him­self, con­ve­nient­ly, gunned down just two days lat­er in the Dal­las police sta­tion by mob-con­nect­ed hus­tler Jack Ruby. The War­ren Com­mis­sion — itself the vic­tim of mas­sive fraud and manip­u­la­tion by the FBI and CIA — came under imme­di­ate fire from crit­ics, with its report being denounced as a gov­ern­ment coverup by a grow­ing army of inde­pen­dent researchers. His­to­ry has not been any kinder to the War­ren Report, which has been derid­ed and con­demned by every­one from the House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions — the only oth­er fed­er­al pan­el to exhaus­tive­ly probe Kennedy’s mur­der, and which found in 1979 that the pres­i­dent was the prob­a­ble tar­get of a con­spir­a­cy — to Oliv­er Stone in his explo­sive 1991 film “JFK” to the His­to­ry Chan­nel, which rou­tine­ly airs even the out­er lim­its of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

Four decades lat­er, the War­ren Report is wide­ly regard­ed as a white­wash, with polls con­sis­tent­ly show­ing that a major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans reject the offi­cial ver­sion of Kennedy’s death. (The Assas­si­na­tion Archives and Research Cen­ter will hold a con­fer­ence to dis­cuss the lat­est schol­ar­ship on the crime in Dal­las and the War­ren inves­ti­ga­tion from Sept. 17–19 in Wash­ing­ton. Infor­ma­tion is avail­able on its Web site [6].

But there is one sanc­tu­ary where the War­ren Report is still stub­born­ly upheld and where its man­i­fold crit­ics can expect their own rough treat­ment: in the tow­ers of the media elite. Fresh from assault­ing Oliv­er Stone, not only for his film but for his very char­ac­ter (a media shark attack in which, I must con­fess, I too once engaged), the nation­al press rushed to embrace Ger­ald Pos­ner’s bold 1993 defense of the War­ren Report, “Case Closed,” mak­ing it a best­seller. (“The most con­vinc­ing expla­na­tion of the assas­si­na­tion,” his­to­ri­an Robert Dallek called it in the Boston Globe.) And the 40th anniver­sary of JFK’s mur­der last Novem­ber sparked a new fusil­lade of anti-con­spir­a­cy sound and fury, with ABC’s Peter Jen­nings mak­ing yet anoth­er net­work news attempt to silence the report’s crit­ics. Most of the press lords and pun­dits in the 1960s who allowed them­selves to be con­vinced that the War­ren Report was the cor­rect ver­sion of what hap­pened in Dal­las — whether because they gen­uine­ly believed it or because they thought it was for the good of the coun­try — are now dead or retired. But after buy­ing the offi­cial ver­sion for so long, it seems the elite media insti­tu­tions have too much invest­ed in the War­ren Report to change their minds now, even if they’re under new edi­to­r­i­al lead­er­ship.

One of the great ironies of his­to­ry is that while the media elite was busi­ly try­ing to shore up pub­lic con­fi­dence in the War­ren Report, the polit­i­cal elites were pri­vate­ly con­fid­ing among them­selves that the report was a trav­es­ty, a fairy tale for mass con­sump­tion. Pres­i­dents, White House aides, intel­li­gence offi­cials, sen­a­tors, con­gress­men, even for­eign lead­ers — they all mut­tered dark­ly among them­selves that Kennedy was killed by a con­spir­a­cy, a plot that a num­ber of them sus­pect­ed had roots in the U.S. gov­ern­ment itself. (In truth, some high media dig­ni­taries have also qui­et­ly shared their doubts about the offi­cial ver­sion. In 1993, CBS anchor­man Dan Rather, who did much along with his net­work to enforce the par­ty line on Dal­las, con­fessed to Robert Tan­nen­baum, the for­mer deputy chief coun­sel of the House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions, “We real­ly blew it on the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion.”)

Thanks to tapes of White House con­ver­sa­tions that have been released to the pub­lic in recent years, we now know that the man who appoint­ed the War­ren Com­mis­sion — Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son — did not believe its con­clu­sions. On Sept. 18, 1964, the last day the pan­el met, com­mis­sion mem­ber Sen. Richard Rus­sell phoned John­son, his old polit­i­cal pro­tégé, to tell him he did not believe the sin­gle-bul­let the­o­ry, the key to the com­mis­sion’s find­ing that Oswald act­ed alone. “I don’t either,” John­son told him.

John­son’s the­o­ries about what real­ly hap­pened in Dal­las shift­ed over the years. Soon after the assas­si­na­tion, John­son was led to believe by the CIA that Kennedy might have been the vic­tim of a Sovi­et con­spir­a­cy. Lat­er his sus­pi­cions focused on Cas­tro; dur­ing his long-run­ning feud with Robert Kennedy, LBJ leaked a sto­ry to Wash­ing­ton colum­nist Drew Pear­son sug­gest­ing the Kennedy broth­ers them­selves were respon­si­ble for JFK’s death by trig­ger­ing a vio­lent reac­tion from the Cuban leader with their “god­damned Mur­der Inc.” plots to kill him.

In 1967, accord­ing to a report in the Wash­ing­ton Post, John­son’s sus­pi­cious gaze came to rest on the CIA. The news­pa­per quot­ed White House aide Mar­vin Wat­son as say­ing that John­son was “now con­vinced” Kennedy was the vic­tim of a plot and “that the CIA had some­thing to do with this plot.” Max Hol­land, who has just pub­lished a study of LBJ’s views on Dal­las, “The Kennedy Assas­si­na­tion Tapes,” intrigu­ing­ly con­cludes that John­son remained haunt­ed by the mur­der through­out his tenure in the White House. “It is vir­tu­al­ly an arti­cle of faith among his­to­ri­ans that the war in Viet­nam was the over­whelm­ing rea­son the pres­i­dent left office in 1969, a worn, bit­ter, and dis­il­lu­sioned man,” writes Hol­land. “Yet the assas­si­na­tion-relat­ed tapes paint a more nuanced por­trait, one in which John­son’s view of the one in which John­son’s view of the assas­si­na­tion weighed as heav­i­ly on him as did the war.”

Crit­ics of the War­ren Report’s lone-assas­sin con­clu­sion were often stumped by defend­ers of the report with the ques­tion, “If there was a con­spir­a­cy, why did­n’t Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s own broth­er — the attor­ney gen­er­al Crit­ics of the War­ren Report’s lone-assas­sin con­clu­sion were often stumped by defend­ers of the report with of the Unit­ed States, Robert Kennedy — do any­thing about it?” It’s true that, at least until short­ly before his assas­si­na­tion in June 1968, Bob­by Kennedy pub­licly sup­port­ed the War­ren Report. On March 25, dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign ral­ly at San Fer­nan­do Val­ley State Col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia, Kennedy was dra­mat­i­cal­ly con­front­ed by a woman heck­ler, who called out, “We want to know who killed Pres­i­dent Kennedy!” Kennedy respond­ed by say­ing, “I stand by the War­ren Com­mis­sion Report.” But at a lat­er cam­paign appear­ance, days before his assas­si­na­tion, Bob­by Kennedy said the oppo­site, accord­ing to his for­mer press spokesman Frank Mankiewicz. When asked if he would reopen the inves­ti­ga­tion into his broth­er’s death, he uttered a sim­ple, one-word answer: “Yes.” Mankiewicz recalls today, “I remem­ber that I was stunned by the answer. It was either like he was sud­den­ly blurt­ing out the truth, or it was a way to shut down the ques­tion­ing — you know, ‘Yes, now let’s move on.’ ”

His pub­lic state­ments on the War­ren Report were obvi­ous­ly freight­ed with polit­i­cal and emo­tion­al — and per­haps even secu­ri­ty — con­cerns for Bob­by Kennedy. But we have no doubt what his pri­vate opin­ion of the report was — as his biog­ra­ph­er Evan Thomas wrote, Kennedy “regard­ed the War­ren Com­mis­sion as a pub­lic rela­tions exer­cise to reas­sure the pub­lic.” Accord­ing to a vari­ety of reports, Kennedy sus­pect­ed a plot as soon as he heard his broth­er had been shot in Dal­las. And as he made calls and inquiries in the hours and days after the assas­si­na­tion, he came to an omi­nous con­clu­sion: JFK was the vic­tim of a domes­tic polit­i­cal con­spir­a­cy.

In a remark­able pas­sage in “One Hell of a Gam­ble,” a wide­ly praised 1997 his­to­ry of the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis based on declas­si­fied Sovi­et and U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, his­to­ri­ans Alek­san­dr Fursenko and Tim­o­thy Naf­tali wrote that on Nov. 29, one week after the assas­si­na­tion, Bob­by Kennedy dis­patched a close fam­i­ly friend named William Wal­ton to Moscow with a remark­able mes­sage for Geor­gi Bol­shakov, the KGB agent he had come to trust dur­ing the nerve-wrack­ing back-chan­nel dis­cus­sions sparked by the mis­sile cri­sis. Accord­ing to the his­to­ri­ans, Wal­ton told Bol­shakov that Bob­by and Jacque­line Kennedy believed “there was a large polit­i­cal con­spir­a­cy behind Oswald’s rifle” and “that Dal­las was the ide­al loca­tion for such a crime.” The Kennedys also sought to reas­sure the Sovi­ets that despite Oswald’s appar­ent con­nec­tions to the com­mu­nist world, they believed Pres­i­dent Kennedy had been killed by Amer­i­can ene­mies. This is a stun­ning account — with the fall­en pres­i­den­t’s broth­er and wid­ow com­mu­ni­cat­ing their chill­ing sus­pi­cions to the pre­em­i­nent world rival of the U.S. — and it has not received near­ly the pub­lic atten­tion it deserves.

Both Khrushchev, who had been work­ing with JFK to ease ten­sions between the super­pow­ers, and his spy chief shared Kennedy’s dark view of the assas­si­na­tion. KGB chair­man react­ed incred­u­lous­ly to the news that Oswald, a man whom his agency had close­ly mon­i­tored after he defect­ed to the Sovi­et Union, was the cul­prit: “I thought that this man could not pos­si­bly be the mas­ter­mind of the crime.” And accord­ing to Fursenko and Naf­tali, “Intel­li­gence com­ing to Khrushchev in the weeks fol­low­ing the assas­si­na­tion seemed to con­firm the the­o­ry that a right-wing con­spir­a­cy had killed Kennedy.” This assess­ment was shared by the gov­ern­ments of Cuba, Mex­i­co and France, where Pres­i­dent DeGaulle, when briefed by a reporter on the lone-nut the­o­ry react­ed with Gal­lic skep­ti­cism, laugh­ing, “Vous me blaguez! [You’re kid­ding me.] Cow­boys and Indi­ans!”

In the years after his broth­er’s death, Bob­by Kennedy was over­whelmed by grief. But the com­mon per­cep­tion that he found it too painful to focus on the assas­si­na­tion is belied by the fact that Kennedy main­tained a search­ing curios­i­ty about crit­ics of the War­ren Report, using sur­ro­gates like Mankiewicz, Wal­ter Sheri­dan, Ed Guth­man and John Siegen­thaler to check out their work and dis­patch­ing his for­mer aides to New Orleans to eval­u­ate Jim Gar­rison’s inves­ti­ga­tion. In fact Kennedy him­self phoned New Orleans coro­ner Nicholas Chet­ta at his home after the death of key Gar­ri­son sus­pect David Fer­rie to ques­tion Chet­ta about his autop­sy report. And while Sheri­dan — a trust­ed friend of Kennedy’s who had worked close­ly with him on his Jim­my Hof­fa inves­ti­ga­tion — famous­ly repu­di­at­ed Gar­ri­son in a 1967 doc­u­men­tary for NBC, RFK appar­ent­ly still kept ties to the Gar­ri­son camp. Accord­ing to William Turn­er, a for­mer FBI agent who worked as a Gar­ri­son inves­ti­ga­tor dur­ing the Kennedy case, in April 1968 he received a call in the New Orleans pros­e­cu­tor’s office from an RFK cam­paign aide named Richard Lubic. “He said, ‘Bill, Bob­by’s going to go — he’s going to reopen the inves­ti­ga­tion after he wins.’ I went in imme­di­ate­ly and told Jim [Gar­ri­son]. He did­n’t seem sur­prised.”

Bob­by was not the only m

ember of Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s inner cir­cle who believed there was a con­spir­a­cy. Pres­i­den­tial aides Ken­ny O’Don­nell and Dave Pow­ers, key mem­bers of JFK’s Irish Mafia, were in a trail­ing lim­ou­sine in the Dal­las motor­cade. Both of them lat­er told House Speak­er Tip O’Neill that they heard two shots from behind the fence on the grassy knoll. “That’s not what you told the War­ren Com­mis­sion,” a stunned O’Neill replied, accord­ing to his 1989 mem­oir, “Man of the House. “You’re right,” O’Don­nell said. “I told the FBI what I had heard, but they said it could­n’t have hap­pened that way and that I must have been imag­in­ing things.” So not want­i­ng to “stir up more pain and trou­ble for the fam­i­ly,” O’Don­nell told the com­mis­sion what the FBI want­ed him to.

Speak­ing of the FBI, its deeply sin­is­ter strong­man J. Edgar Hoover might have “lied his eyes out” to the War­ren Com­mis­sion, as pan­el mem­ber Hale Bog­gs, the Louisiana con­gress­man, mem­o­rably told an aide, pres­sur­ing and maneu­ver­ing the com­mis­sion to reach a lone-assas­sin ver­dict. But again, in pri­vate, Hoover told anoth­er sto­ry. The sum­mer after the assas­si­na­tion, Hoover was relax­ing at the Del Char­ro resort in Cal­i­for­nia, which was owned by his friend, right-wing Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchi­son. Anoth­er Texas oil crony of Hoover’s, Bil­ly Byars Sr. — the only man Hoover had called on the after­noon of Nov. 22, 1963, besides Robert Kennedy and the head of the Secret Ser­vice — also was there. At one point, accord­ing to Antho­ny Sum­mers, the invalu­able prober of the dark side of Amer­i­can pow­er, Byars’ teenage son, Bil­ly Jr., got up his nerve to ask Hoover the ques­tion, “Do you think Lee Har­vey Oswald did it?” Accord­ing to Byars, Hoover “stopped and looked at me for quite a long time. Then he said, ‘If I told you what I real­ly know, it would be very dan­ger­ous to this coun­try. Our whole polit­i­cal sys­tem could be dis­rupt­ed.’ ”

Blunt skep­ti­cism about the War­ren Report was a bipar­ti­san affair, with lead­ers on both sides of the aisle air­i­ly dis­miss­ing its con­clu­sions. On a White House tape record­ing, Pres­i­dent Nixon is heard telling aides that the War­ren Report “was the great­est hoax that has ever been per­pet­u­at­ed.” One of Nixon’s top aides, White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Halde­man, shared his boss’ skep­ti­cism. In his 1978 mem­oir, “The Ends of Pow­er,” Halde­man, who “had always been intrigued with the con­flict­ing the­o­ries of the assas­si­na­tion,” recalls that when the Nixon team moved into the White House in 1969, he felt that they final­ly “would be in a posi­tion to get all the facts.” But Nixon, per­haps wary of where all those facts would lead, reject­ed Halde­man’s sug­ges­tion.

Accord­ing to Halde­man, Nixon did play the assas­si­na­tion card in a mys­te­ri­ous way against CIA direc­tor Richard Helms, long regard­ed by War­ren Report crit­ics to have some con­nec­tion to the gun­shots in Dal­las. Seek­ing to pres­sure the CIA into help­ing him out of his Water­gate mess, Nixon had Halde­man deliv­er this cryp­tic mes­sage — appar­ent­ly a threat — to Helms: “The pres­i­dent asked me to tell you this entire (Water­gate) affair may be con­nect­ed to the Bay of Pigs, and if it opens up, the Bay of Pigs may be blown.” This prompt­ed an explo­sive reac­tion from the spy­mas­ter: “Tur­moil in the room, Helms grip­ping the arms of his chair lean­ing for­ward and shout­ing, ‘The Bay of Pigs had noth­ing to do with this. I have no con­cern about the Bay of Pigs.’ ” Halde­man spec­u­lates that “Bay of Pigs” must have been Nixon’s code for some­thing relat­ed to the CIA, Cas­tro and the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion. But what­ev­er dark card Nixon had played, it worked. Halde­man report­ed back to his boss that the CIA direc­tor was now “very hap­py to be help­ful.”

Nixon was not will­ing to pub­licly reopen the box of assas­si­na­tion demons. But many of them began fly­ing out when the Church Com­mit­tee start­ed inves­ti­gat­ing CIA abus­es in the 1970s, includ­ing the unholy pact between the agency and the Mafia to elim­i­nate Fidel Cas­tro. (The bomb­shell head­lines pro­duced by the Church Com­mit­tee would, in fact, lead to the for­ma­tion of the House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions in 1977.)

Among those in Wash­ing­ton who were par­tic­u­lar­ly curi­ous about the rev­e­la­tions con­cern­ing the CIA and the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion was George H.W. Bush. As Kit­ty Kel­ley observes in her new book about the Bush fam­i­ly, while serv­ing as the CIA direc­tor in the Ford admin­is­tra­tion, Bush fired off a series of mem­os in fall 1976, ask­ing sub­or­di­nates var­i­ous ques­tions about Oswald, Ruby, Helms and oth­er fig­ures tied to the assas­si­na­tion. “Years lat­er, when [Bush] became pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, he would deny mak­ing any attempt to review the agency files on the JFK assas­si­na­tion,” writes Kel­ley in “The Fam­i­ly: The Real Sto­ry of the Bush Dynasty.” [7] “When he made this claim, he did not real­ize that the agency would release 18 doc­u­ments (under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act) that showed he had indeed, as CIA direc­tor, request­ed infor­ma­tion — not once, but sev­er­al times — on a wide range of ques­tions sur­round­ing the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion.”

One of the most aggres­sive inves­ti­ga­tors on the Church Com­mit­tee was the young, ambi­tious Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tor from Col­orado, Gary Hart, who along with Repub­li­can col­league Richard Schweik­er began dig­ging into the swampy murk of south­ern Flori­da in the ear­ly 1960s. Here was the steamy nurs­ery for plots that drew togeth­er CIA sabo­teurs, Mafia cut­throats, anti-com­mu­nist Cuban fanat­ics and the whole array of patri­ot­ic zealots who were deter­mined to over­throw the gov­ern­ment of Cuba — the Iraq of its day. “The whole atmos­phere at that time was so yeasty,” says Hart today. “I don’t think any­body, Helms or any­body, had con­trol of the thing. There were peo­ple clan­des­tine­ly meet­ing peo­ple, the Mafia con­nec­tions, the friend­ships between the Mafia and CIA agents, and this crazy Cuban exile com­mu­ni­ty. There were more and more lay­ers, and it was hon­ey­combed with bizarre peo­ple. I don’t think any­body knew every­thing that was going on. And I think the Kennedys were kind of rac­ing to keep up with it all.”

Schweik­er’s mind was blown by what he and Hart were dig­ging up — there is no oth­er way to describe it. He was a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can from Penn­syl­va­nia and he would be cho­sen as a vice pres­i­den­tial run­ning mate by Ronald Rea­gan in 1976 to bol­ster his chal­lenge against Pres­i­dent Jer­ry Ford. But Schweik­er’s faith in the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment seemed deeply shak­en by his Kennedy probe, which con­vinced him “the fin­ger­prints of intel­li­gence” were all over Lee Har­vey Oswald.

“Dick made a lot of state­ments inside the com­mit­tee that were a lot more inflam­ma­to­ry than any­thing I ever said, in terms of his sus­pi­cions about who killed Kennedy,” recalls Hart. “He would say, ‘This is out­ra­geous, we’ve got to reopen this.’ He was a blow­torch.”

Hart too con­clud­ed Kennedy was like­ly killed by a con­spir­a­cy, involv­ing some fever­ish cabal from the swamps of anti-Cas­tro zealotry. And when he ran for pres­i­dent in 1984, Hart says, when­ev­er he was asked about the assas­si­na­tion, “My con­sis­tent response was, based on my Church Com­mit­tee expe­ri­ence, there are suf­fi­cient doubts about the case to jus­ti­fy reopen­ing the files of the CIA, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its rela­tion­ship to the Mafia.” This was enough to blow oth­er peo­ple’s minds, says Hart, includ­ing rem­nants of the Mafia fam­i­ly of Flori­da god­fa­ther San­to Traf­fi­cante, who plays a key role in many JFK con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. “[Jour­nal­ist] Sy Hersh told me that he inter­viewed bud­dies of Traf­fi­cante, includ­ing his right-hand man who was still alive when Hersh wrote his book (‘The Dark Side of Camelot’). He did­n’t put this in his book, but when my name came up, the guy laughed, he snort­ed and said, ‘We don’t think he’s any bet­ter than the Kennedys.” Mean­ing they were keep­ing an eye on Hart? “At the very least. This was in the 1980s when I was run­ning for pres­i­dent, say­ing I would reopen the (Kennedy) inves­ti­ga­tion. Any­body can draw their own con­clu­sions.”

Hart, of cou

rse, nev­er made it to the White House. But anoth­er politi­cian who had been deeply inspired by JFK did — William Jef­fer­son Clin­ton. And like per­haps every oth­er man who moved into the White House fol­low­ing the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, he too was curi­ous about find­ing out the real sto­ry. “Where are the Kennedy files?” the young pres­i­dent report­ed­ly asked soon after he went to work in the Oval Office.

And what about the oth­er JFK from Mass­a­chu­setts, who also met Pres­i­dent Kennedy as a young man — John F. Ker­ry? If he’s elect­ed in Novem­ber, will he be tempt­ed to launch an inquiry and try to find out what real­ly hap­pened to his hero in Dal­las? Hart says he doubts it. “You almost had to go through it like I did with the Church Com­mit­tee and get all the con­text. Oth­er­wise, you have to be very care­ful about falling into the con­spir­a­cy cat­e­go­ry. I at least had some cre­den­tials to talk about it. But if Ker­ry were to bring it up, peo­ple would just say he’s wacky, he’s obses­sive.” As Hart observes, there are oth­er ways to kill a leader these days — you can assas­si­nate his char­ac­ter.

And so 40 years after the War­ren Report, with the coun­try’s polit­i­cal elite still wracked with sus­pi­cions about the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, yet immo­bi­lized from doing any­thing about it by fears of being polit­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized, and with the media elite con­tin­u­ing to dis­dain even the most seri­ous jour­nal­is­tic inquiry, the crime seems frozen in place. It is now up to his­to­ri­ans and schol­ars and authors to keep the spir­it of inquiry alive.

For decades the only pub­lic crit­ics of the War­ren Report were a hero­ic and indomitable band of cit­i­zen-inves­ti­ga­tors — includ­ing a cru­sad­ing New York attor­ney, a small-town Texas news­pa­per­man, a retired Wash­ing­ton civ­il ser­vant, a Berke­ley lit­er­a­ture pro­fes­sor, a Los Ange­les sign sales­man, a Pitts­burgh coro­ner — all of whom refused to accept the fraud that was per­pe­trat­ed on the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Undaunt­ed by the media scorn that was heaped upon them, they devot­ed their lives to what pow­er­ful gov­ern­ment offi­cials and high-paid media man­darins should have been doing — solv­ing the most shock­ing crime against Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy in the 20th cen­tu­ry. Their names — Mark Lane, Ray Mar­cus, Harold Weis­berg, Sylvia Meagher, Vin­cent Salan­dria, Mary Fer­rell, Penn Jones Jr., Cyril Wecht, Peter Dale Scott, Jim Lesar and Gae­ton Fonzi, among oth­ers — will find their hon­ored place in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. It is these every­day heroes, and their suc­ces­sors, whose best work will some day come to replace the heavy, coun­ter­feit tomes of the War­ren Report.
(“The Moth­er of all Cov­er-ups” by David Tal­bot; Salon.com; 9/15/2004; pp. 1–3) [5]

2. Next, the broad­cast high­lights mate­r­i­al from Bill Davy’s book Let Jus­tice Be Done [8]. The pro­gram presents parts of the House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions’ inves­ti­ga­tion that sup­port New Orleans Dis­trict Attor­ney Jim Garrison’s the­sis. Note that a deputy counsel’s report on the New Orleans aspects of the inves­ti­ga­tion assert­ed that Clay Shaw might very well have been involved with the assas­si­na­tion. (Shaw was tried by Jim Gar­ri­son after Ferrie’s sud­den, sus­pi­cious death.) “HSCA Chief Coun­sel, G. Robert Blakey, once referred to the Committee’s work as ‘the last inves­ti­ga­tion.’ As such, it is only prop­er that the HSCA have the last word on Clay Shaw. On Sep­tem­ber 1, 1977, staff coun­sel Jonathan Black­mer, authored a 15-page mem­o­ran­dum addressed to Blakey, as well as staff mem­bers, Gary Corn­well, Ken Klein, and Cliff Fen­ton. Black­mer was the lead coun­sel for team 3, the HSCA team respon­si­ble for the New Orleans and Cuban angles of the inves­ti­ga­tion. After an inves­tiga­tive trip to New Orleans, Black­mer con­clud­ed in his memo: ‘We have rea­son to believe Shaw was heav­i­ly involved in the anti-Cas­tro efforts in New Orleans in the 1960’s and [was] pos­si­bly one of the high lev­el plan­ners or ‘cut out’ to the plan­ners of the assas­si­na­tion.’”
(Let Jus­tice Be Done; by William Davy; Copy­right 1999 [SC]; Jor­dan Pub­lish­ing; ISBN 0–9669716‑0–4; p. 202.) [8]

3. The House Select Com­mit­tee appears to have obtained a film of a train­ing facil­i­ty for anti-Cas­tro Cuban exiles, which con­nects some very inter­est­ing peo­ple. Guy Ban­is­ter, his inves­ti­ga­tor David Fer­rie and their rela­tion­ship to Oswald were a major ele­ment of Garrison’s inquiry. “It is pos­si­ble that a film once exist­ed of this train­ing camp. The for­mer Deputy Chief Coun­sel of the House Select Com­mit­tee on Assas­si­na­tions, Robert Tan­nen­baum, recalled that the com­mit­tee viewed the film and to Tan­nen­baum it was a shock to the sys­tem. ‘The movie was shock­ing to me because it demon­strat­ed the notion that the CIA was train­ing, in Amer­i­ca, a sep­a­rate army,’ he said. ‘It was shock­ing to me because I’m a true believ­er in the sys­tem and yet there are noto­ri­ous char­ac­ters in the sys­tem, who are fund­ed by the sys­tem, who are absolute­ly un-Amer­i­can! And who knows what they would do, even­tu­al­ly. What if we send peo­ple to Wash­ing­ton who they can’t deal with? Out comes their secret army? So, I find that to be as con­trary to the Con­sti­tu­tion as you can get.’ What is even more shock­ing is what the film reveals. Accord­ing to Tan­nen­baum, depict­ed in the film among the Cuban exiles were Guy Ban­is­ter, David Atlee Philips and Lee Har­vey Oswald. Inex­plic­a­bly, the film would lat­er dis­ap­pear from the Committee’s files.” (Ibid.; p. 30.) The Ban­is­ter “detec­tive agency” was also involved with col­lect­ing intel­li­gence on the Amer­i­can civ­il rights move­ment, and was deeply involved with white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tions. (For more on this sub­ject, see also: L#3 [9], RFA#12 [2], FTR#188 [4].)

4. The House Select committee’s find­ings rein­forced those of Jim Garrison.“They fur­ther con­clud­ed that the ‘CIA-Mafia-Cuban plots had all the ele­ments nec­es­sary for a suc­cess­ful assas­si­na­tion con­spir­a­cy.’ It is prob­a­bly the ulti­mate irony that the U.S. government’s con­clu­sions echoed those of Jim Gar­ri­son a decade ear­li­er.” (Ibid.; p. 189.)

5. The pro­gram con­cludes with a Ger­man uni­ver­si­ty professor’s account of what it was like to live dur­ing the rise of Hitler. Note the sim­i­lar­i­ty to aspects of the con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal land­scape. Con­sid­er Don­ald Trump and Hitler.

(They Thought they Were Free: The Ger­mans 1933–1945; by Mil­ton May­er; copy­right 1955 [SC]; Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press; ISBN 0–226-51190–1; pp. 166–167.) [10]

“What hap­pened here was the grad­ual habit­u­a­tion of the peo­ple, lit­tle by lit­tle, to being gov­erned by sur­prise, to receiv­ing deci­sions delib­er­at­ed in secret, to believ­ing that the sit­u­a­tion was so com­pli­cat­ed that the gov­ern­ment had to act on infor­ma­tion which the peo­ple could not under­stand because of nation­al secu­ri­ty, so dan­ger­ous that even if the peo­ple could under­stand it, it could not be released because of nation­al secu­ri­ty. And their sense of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with Hitler, their trust in him may have inci­den­tal­ly reas­sured those who would oth­er­wise have wor­ried about it. Their trust in him made it eas­i­er to reas­sure oth­ers who might have wor­ried about it. This sep­a­ra­tion of gov­ern­ment from peo­ple, this widen­ing of the gap, took place so grad­u­al­ly and so insen­si­bly, each step dis­guised (per­haps not even inten­tion­al­ly) as a tem­po­rary emer­gency mea­sure or asso­ci­at­ed with true patri­ot­ic alle­giance or with real social pur­pos­es. And all the crises and reforms (real crises and reforms too) so occu­pied the peo­ple that they did not see the slow motion under­neath, of the whole process of the Gov­ern­ment grow­ing remot­er and remot­er.”

6. “‘The dic­ta­tor­ship, and the whole process of its com­ing into being, was, above all divert­ing. It pro­vid­ed an excuse not to think for peo­ple who did not want to think any­way. I do not speak of your ‘lit­tle men,’ your bak­er and so on; I speak of my col­leagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fun­da­men­tal things and nev­er had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dread­ful, fun­da­men­tal things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with con­tin­u­ous changes and ‘crises’ and so fas­ci­nat­ed, yes, fas­ci­nat­ed, by the machi­na­tions of the ‘nation­al ene­mies,’ with­out and with­in, that we had no time to think about these things that were grow­ing, lit­tle by lit­tle, all around us. Uncon­scious­ly, I sup­pose, we were grate­ful. Who wants to think?” (Ibid.; pp. 167–168.)

7. “‘To live in this process is absolute­ly not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of polit­i­cal aware­ness, acu­ity, than most of us had ever had occa­sion to devel­op. Each step was so small, so incon­se­quen­tial, so well explained or, on occa­sion, ‘regret­ted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the begin­ning, unless one under­stood what the whole thing was in prin­ci­ple, what all these ‘lit­tle mea­sures’ that no ‘patri­ot­ic Ger­man’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it devel­op­ing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn grow­ing. One day it is over his head.’” (Ibid.; p. 168.)

8. “‘How is this to be avoid­ed, among ordi­nary men, even high­ly edu­cat­ed extra­or­di­nary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all hap­pened I have pon­dered that pair of great max­ims, Prin­cipi­is obs­ta and Finem respice—‘Resist the begin­nings’ and ‘Con­sid­er the end.’ But one must fore­see the end in order to resist, or even see, the begin­nings. One must fore­see the end clear­ly and cer­tain­ly and how is this to be done, by ordi­nary men or even by extra­or­di­nary men? Things might have changed here before they went as far as they did; they didn’t, but they might have. And every­one counts on that might.’” (Idem.)

9. “‘Your Lit­tle Men, your Nazi friends, were not against Nation­al Social­ism in prin­ci­ple. Men like me, who were, are the greater offend­ers, not because we knew bet­ter (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed bet­ter. Pas­tor Niemoller spoke for the thou­sands and thou­sands of men like me when he spoke too mod­est­ly of him­self) and said that when the Nazis attacked the com­mu­nists he was a lit­tle uneasy but, after all he was not a com­mu­nist, and so he did noth­ing and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasi­er but still he did noth­ing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Church­man, and he did some­thing, but then it was too late.’ ‘Yes’ I said” (Ibid.; pp.168–169.)

10. “You see,” my col­league went on, “one doesn’t see exact­ly where or how to move. Believe me this is true. Each act, each shock­ing occa­sion, is worse than the last, but only a lit­tle worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for that one great shock­ing occa­sion, think­ing that oth­ers, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resist­ing some­how. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trou­ble.’ Why not?–Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of stand­ing alone, that restrains you; it is also gen­uine uncer­tain­ty.” (Ibid.; p. 169.)

11. “Uncer­tain­ty is a very impor­tant fac­tor, and, instead of decreas­ing as time goes on, it grows. Out­side, in the streets, in the gen­er­al com­mu­ni­ty, ‘every­one’ is hap­py. One hears no protest, and cer­tain­ly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slo­gans against the gov­ern­ment paint­ed on walls and fences. In Ger­many, out­side the great cities per­haps, there is not even this. In the uni­ver­si­ty com­mu­ni­ty, in you own com­mu­ni­ty, you speak pri­vate­ly to your col­leagues, some of whom cer­tain­ly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re see­ing things’ or you’re an alarmist.” (Idem.)

12. “And you are an alarmist. You are say­ing that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the begin­nings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end and how do you know or even sur­mise the end? On the one hand your ene­mies, the law, the regime, the Par­ty, intim­i­date you. On the oth­er, your col­leagues pooh-pooh you as pes­simistic or even neu­rot­ic. You are left with your close friends, who are, nat­u­ral­ly peo­ple who have always thought as you have.” (Ibid.; p. 169–170.)

13. “But your friends are few­er now. Some have drift­ed off some­where or sub­merged them­selves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meet­ings or gath­er­ings. Infor­mal groups become small­er; atten­dance drops off in lit­tle orga­ni­za­tions, and the orga­ni­za­tions them­selves with­er. Now, in small gath­er­ings of your old­est friends you feel that you are talk­ing to your­selves, that you are iso­lat­ed from the real­i­ty of things. This weak­ens your con­fi­dence still fur­ther and serves as a fur­ther deter­rent to—to what? It is clear­er all the time that, if you are going to do any­thing, you must make an occa­sion to do it, and then you are obvi­ous­ly a trou­ble­mak­er. So you wait, and you wait.” “But the one great shock­ing occa­sion, when tens or hun­dreds or thou­sands will join with you nev­er comes. That’s the dif­fi­cul­ty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come imme­di­ate­ly after the first and small­est, thou­sands, yes, mil­lions would have been suf­fi­cient­ly shocked if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in’43 had come imme­di­ate­ly after the ‘Ger­man firm’ stick­ers on the win­dows of non-Jew­ish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it hap­pens. In between come all the hun­dreds of lit­tle steps, some of them imper­cep­ti­ble, each of them prepar­ing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at step C. And so on to D.” (Ibid.; p.170–171.)

14. “And one day, too late, your prin­ci­ples, if you were ever sen­si­ble of them, all rush in upon you. The bur­den of self decep­tion has grown too heavy, and some minor inci­dent, in my case my lit­tle boy, hard­ly more than a baby, say­ing ‘Jew swine’ col­laps­es it all at once, and you see that every­thing, every­thing, has changed and changed com­plete­ly under your nose. The world you live in—your nation your peo­ple –is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reas­sur­ing, the hous­es, the shops, the jobs, the meal­times, the vis­its, the con­certs, the cin­e­ma, the hol­i­days. But the spir­it, which you nev­er noticed, because you made the life­long mis­take of iden­ti­fy­ing it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the peo­ple who hate and fear do not even know it them­selves; when every­one is trans­formed, no one is trans­formed. Now you live in a sys­tem which rules with­out respon­si­bil­i­ty, even to God. The sys­tem itself could not have intend­ed this in the begin­ning, but in order to sus­tain itself it was com­pelled to go all the way.” (Ibid.; p.171.)

15. “You have gone almost all the way your­self. Life is a con­tin­u­ing process, a flow, not a suc­ces­sion of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new lev­el, car­ry­ing you with it, with­out any effort on your part. On this new lev­el you live, you have been liv­ing, more com­fort­ably every day, with new morals, new prin­ci­ples. You have accept­ed things that your father, even in Ger­many, could not have imag­ined. (Idem.)

16. “Sud­den­ly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accu­rate­ly, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do noth­ing).” (Ibid.; pp. 171–172)