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An Interview with William Turner


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 01 June 2006 - 07:12 AM

William Turner is a former FBI agent who later became a journalist and historian. His books include Hoover's FBI: The Men and the Myth (1970), Power on the Right (1973), The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (1978), The Fish Is Red: The Story of the Secret War Against Castro (1981), Deadly Secrets (1992) and Rearview Mirror: Looking Back at the FBI, the CIA and Other Tails (2001).

Could you explain the reasons why you decided to become an investigative journalist and historian?

#2 William Turner

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Posted 01 June 2006 - 07:21 AM

Could you explain the reasons why you decided to become an investigative journalist and historian?


The decision to become an investigative journalist was the result of my experiences as an FBI agent from 1951 to 1961. I had worked criminal and counerespionage cases, and was appalled at J. Edgar Hoover's refusal to face up to organized crime and by running an arbitrary disciplinary machine forced out the brightest agents best equipped to cope with security threats. I wrote letters to Congress seeking a Congressional investigation of Hoover's conduct and priorities, thus becoming the Bureau's first whistle-blower. After decamping, I continued on the mission by writing a book, "Hoover's FBI," which opened up the subject to media discussion and eventuated in some change. I have written ten books now, some of which have been brought out in Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese, Polish and United Kingdom editions. In 1964 I was outraged when J. Edgar Hoover lashed out at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as "the most notorious liar in the world" and sat down to write an article "After J. Edgar Who?" The piece was published by Ramparts magazine, launching my career writing for periodicals I must say I was greatly aided by my experience in investigating, writing complex reports and developing informants and sources.

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 06:17 AM

(1) Is there any real difference between the role of an investigative journalist and a historian?

(2) How do you decide about what to write about?

(3) Do you ever consider the possibility that your research will get you into trouble with those who have power and influence?

(4) You tend to write about controversial subjects. Do you think this has harmed your career in any way? Have you ever come under pressure to leave these subjects alone?

#4 William Turner

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 06:23 AM

(1) Is there any real difference between the role of an investigative journalist and a historian?


Commonly an investigative journalist conducts a contemporary probe, going out into the field to get the story. On the other hand, a historian must rely on records and oral histories, usually doing little field work.

(2) How do you decide about what to write about?


I decide on the basis of whether the story is something important that needs exposure or correction.

(3) Do you ever consider the possibility that your research will get you into trouble with those who have power and influence?


It is not a consideration.

(4) You tend to write about controversial subjects. Do you think this has harmed your career in any way? Have you ever come under pressure to leave these subjects alone?


Writing on controversial topics surely has harmed my career. It limits the potential print-media market. My FBI file, obtained in 1978 under FOIA, consists of 17 volumes of 200 pages each. It reveals that the Bureau waged a relentless back-door campaign to dissuade publishers from books and articles, cut me off from electronic media interviews, blacklist me in the industry, and plant rebuttal articles with media collaborators.

#5 William Plumlee

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 05:26 PM


Could you explain the reasons why you decided to become an investigative journalist and historian?


The decision to become an investigative journalist was the result of my experiences as an FBI agent from 1951 to 1961. I had worked criminal and counerespionage cases, and was appalled at J. Edgar Hoover's refusal to face up to organized crime and by running an arbitrary disciplinary machine forced out the brightest agents best equipped to cope with security threats. I wrote letters to Congress seeking a Congressional investigation of Hoover's conduct and priorities, thus becoming the Bureau's first whistle-blower. After decamping, I continued on the mission by writing a book, "Hoover's FBI," which opened up the subject to media discussion and eventuated in some change. I have written ten books now, some of which have been brought out in Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese, Polish and United Kingdom editions. In 1964 I was outraged when J. Edgar Hoover lashed out at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as "the most notorious liar in the world" and sat down to write an article "After J. Edgar Who?" The piece was published by Ramparts magazine, launching my career writing for periodicals I must say I was greatly aided by my experience in investigating, writing complex reports and developing informants and sources.



Reply From William Plumlee (Tosh)

Bill: I never told you or Warren Hinckle what all happened to me after the San Francisco interview of 1976 on the Pawley and Bayo affair. IRS came knocking in Phoenix just before Rosellie was murdered was one of many negative events. In 1981 after Barnard Fenesterwald Jr . obtained my 480 page FBI files through FOIA while I was working on two books "The Black Knights of Cuba" and "Deep Cover-Shallow Graves", my home in Grand Colorado was burned down; supporting research and documentation were burned and removed before the fire. (some of the burned pages were released by FOIA FBI request of 1987. I believe you and Hinckle were working on Deadly Secrets at the time or had finished by then . Shortly after that the publisher withdrew his commitment on Deep Cover-Shallow Graves. Some years later the rough draft of both these books were released by abother FOIA scan request to the FBI/DoJ who had obtained copies through CIA.

All that is not important these days. However, there is enough documented evidence to prove how "Mockingbird' worked in my case; and too, which also proves how my military and FBI files were doctored and to some degree discredited and scattered to law enforcement and the media. As I have said it is not important these days. The damage has been done.

I just wanted you to know in my eyes you are one of the real heros of that time even though you were FBI. As with the CIA there was some damn good people within those ranks of the CIA, MI, and FBI. Its a shame those individuals were forced to play "politics" with truth.

This post has been edited by William Plumlee: Today, 06:40 AM


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#6 Pat Speer

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 11:19 AM

QUOTE(William Turner @ Jun 2 2006, 06:25 AM) *

"Writing on controversial topics surely has harmed my career. It limits the potential print-media market. My FBI file, obtained in 1978 under FOIA, consists of 17 volumes of 200 pages each. It reveals that the Bureau waged a relentless back-door campaign to dissuade publishers from books and articles, cut me off from electronic media interviews, blacklist me in the industry, and plant rebuttal articles with media collaborators."



And that is to your eternal credit, William. As you know, you were one of the first, if not THE first, ex-agent to take on St. John of Hoover, and throw darts at his over-inflated and dangerously delusional self-image. I'm sure you caused more concern among the Hoovers, De Loaches and Felts than a whole army of outside agitators. Outside agitators could easily be marginalized, called un-American. All they could do with you was call you disgruntled. Thus, the need to silence you and find the dirt necessary to force you into submission. You took them on and came out victorious. Congratulations, and thank you!

Edited by Pat Speer, 03 June 2006 - 11:20 AM.


#7 John Simkin

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 10:09 AM

(1) The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that the “committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy”. However, very few historians have been willing to explore this area of American history. Lawrence E. Walsh’s Iran-Contra Report suggests that senior politicians were involved in and covered-up serious crimes. Yet very few historians have written about this case in any detail? Why do you think that historians and journalists appear to be so unwilling to investigate political conspiracies?

(2) What is your basic approach to writing about what I would call “secret history”? How do you decide what sources to believe? How do you manage to get hold of documents that prove that illegal behaviour has taken place?

#8 William Turner

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 10:18 AM

(1) The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that the “committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy”. However, very few historians have been willing to explore this area of American history. Lawrence E. Walsh’s Iran-Contra Report suggests that senior politicians were involved in and covered-up serious crimes. Yet very few historians have written about this case in any detail? Why do you think that historians and journalists appear to be so unwilling to investigate political conspiracies?


(1) I think a lot of the reluctance of mainstream historians and journalists to take on conspiracies is a fear of being cut off of information by agencies and the various branches while their colleagues are fed the story. Also, the concern of being ridiculed as a "conspiracy theorist," which originated in the JFK case, has had its effect.


(2) What is your basic approach to writing about what I would call “secret history”? How do you decide what sources to believe? How do you manage to get hold of documents that prove that illegal behaviour has taken place?


(2) There is always someone who is willing to talk, whether out of vanity or a change of heart. In 1972 I interviewed Ambassador William Pawley in Miami. When I called to seek an interview he issued a flat no since he had been involved up to his ears in the CIA secret war against Castro. I appealed to his vanity by telling him how important he was in the contemporary history of the Caribbean. He said okay, come over and I'll at least shake hands with you. A non-interview went on for close to two hours, and I came away with the information I wanted. I always try to double-source key information, and also rely on what I deem the person's credibility to be. I look for inconsistencies that indicate the person is not telling the truth.



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