Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fifty-two years of coming to terms with Oswald


Lee Harvey Oswald never had his day in court, as we all know. But, it’s a historic fact that the crimes committed on November 22, 1963, lie at his feet alone.

Fifty-two years of argument about the evidence against him hasn’t moved the ball one inch, and more than five decades of digging by an army of investigators—both private and official (an unprecedented effort by any standard) —has failed to uncover one believable scrap of undeniable evidence that anyone else committed either crime that day or that others were involved.

Let that sink in for a moment. Fifty-two long years, and still nothing to exonerate Oswald or uncover the so-called “true conspirators.” Is there any other case in America (or the world for that matter) that comes remotely close to that level of scrutiny?

Yet, over the past year, and more importantly the past few months, we’ve been treated to headlines that would make anyone climbing out of their DeLorean time machine question whether Oswald was involved at all or whether anyone claiming to be a journalist has ever been to library, read a newspaper, or god-forbid, conducted a Google search.

Cover-up in Mexico City

Author Philip Shenon told Politico that David Slawson, a retired University of Southern California law professor who, 51 years ago, was the Warren Commission’s chief investigator searching for evidence that might have pointed to a foreign conspiracy in JFK’s murder, told him that he (Slawson) is now convinced the commission was the victim of a “massive cover-up” by the CIA and other agencies to hide evidence that might have identified people in Mexico City who knew and encouraged Oswald to carry out his threat when he returned to the United States.

While Shenon’s interview with Slawson was new, the allegation is as old as the Warren Report itself. Read it. Among others, Commission attorney Burt Griffin has said for decades that the Commission was stonewalled by the CIA.

The CIA Killed Kennedy

In September, The Washington Times gushed (and multiple news agencies regurgitated headlines stating) that the CIA told President Johnson three days after the assassination that Oswald had visited the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City in late September, 1963. That information too was published in the Warren Report over fifty years ago.

In October, Philip Shenon was back with the ultimate Politico headline grabber: “Yes, the CIA Director Was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-up.” According to Shenon, a once-secret report  written in 2013 by the CIA’s top in-house historian and quietly declassified in 2014, acknowledges what others were convinced of long ago: that former CIA Director John McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission.

Shenon’s “once-secret report” turns out to be a chapter from CIA Chief Historian David Robarge’s book “John McCone as Director of Central Intelligence, 1961-1965,” published by the Center for Study of Intelligence in 2005, and reprinted in the September, 2013, issue of Studies in Intelligence (Vol.57, No.13) —available since 2014 from George Washington University.

Shenon reports that McCone was at the heart of a “benign cover-up” at the spy agency, withholding information from the Warren Commission that the CIA was in cahoots with the Mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro. Without this information, Shenon tells us, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

Oooooo. None of this “secret” information is new of course. The CIA-Mafia plots were headlines back in 1975 (that’s forty-years ago for those of you keeping track). And McCone wasn’t the only one who knew about the CIA-Mafia plots back then.

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy was made aware of previous CIA-Mafia efforts in May of 1961 and by all accounts led the 1961-63 U.S.-based anti-Castro efforts to overthrow Castro (including assassination) with the tacit approval of his brother, the president.

Instead of straight facts, the world press published outrageous tabloid-style headlines like: “Uncovered Report: CIA Admit That They Killed JFK,” “Declassified CIA report concluded director led ‘cover up’ of Kennedy assassination investigation,” and “CIA: Yes, We Covered Up the JFK Killing.”

The mastermind

It didn’t take long for the true mastermind of the “JFK plot” to be revealed in October of this year courtesy of author David Talbot and his new book, “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of the American Secret Government,” in which Talbot claimed that former CIA Director Allen Dulles orchestrated the Kennedy murder from a secret CIA facility in Virginia, where he remained for the weekend – during which time the “suspect,” Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed, and a vast machinery began to create the “lone gunman” myth that has dominated our history books to the present.

What was Kennedy’s crime for which a high profile, daylight murder was the only option? Answer: Kennedy allegedly forced Dulles to resign his CIA post in the wake of the Bay of Pigs disaster. (The reality though is that Kennedy didn’t want his resignation, and in fact initially resisted it, but after political pressure, Kennedy reluctantly accepted Dulles’ resignation, and even later defended their relationship.)

Never mind that Dulles was a longtime friend of the Kennedy family (and remained so even after his resignation), or that JFK surprised Dulles with a National Security Medal—the highest honor—after Dulles’ resignation, or that JFK wrote a heartfelt letter to Dulles the day after the presentation in which he penned, “I am sure you know you carry with you the admiration and affection of all of us who have served with you. I am glad to be counted among the seven Presidents in whose administrations you have worked, and I am glad that we shall continue to have your help and counsel…”

Even Robert Kennedy acknowledged that his brother liked Dulles, telling historian Arthur Schlesinger, “He [JFK] liked him [Dulles]—thought he was a real gentlemen, handled himself well. There were obviously so many mistakes made at the time of the Bay of Pigs that it wasn’t appropriate that he should stay on. And he always took the blame. He was a real gentleman. JFK thought very highly of him.”

Letters between the Kennedys and Dulles, available in the Dulles collection at Princeton University and at the JFK Library, give overwhelming evidence of their close friendship—a friendship that endured until the end of their lives. And has anyone bothered to query Dulles’s children about this alleged hatred between their father and the man he used to join on vacations in Palm Beach?

As I pointed out in Drums of Conspiracy, critics are always quick to pounce on JFK’s reported comment that he threatened to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds” (The exact person this was reportedly said to has never been determined. The New York Times, which reported the alleged quote in 1966, only said that Kennedy made the statement “to one of the highest officials of his administration.”) as a motive for his murder, but can they show one – just one – quote from either JFK or Allen Dulles in which they expressed any animosity toward one another? No, they can’t.

Former CIA Director William Colby later wrote, “The fact of the matter is that the CIA could not have had a better friend in a President than John F. Kennedy. He understood the Agency and used it effectively, exploiting its intellectual abilities to help him analyze a complex world, and its paramilitary and covert political talents to react to it in a low key way.” [Colby, William, and Peter Forbath, Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978, p.221]

How good a friend was JFK to the CIA? A 1996 CIA study that was never intended for public consumption, unearthed by author Gus Russo, revealed that the CIA’s relationship with Kennedy was not only a distinct improvement over former President Eisenhower’s relationship with the agency, “but would rarely be matched in future administrations.” [John L. Helgerson, Getting to Know the President, CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952–1992, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, May 22, 1996, p.26,]

So much for Kennedy’s hatred of the CIA – and hence their supposed motive for murdering him. Other documents obtained by the National Security Archive point out that, far from splintering the CIA, JFK actually doubled its budget.

Dulles held many Kennedy secrets, including the brothers’ involvement in the plots to kill Castro, a fact that no doubt led to Robert Kennedy’s recommendation to Lyndon Johnson that Dulles be assigned to the Warren Commission. It guaranteed that the Kennedy interests were looked after. Robert Kennedy later told William Attwood that a heavy lid must be kept on the investigation “for reasons of national security.”

All of this is laid bare in two excellent treatises by Gus Russo on the Kennedy’s, Castro, and events surrounding the JFK assassination: “Live By the Sword” (1998) and “Brothers in Arms” (2008) with Stephen Molton.

But, oh no. Instead of facts, we get still more globe-circling headlines like: “Did CIA Director Allen Dulles Order the Hit on JFK?”, and my personal favorite, “CIA Boss Planned JFK Assassination!

Science proves what we already knew

Amid all the rhetoric about the CIA’s guilt in the JFK plot, we get news that there is a new scientific breakthrough proving the authenticity of the so-called “backyard photographs” —the images showing Oswald brandishing the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination and what appears to be the revolver used to kill J.D. Tippit.

Never mind that Oswald’s wife, Marina testified in 1964 (over fifty years ago) that she took the photos at Oswald’s request, or that the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations Photographic Panel determined with absolute certainty that the images were authentic and taken with Oswald’s reflex camera just as Marina testified.

Apparently in today’s world of journalism there is no time for basic research.

Can it get any crazier? I’m afraid so.

Happy birthday

In New Orleans in October, conspiracy advocates gathered around a cake with candles and sang “Happy Birthday” to their hero, 76-year-old Lee Oswald – the man who admitted his attempt to murder General Edwin A. Walker and who history has deemed was responsible for the murders of John F. Kennedy and J.D. Tippit.

He was also the man who pulled a trigger two inches from the head of Officer Nick McDonald (while “not resisting arrest”), wanted to murder Richard Nixon, and beat his wife, according to numerous sources in Russia, New Orleans, and Ft. Worth.

Oh, and what about Governor John Connally, who died thirty years later from “a progressive scarring of the lungs,” likely initiated by the horrific gunshot wounds caused by guess who? The birthday boy was nothing less than a wannabe serial killer.

The Holy Grail

And then, there is the Holy Grail among conspiracy devotees: the pending October 2017 release of documents withheld from public scrutiny by the National Archives, mandated by the 1992 JFK Records Act (although the government agencies that created the documents can still appeal directly to the president to keep them hidden).

Despite the fact that sources at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) who have seen the documents say there is no smoking gun, and that the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) who also reviewed the documents in the 1990s and reiterated that there is no smoking gun, conspiracy advocates cling to the belief that proof of Oswald’s innocence lies within.

Ergo, acclaimed career U.S. archivists and esteemed Federal Judge John Tunheim must be liars, and very likely part of the conspiracy. Or they just aren’t as smart as the conspiracy theorists—an arrogance that has permeated that movement since its inception.

It should be obvious that those who blew out Lee’s birthday candles have more brainpower than the man [Tunheim] who restructured the Kosovo judiciary and re-wrote that country’s constitution. Additionally, according to a bio of Tunheim:
“His international work also includes extensive efforts in Uzbekistan in recent years and the development of a good relationship with leaders. His five trips to Uzbekistan have helped the country implement important changes in pretrial criminal procedures intended to significantly improve the human rights record in Uzbekistan. He is currently involved in a major effort to train all criminal court judges in the Republic of Georgia to implement an adversary system and jury trials for criminal cases. He lectures frequently on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has supervised elections in Kosovo and Macedonia. Judge Tunheim has worked on rule of law development projects, not only in Kosovo, Uzbekistan and Georgia, but also in Russia, Montenegro, Jordan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Lithuania. He has frequently hosted foreign judges in the United States, and has twice taught intellectual property law to judges from the Balkan countries. He also helped develop an extensive course on judicial ethics to be taught at the ABA/CEELI Institute in Prague.”
 But he’s just not smart enough to catch that document that says the CIA murdered JFK. Only the internet trolls possess that ability.

What do you think will happen when the conspirati discover that the documents were withheld because they contained information that was considered “security classified” or to protect personal privacy, tax and grand jury information, or “because information in the document reveals the identity of an unclassified confidential source,” as NARA officials who have seen the documents have told us?

More importantly, what do you think will happen when some documents are petitioned to be withheld indefinitely because they reveal living sources or ongoing intelligence methods?

Let me guess: Conspiracy fans will cry foul and continue to claim what they’ve always claimed in spite of evidence to the contrary—that the cover-up continues.

Year after year, we’re treated to a litany of unsubstantiated and in many cases irrational “reasons” why we’re supposed to ignore the fact that fifty-two years ago a disgruntled sociopath left his rifle behind on the sixth floor of his workplace along with three spent cartridges, fled the scene, armed himself with his own 38-caliber revolver, then used it to murder a police officer who stopped to question him, and finally pulled the same pistol minutes later in a darkened theater and attempted to shoot arresting officers as they closed in.

I guess I’ll never understand why it’s so hard for some people to accept reality.

The passing parade

Brushing all the nonsense aside, the real news this year—and every year—is the continuing parade of individuals who have left this world taking with them their knowledge of and passion for the assassination story:
  • C. Ray Hall (Dallas FBI agent, who died at 96 in February)
  • Clyde A. Haygood (Dallas police motorcade cyclist, died at 83 in March)
  • William F. “Bill” Alexander (Dallas County assistant DA in 1963, died at 95 in April)
  • Bill Slater (who interviewed Oswald in New Orleans in August, 1963, for WDSU, died at 87 in April)
  • Bert Shipp (legendary Dallas broadcaster, died at 85 in April)
  • Bobby Joe Dale (Dallas police motorcade cyclist, died at 82 in April)
  • James C. Wright, Jr. (Texas Congressman who rode in motorcade, died at 92 in May)
  • H.B. McLain (Dallas police motorcade cyclist, died at 87 in June)
  • Vincent T. Bugliosi (prosecutor and author, died at 80 in June)
  • Gary Mack (Sixth Floor Museum curator and longtime researcher, who died at 68 in July)
  • Richard S. Schweiker (U.S. Senator, who died at 89 in July)
  • Louis Stokes (HSCA chairman, who died at 90 in August)
  • Dr. James “Red” Duke (physician who treated Governor Connally’s wounds, died at 86 in August)
  • Kent Biffle (Dallas Morning News reporter, who died at 82 in August)
Add to that list two of my closest friends Robert Jack Christopher (J.D. Tippit’s brother-in-law and lifelong best friend), and his daughter Linda Chaney, who both died of cancer this year. They opened wide the door into J.D.’s personal life and contributed mightily to a greater understanding of the man behind the badge and the tremendous sacrifice made on November 22, 1963.

I was proud to know them, to be considered a member of their family, and grateful that they trusted me to include their story in the 2013 edition of “With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit.”

Sweet dreams, Jack and Linda—and to all who have fought hard to understand the past so that we may secure our future. [END]