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Joan Mellen

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  1. LaRRY, You are talking without sources. They're in my new book. Some are from diplomats, some from sailors who talked with Admiral William Inman Martin, and one of whom, Moe Shafer, I talked to at length, etc. My book has surprised people, perhaps, because no one has written about how the attack on the USS Liberty came to pass.
  2. LaRRY, You are talking without sources. They're in my new book.
  3. If anyone wants to email me, it's joanmellen@aol.com. The website is www.joanmellen.com
  4. Larry, I'm surprised to see you pontificating about the planes sent off by the carriers America and Saratoga without having read my book which describes the four flights, two from the USS America and two from the Saratoga. Admiral William Inman Martin sent nuclear enhanced planes to Cairo from the USS America simultaneously with the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. When they are only seven minutes from target (in Cairo) he was ordered to call them back. Three other sets of planes were sent in the direction of the USS Liberty. The first of these rescue planes were dispatched by Captain Tully of the Saratoga. Then Tully sent another set of planes simultaneously with planes sent by Captain Engen of the USS America. It's all in my book, "Blood in the Water" which was vetted by the chief intelligence officer of the Liberty and another survivor who later worked for CIA.
  5. In my 2005 book "A Farewell to Justice" I outlined that Donald Bohning was CIA's media asset "AMCARBON-3. I had many more documents than you cited. I had also at least a half dozen interviews with a CIA contract pilot named E. Carl McNabb, who visited Bohning in Miami, and who described to me his interviews with Bohning, interviews described in the CIA documents about AMCARBON-3. When I interviewed Bohning in Miami at the cafeteria of the Miami Herald, he denied knowing what AMCARBON-3 meant. He did remark that he lunched once a week with CIA's Jake Esterline. Bohning had the same publisher I did, Potomac Books Inc. He contacted them, outraged at the AMCARBON-3 material, and so I sent a huge file to Potomac with the documents. I also sent my notes of my interview with him. I have a huge file drawer on McNabb, who came to my attention because as "Jim Rose" he did some investigations for the Garrison office. That was the end of that until he attacked me on the Internet. We are in the "who knows who is working for whom" department, to say the least. This is a time waster for you, in replying to all those charges. If you have the time, I'm sure you will be able to do so. Please bear in mind that Fabian Escalante is not a reliable source. I discovered this when I interviewed this past December one of the Cubans who would know. All that will be in my new book, called, for now, "The Texas Robber Barons And The CIA."
  6. In my 2005 book "A Farewell to Justice" I outlined that Donald Bohning was CIA's media asset "AMCARBON-3. I had many more documents than you cited. I had also at least a half dozen interviews with a CIA contract pilot named E. Carl McNabb, who visited Bohning in Miami, and who described to me his interviews with Bohning, interviews described in the CIA documents about AMCARBON-3. When I interviewed Bohning in Miami at the cafeteria of the Miami Herald, he denied knowing what AMCARBON-3 meant. He did remark that he lunched once a week with CIA's Jake Esterline. Bohning had the same publisher I did, Potomac Books Inc. He contacted them, outraged at the AMCARBON-3 material, and so I sent a huge file to Potomac with the documents. I also sent my notes of my interview with him. I have a huge file drawer on McNabb, who came to my attention because as "Jim Rose" he did some investigations for the Garrison office. That was the end of that until he attacked me on the Internet. We are in the "who knows who is working for whom" department, to say the least. This is a time waster for you, in replying to all those charges. If you have the time, I'm sure you will be able to do so. Please bear in mind that Fabian Escalante is not a reliable source. I discovered this when I interviewed this past December one of the Cubans who would know. All that will be in my new book, called, for now, "The Texas Robber Barons And The CIA."
  7. Dear Nathaniel Heidenheimer, I appreciate the time you are taking on this topic. E-mail has its limitations, and there are a few misconceptions that I'll try to clear up. Let me say, first, that you use the term "motivation" several times. This is troubling, when it comes to a given individual, as in the case of Sam Halpern. In the case of CIA, I devote an entire chapter to chronicling CIA's political motivation to thwart President Kennedy at every turn, and his motivation, in turn, to reign them in. All that can be documented. Personal motivations, as in the case of Halpern, are impossible to penetrate unless the speaker helps us out, and why, indeed, should he! Let me say, again, with respect to "Taking Aim," that had I "world enough and time" I would have given a lengthy discussion of the attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and the CIA would be at the top of the list of perpetrators. I, perhaps mistakenly, didn't believe that I had to reinvent the wheel during my few minutes on the recent "Taking Aim" program. Since the 1967 Inspector General's Report, and the huge JMWAVE releases, the witness testimony, etc. I can't even begin to recite the litany of evidence of murder plots by the CIA this morning. I'm sure you're aware of it, so the point is a bit disingenuous. We know that the CIA was in the murder business, the Executive Action business. This is received wisdom. I perhaps should have nodded to that fact. For "young" listeners, I would hope that they would read "A Farewell to Justice" for my views and many other books as well, such as Gaeton Fonzi's. It's not a good idea to get your information from radio programs, which offer but a glimpse of the issues. We expected nothing more of the CIA given their record of assassinations and assassination attempts. We did expect more of the Kennedys, who presented themselves as peace-loving liberals. That THEY were also engaged in attempts to murder Fidel Castro is breathtaking, and of a different order of information than the CIA doing what had become its nature to do. I know I'm repeating myself, but if it were merely Halpern as the source, I would be suspicious too. But there is a considerable list of corroborators of Bobby's assassination schemes.The rule in journalism is that you need two. We've got three times that. Yes, Bobby was involved, from his office at Langley, in CIA organized plots as well as the plots on his own. CIA's efforts weren't mere "monitoring" of obstreperous exiles, as we know. That CIA was carrying on without telling the Kennedy administration is true, as you say. This still does not justify Bobby free-lancing with Lansdale and others. I don't know what you mean by "exiles on the outs," and I don't want to venture where I don't know: exiles on the outs with CIA were the people involved in the Kennedy assassination? Does this mean that CIA is not responsible? This takes us away from the matter at hand. Charles Ford, like the Kennedys, had his fingers in more than one pie, as the released documents show. He had that assignment from Bobby, out of Langley. He also was a CIA operative, as we know. (I didn't get the reference to Strunk and White, sorry). There is no doubt that the CIA ran its own show, and didn't inform the Kennedys of many things. That's in "A Farewell To Justice," and many other places, particularly in the biographies of John F. Kennedy. That's not new. (I am not including "The Dark Side Of Camelot" in any of this: the implication that JFK's policy-making was influenced by his infidelities is preposterous, and unproven). I might flag your use of the word "objective" along with your use of the word "motivation." This is not aesthetics. No one is "objective" here. Everyone is acting out of their own interests. This bears no relation on what is true and what isn't true. Yes, Charlie Ford testified that he didn't do anything naughty. What's useful in the Church committee records, which are filled with such denials as Ford's, is when the truth rears its head, as when Helms admits that he made up the story that Jim Garrison met Johnny Rosselli when he was in Las Vegas. Astonishing admission! But then, the Church committee had Rosselli testify and Rosselli made his own denial that he ever met Garrison. If you read the Rosselli transcript, it's clear he is dumbfounded. He never met Garrison in his life. He saw him on television. Reading that, I believed Rosselli. What did he care about Garrison anyway! But Helms sure did. I did not use Charles Ford's testimony in my "Taking Aim" interview. I used Halpern's oral history for the CIA. Are you referring to my 2005 program or to the recent one? On the 2005 program, did I discuss all this Ford/Fiscalini Castro issue? I can't remember. All along I thought you were referring to the recent "family jewel" program, and then I was not on for anything like the full hour. Bobby seems to have spent much of his time at Langley, which may account for the ease with which Hoover ran roughshod, etc. But it was, of course, Ramsey Clark that the FBI really ran roughshod over. Hoover had those files on the Kennedys, of course, and blackmail was his game, as we all know. I did not write that the CIA "decided to help assassinate Kennedy." Nor did I ever say anything about "a neutralist South Vietnam." That was never, ever in the cards. The Vietnamese were going for broke. These are indeed, inaccurate statements. What I wrote in "A Farewell to Justice" was that the clandestine service of the CIA organized the assassination of President Kennedy, and I have paid for taking that stand. What the Kennedys hoped for, a "Laotian solution" in Vietnam, would, of course, never have happened. It's what Bobby Kennedy said his brother DESIRED, not what would have come to pass, in my opinion. Vietnamese history tells that story. They had already beat back the Chinese, the Japanese and the French. There would never have been an investigation by RFK "with deeply compromised investigative agencies." That's a straw man you erect. Bobby knew better than that. Again, I am not getting into the CIA assassination plots that RFK may or may not have known about. I was confining my discussion to RFK's own private efforts. The why and the wherefore, I didn't discuss. The Kennedys were neither peace-seekers (!) nor hawks. They were pragmatic politicians. As one of the books (Kaiser's or another) quotes Kennedy intimate, Charlie Bartlett, their main concern was getting JFK re-elected in 1964. This was the continuing preoccupation and obsession. Given what was going on in the world, Bartlett was taken aback. Of course, politicians worrying about being re-elected is not a crime. This is what is to be expected of politicians. We are talking about politicians here, not saints, radicals, or even social reformers. Look at Chris Dodd here yesterday saying that the Democrats shouldn't devote themselves to impeaching George Bush, since this effort would hurt their chances for re-election. So politicians play their game. Obviously the Kennedys had no idea of the depth of opposition to them. I love Ted Sorensen's speeches, as I said in my last post, but rhetoric is not evidence. Regarding Bobby's last speeches, and his campaign, the approval he received from crowds was related to the need in this society for change, not, in any provable way, to what he would have done. I don't know what he would have done. This is not a fruitful question, it seems to me. You close with more of those comparisons I find odious. No one at the time, those who lived this history, confused Bobby Kennedy with Martin Luther King in terms of addressing the needs of the poor and the disenfranchised. Bobby can't ride those coattails, if you have an interest in history. And I have to say, this all seems like a fairy-tale to me, this glorification of Bobby Kennedy as someone people today believe would have marshaled social change in a meaningful way. I can imagine that those, now dead, who knew what Bobby was about because they were close to these events would be absolutely astonished. I really dislike being personal, but let me add that among my very closest friends for years was a Harvard classmate of John F. Kennedy's and a good friend of his (Kennedy appointed him to be Ambassador to Morocco, but he turned it down), and who later became Eugene McCarthy's campaign manager. He had a storehouse of evidence about Bobby's antics and tricks. He respected "Jack," but, like virtually every liberal of the day, despised "Bobby." Alas, he died some years ago, or I would have asked him to chat with you.
  8. Thank you for your very kind reply. I appreciate it very much. I'm devoted to history, as best as I can be. I cannot comment on the spiritual transformation of politicians, not least when they are running for high office. No matter what the facts reveal, I am discovering, the Kennedys are protected by some people from scrutiny of their actions. To this religious sentiment, I don't know what to say. Regarding the Laotian solution, I was quoting Bobby Kennedy's own comments to Daniel Ellsberg. The Laotian solution created great suffering for many. Fine talk about the children of Appalachia didn't impress me in 1968 and it doesn't now, knowing what everyone knew about Bobby Kennedy at the time. For our situation today, I do not find anything in Bobby Kennedy's history that doesn't make things worse for us. I take much more seriously than you do the condoning of obstruction of justice from an Attorney General. How can we criticize the current occupant of that office and at the same time praise someone who violated the law repeatedly? The past does comment on the present, and lives among us. Please don't write that I am "mean" to Bobby Kennedy. This is really a last resort of, I don't know what. Bobby Kennedy is as accountable to history and to the public as much as any other politician. I often quote that line by Brecht, and you compel me to echo it again: Pity the land that needs a hero. I was as horrified by the assassinations as everyone else, and there were four in rapid succession. Today it seems more productive to focus on policy, and actions, and deeds, rather than on rhetoric, hopes, or religious fervor. Reading your email, I find the discussion seems to face a dead end. I am reminded of a recent appearance by Norman Mailer on Book tv. Mailer was asked why he believes people are still interested in John F. Kennedy. "He looked like a ski instructor," Mailer said, throwing up his hands. This is glib, this may seem insensitive, but worshipping at the shrine of politicians is probably not a good idea except in a religious context.
  9. I believe Bobby Kennedy feared that his own ambition to become President would be thwarted if he demanded an investigation of his brother's death. Jim Garrison noted the irony, and with tongue in cheek, said, as I mention in "A Farewell To Justice," if it were my brother, I would want to know what happened to him. No one in the country was in a better position than Bobby to demand that justice be afforded his brother, yet he stood back and endorsed the fraud that was the Warren Commission. The opportunity to expose the truth was lost. I doubt whether Bobby would have conducted an open investigation of his brother's death even if he became President. Openness was not his approach, as witness all those illegal surveillances he sponsored. I did not know that Bobby thought he could persuade Ted Sorensen to head the CIA. Certainly Sorensen has the temperament for it, and as an international lawyer has been involved in policy making enterprises. Yet Sorensen enjoyed writing best, and once gave a seminar on how to write clearly and well to the lawyers at Paul,Weiss because lawyers, notoriously write so poorly. He put up the words "Fresh Fish Sold Here," then chipped away at the redundancies until the storekeeper was left with a sign that read, simply, "Fish." Those responsible for the death of President Kennedy did not want to take the chance of his brother becoming President. Bobby's modus operandi was always to settle scores: look at how he got back at Kenneth Keating, who was the recipient of CIA intelligence about Soviet missiles in Cuba before CIA reported its findings to the President himself! As President, Bobby could have taken revenge ("don't get mad, get even") at those who killed his brother, secretly and viciously. The rule of law was no priority for this particular Attorney General. Bobby might also have transferred the ground war in Vietnam to a Laos-like solution, with death squads roaming the countryside to get rid of radicals. We know this because Bobby revealed it to Daniel Ellsberg in an interview reported in Ellsberg's memoir. Bobby states that a Laos-like solution is what he believed his brother would have done, re: Vietnam, had he lived. Yet the ground war was indeed what the military-industrial complex wanted and needed. So in a way Bobby was assassinated for the same reason his brother was. That Bobby Kennedy would suddenly have sponsored an open investigation of his brother's death is inconceivable to me. That, according to reports, he planned to put Walter Sheridan at the helm of such an investigation, certainly demonstrates that any such effort would have been secret, illegal, and guilty of all manner of obstruction of justice. The historical record of how Sheridan approached his assignments from Bobby speaks for itself.
  10. So we were comrades! I also am grateful for the nod to Halpern, who of course was telling the truth in that oral history: he was absolutely dumbfounded at the contradiction between RFK after the Mafia and enlisting them. On why JFK didn't support a ground war in Vietnam, I believe we have to look to the politics and economics of the Eastern establishment, of which JFK was a part. They were as nervous about the deficit and its impact on the economy as Zbigniew Brzezinski is today, why HE opposes the Iraq war, an unlikely comrade-in- arms for anti-war people indeed. But Brzezinski's strong statements against the Iraq war teach us something about JFK and the ground war in Vietnam.
  11. Thank you very much for reading “A Farewell To Justice,” for listening to “Taking Aim,” and for sending along your questions. I appreciate it very much. I hope I can reply to these questions to your satisfaction. I remain the same person who wrote “A Farewell to Justice,” the person who placed responsibility for the assassination of President Kennedy at the door of the clandestine service and Richard Helms, along with close associates like Lawrence Houston, David Atlee Phillips and others. I don’t know who else has drawn that conclusion, but I did, and I stand by it. So I must not have made myself clear if you concluded that I was defending Helms for anything. What worse can be said of a person than that he was behind the planning of the murder of the head of state? I don’t remember the text of the “family jewel” to which you refer regarding the conversation between Kissinger and Nixon. Certainly I agree that Helms, chastised for perjury in a court of law, could never be believed unless there was massive corroborating evidence from other sources. Ramsey Clark was not directly involved in the CIA’s penetration of Jim Garrison’s office. Ramsey Clark, in fact, was left out of the loop, and briefed by the FBI so that he would state publicly what the Bureau wanted him to say. This is what he did. On the day that Clark enraged Hoover by saying that Clay Shaw had been “cleared,” Clark had just been briefed (that very morning) by Cartha DeLoach. Clark was repeating verbatim what DeLoach told him. Clark certainly functioned as a tool of the FBI and the cover-up in his calling of that group of doctors to rubber stamp the Warren Report (at the time of the Garrison investigation). Of course I don’t believe the official autopsy findings. I didn’t rely on my non-existent medical knowledge, however. I interviewed Dr. McClelland, and that interview is discussed in “A Farewell To Justice.” When I interviewed Clark at his office, he repeated the line he had been given by the FBI, that Jim Garrison had persecuted and prosecuted Clay Shaw because Shaw was gay.Clark mumbled this line, as if he no longer believed it, but it was what he still allowed himself to believe. This was not noble, no. There are no saints, and no heroes in this story, although some might even argue that Jim Garrison, in his commitment to his investigation, deserves high praise, no matter that he made inevitable mistakes. I was very amused by the person on the Forum who said, so you’re saying Jim Garrison was John F. Kennedy’s real brother? Garrison came to believe that it was his desire to be President that prevented Bobby from an open inquiry into his brother’s death. Garrison also said often that if only Bobby had gone public with what he knew about his brother’s death, his own life might have been spared. But that’s another subject. In general, of course, telling what you know is the best way to ensure yourself some measure of safety. Needless to say, I challenged the nonsense Clark repeated about Garrison going after Shaw out of some anti-homosexual sentiment. Clark has become a credible citizen, and a principled person, whether or not we might always agree with the causes he chooses. I believe that we are different people at different stages of our lives. The Ramsey Clark of today is not the man manipulated by Hoover and DeLoach. Clark was clearly uncomfortable with remembering those times, I am certain of that. He did tell me that he was appalled by Walter Yeagley and his unilateral, devious and suspicious approach to these issues: that might be a lead worth following up on. Shakespeare said that “comparisons are odious.” I don’t believe anything constructive can be gained by arguing about who is worse than whom. Sheridan was a criminal and a thug. Clark was a tool of the FBI, the tail, indeed, wagging the dog. Recall that he was still an acting Attorney General on that day that he said Shaw had been cleared. Helms was the planner of the deed. Each character should be discussed separately. That the CIA and FBI penetrated the Garrison investigation does not justify and excuse Walter Sheridan’s outrageous and illegal behavior first in Tennessee and then in New Orleans. Question number three lumps together Clark, the FBI and the CIA as if these were identical. I am uncomfortable with that approach. You also seem to conflate the FBI and the Justice Department. You need to add the fact that Hoover ran roughshod over the Justice Department. Regis Kennedy did testify before the Orleans Parish grand jury. He did not receive any immunity and was censored by his superiors for his honesty. The FBI did help Bernardo de Torres when he was called to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The CIA followed suit, of course. I am not sure to whom you refer by talking about “presidential immunity from testimony for key personnel in New Orleans.” Do you mean before the Warren Commission? The Orleans Parish grand jury? My book describes every example I knew of the penetration of Garrison’s office from William Martin to Pershing Gervais to Bill Boxley (alas, I had to cut a long chapter on Boxley because of space considerations). I left nothing out. On the radio, the subject was Bobby Kennedy and his role in, to use Garrison’s term, “torpedoing” the New Orleans investigation. I had no time to go over the entire penetration of Garrison’s office, but that’s all in the book. I worked very hard to get people to remember that list of CIA operatives sent to destroy Garrison, since the CIA did not permit the HSCA investigators to photocopy the document they read. It’s all in my book. You are quite correct that Garrison was doomed to fail given the sabotage of his office by all these people. It did not help, however, to have Bobby Kennedy sending Sheridan to New Orleans to “discredit,” “destroy,” and scuttle Garrison’s investigation, and Sheridan’s illegalities are not justified because other agencies were down there doing their worst. All these people are culpable. Garrison tried hard to conduct a real investigation despite all the obstacles. I don’t understand what you mean by a “real” investigation. Certainly the CIA, responsible for the crime, would not permit any honest government investigation. Please look again at the pages in “A Farewell to Justice” that describe how Mr. Blakey consulted with the CIA at every turn; the CIA commented on the questions asked during the depositions and edited every word of the report. I believe I cited many of these documents in “A Farewell To Justice.” I don’t see the logic of why the fox can’t investigate his own ravages of the henhouse as an excuse for Bobby Kennedy’s shameful attack on Garrison. In any case, what we know is what Bobby did. We don’t know what he would have done, could have done, had only done, etc. Based on my research, I don’t believe Bobby was waiting for the “right moment” to conduct a “real investigation,” as you seem to imply, if I read your comment accurately. The notion that he would have placed Walter Sheridan at the head of that investigation speaks for itself. I don’t believe that Bobby Kennedy is exonerated for his obsession with wiretapping (illegal) or his plots against Castro because of the perfidy of Helms, Angleton and others. I admit to holding Bobby Kennedy to a different standard because he professed to be different, as did the President. The Kennedys represented themselves as holding to liberal ideals. To add a personal note, I am a very old person, and so I remember John F. Kennedy’s campaign promises, as well as what happened after he was elected. In those times so long ago, a very big issue was desegregation of federal housing. It was a major campaign promise of the Kennedy campaign that as soon as he was elected, if he was, he would at once desegregate federally sponsored housing. Then it didn’t happen. At that moment, I stopped believing in the Kennedys. It was that important an issue. The assassination of Diem was another important moment. Years later, I met Ted Sorensen at a dinner party and told him about my disillusionment with respect to the desegration of federal housing, which would have been so easy. After dinner, Sorensen followed me into the living room where coffee was served and said: “He was going to.” Perhaps, and I believed him. When I was young and idealistic myself, “going to” was not an option. There are certain buzz words that point to the vilification of Jim Garrison. One is the false accusation, made I believe by Peter Dale Scott, that Jim Garrison gave Carlos Marcello a pass, and ignored his crimes. Anyone who resurrects that tired and inaccurate statement is vilifying Garrison, discrediting him once again and in a shameful manner. So calling Jim Garrison a “flawed hero” in the wake of repeating that lie about Marcello is truly damning with faint praise. I see no nuance here. To equate Ramsey Clark with Richard Helms is simply ahistorical and inaccurate. Clark certainly was no “hero” in the matter of the Garrison investigation, but he didn’t murder anyone either. I don’t find it appropriate to talk about Ramsey Clark and Helms in the same breath. Now we come to the matter of Halpern. I assume that you’ve read his oral history for the CIA, which cites many witnesses to Bobby Kennedy’s enlistment of CIA help to find Mafia helpers to assassinate Castro. Reading Halpern’s words, you can perceive his obvious perplexity at this contradiction: How could Bobby Kennedy, whose goal was to put away Mafia thugs attempt also enlist Mafia hitmen to plot against Castro’s life. The tone of that interview speaks volumes, and, yes, I believed Halpern’s evidence. Halpern, in addition to other details, points to a meeting of the Special Group Augmented where Edward Lansdale pretty much admitted to what he and RFK were up to regarding the murder of certain “leaders.” This does not make Halpern a saint. This does not mean that he was not Helm’s right hand man. I am uncomfortable, on the other hand, with the claim that Halpern was lying simply because his evidence undermines the project of reinventing Bobby Kennedy. The circumstances of that interview, an older Halpern looking back, also should be taken into account. I also believed Halpern because I found so much corroborating evidence. Ramsey Clark spoke to me about how astonished he was to find those plans in his desk sent by Lansdale to Bobby Kennedy with respect to assassination plots against Fidel Castro. F. Lee Bailey spoke to me with amazement too about that meeting at the Oval Office, attended by both Kennedy brothers, where an attempt on Castro’s life was discussed and organized. Angelo Murgado, who to this day admires Bobby Kennedy and speaks of him only with affection, spoke of Bobby Kennedy’s desire to eliminate Castro. There is more. I’m unclear about whose ego is involved. I am not an expert on the taping of Martin Luther King. I do know that Bobby Kennedy endorsed illegal surveillances. Please examine the Courtney Evans documents at the LBJ library. The Otepka case shows RFK’s endorsement of wiretapping writ large. The Hoffa case reveals the same thing. That Hoover was involved in illegal surveillance, which of course is well-known, does not justify Bobby Kennedy’s doing it. I, again, cannot understand that logic. I don’t want to play the game of who was “worse.” Both contributed to the Democratic Party today not being able to reject the present administrations NSA illegal surveillance program. All of them are to blame. My problem is with the suggestion that the Bobby Kennedy was someone to be admired, that he set an example that is valuable as we attempt to prevent the further assault on the Constitution by the present government. Please allow me to add that to preserve this democracy we have to be very careful about following the logic that the end justifies the means. I believe in the U.S. Constitution, and so would rather have a guilty Hoffa free than our right to due process be undermined. I do not justify anything Hoover did. Again, that radio program was about Bobby Kennedy, whose actions are not justified by Hoover’s crimes. To add another small personal note: I was an adult was Robert Kennedy ran for President, and a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War. I was not one of those goody two-shoes, as we called them, who put their faith in Eugene McCarthy as likely to get us out of Vietnam. Allow me to assure you that of those who were committed and fighting to end that war, no one I knew or every heard of, supported Bobby Kennedy. Rather, we were appalled that Bobby, noticing that McCarthy had done well in New Hampshire, suddenly entered the race for the Presidency. Liberal people of that day found Bobby Kennedy’s name synonymous with the adjective “ruthless.” There was cause. Regarding what is going on today: poor President Kennedy would have loved to be able to do to the CIA what the George W. Bush has done, subject them to his control. This leads us to another important issue, and one we should all ponder: On whose behalf did the CIA undertake the murder of President Kennedy? Did they do it for themselves, or because they represented other interests? Why did Bush establish a Director of National Intelligence? Might he not have had in mind taming the CIA, which, I believe we would agree, had run a shadow government making policy for so long? And for the “Taking Aim” audience, I didn’t think it was necessary to discuss the CIA’s history of assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, although, of course, you’re certainly correct that they did make those attempts. I hope this responds to your questions.
  12. In the interest of "full disclosure," Mr. Talbot had a "duty" to report to readers that I described Don Bohning's designation as AMCARBON-3; his relationship with the CIA; and his reporting to the CIA on the Garrison investigation in "A Farewell to Justice," published in 2005. Credible scholars (as distinct from plagiarists) acknowledge information that has already been reported by others. I know for a fact that a mutual acquaintance pointed out to Mr. Talbot that I discussed Bohning and the CIA in my book. It is amusing to me to make common cause with Don Bohning, whose work leaves something to be desired. But Mr. Talbot's complaints seem to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
  13. In the interest of "full disclosure," Mr. Talbot had a "duty" to report to readers that I described Don Bohning's designation as AMCARBON-3; his relationship with the CIA; and his reporting to the CIA on the Garrison investigation in "A Farewell to Justice," published in 2005. Credible scholars (as distinct from plagiarists) acknowledge information that has already been reported by others. I know for a fact that a mutual acquaintance pointed out to Mr. Talbot that I discussed Bohning and the CIA in my book. It is amusing to me to make common cause with Don Bohning, whose work leaves something to be desired. But Mr. Talbot's complaints seem to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
  14. What is the point of looking back at Bobby Kennedy, and searching for the truth of what he stood for and how he behaved? There is, of course, the obvious value in discovering the truth of history no matter where it leads. But in my mind is also the danger that just as there is a tendency to look at the Kennedys with rose-colored glasses firmly in place, and to look backward with nostalgia to what never was, so today there may be the impulse to look to the Democratic Party for a meaningful alternative to Bush and Cheney. In accepting the facts about the Kennedys, we sharpen our analytic approach to similar false alternatives in the present.
  15. Letter to Time Magazine (unpublished): I applaud TIME magazine's courage in re-examining the issue of the murder of President John F. Kennedy (July 2). It has long been overdue that the mainstream media reconsider this unresolved, horrendous crime. As the author of "A Farewell to Justice" (2005), a work that examines whether there was a government conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy, however, I was taken aback by the appearance of the disingenuous, fictional essay by David Talbot, which is guilty of its own concealment and obscuring of well-established evidence. Far from the facts demonstrating that Bobby Kennedy planned to re-open the issue of his brother's death, my research revealed to me that Robert F. Kennedy declared in public appearances from 1964 to the year of his death, 1968, that he believed that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone and was guilty. Bobby did everything in his power to prevent any investigation of his brother's death, and that included making X-rays and autopsy photographs available to official investigators. Research has revealed his purpose: Bobby remained silent because he had something dark to hide. This underlies why no member of the Kennedy family, and no associates of the President, not the late Arthur Schlesinger, not Theodore Sorensen, not Richard Goodwin, or many others, including the next generation of Kennedys, would even discuss the issue for forty years and more. A White House Memorandum declassified as one of the CIA's "Family Jewels," and available at George Washington University's National Security Archive, discloses a conversation in which President Gerald Ford was told by his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, how Richard Helms had confirmed for him that "Robert Kennedy managed personally the operation on the assassination of Castro." Helms revealed only half of the truth. The CIA was engaged in separate plots against Castro, working on its own. Bobby, who had enlisted free-wheeling General Edward Lansdale, fresh from Vietnam, sought with his own recruits to organize a different set of plots designed to do away with Castro. A roaming Attorney General, Bobby had an office at CIA headquarters at Langley, running his Cuban operations, even as CIA officers like Helms, as Helms later revealed, somewhat gleefully, concealed from him their own activities. In his 1998 oral history for the CIA, available at the National Archives, CIA officer Sam Halpern confirmed that Bobby Kennedy had developed his own plans for the murder of Castro. Halpern recounts his discovery that Bobby sent a CIA operative named Charlie Ford, alias Rocky Fiscalini, to Canada to recruit Mafia assassins for the purpose. Halpern was astonished, given Bobby's much-publicized efforts to battle the Mafia, but he checked out his information, and it was so. Ramsey Clark confirmed for me that he personally had seen memos Lansdale prepared at Bobby's suggestion elucidating methods by which Castro could be dispatched. Like Halpern, with whom he had little in common politically, Clark was flabergasted. (Lansdale was not discreet about what he was up to either: at a meeting of President Kennedy's "Special Group - Augmented" in August 1962 he talked about the "elimination of leaders"). I discuss in "A Farewell to Justice" another example of Kennedy plots to murder Castro. This one was recounted to me by F. Lee Bailey, who has first hand knowledge of both Kennedy brothers being present in the Oval Office as Office of Naval Intelligence operative Guy Johnson introduced to them a Navy commander the Kennedys then enlisted to recruit a sniper to enter Cuba for the purpose of assassinating Fidel Castro. As for Walter Sheridan, the man Bobby would supposedly ask to investigate his brother's death, as soon - in breathtaking hubris - as Bobby became president, Sheridan was the mastermind of Bobby's "Get Hoffa" squad. He wire tapped conversations between Hoffa and his lawyer. He defied the law by paying such witnesses as Edward Grady Partin, who admitted on the stand that he was being paid, angrily pointing out that they still owed him money! Sheridan blackmailed and bribed others and so obstructed justice that when the Hoffa conviction came for review before the U.S. Supreme Court, an appalled Chief Justice Earl Warren voted to throw it out. Better that a guilty man go free, if he is guilty, than that the principle of due process be eviscerated. Maybe the argument that the ends justify the means worked in Joseph Stalin's Russia, but it does not in a democratic society. The obsession with illegal wire tapping by Kennedy and Sheridan was legendary. As we oppose George W. Bush's insistence upon National Security Agency illegal domestic surveillance of citizens, it is well to come unburdened by sacred cows from the past. An earlier example of how Bobby and the man Mr. Talbot calls, affectionately, "Walt," played fast and loose with the system of justice had Walter Sheridan assist Bobby in arranging that Otto Otepka, a high level officer in the State Department Office of Security, be removed from his post. The reason, I was able to establish, was that Mr. Otepka was about to investigate a list of defectors to the Soviet Union that included - Lee Harvey Oswald, "tourist." Bobby Kennedy concealed a history of protecting Oswald and seeing that he was not investigated, not in Dallas in April 1963 when shots were fired at General Walker, and not later. In 1967, Bobby Kennedy, now a U.S. Senator, dispatched Sheridan to New Orleans, for the purpose of ensuring that Bobby's plots to assassinate Fidel Castro would never emerge during the Garrison investigation. Bobby's "trusted aide," (Sheridan's actual title was "confidential assistant"), admitted openly that he was sent to New Orleans to "discredit" and "destroy" Garrison. He acknowledged to people in New Orleans whom he enlisted to help him that it was Bobby who sent him. Sheridan went on to attempt to bribe and blackmail Garrison witnesses. Garrison indicted him, only for Sheridan to flee the jurisdiction. Higher authority protected him. I established that Bobby Kennedy knew about Oswald, that Oswald's anti-Castro activities were known to Bobby months before the assassination of his brother, and that Oswald was even among those anti-Castro activists Bobby's people were attempting to enlist in assassination schemes against Castro. It is this fact that Bobby was trying desperately to conceal; this was why he did not, as Attorney General or as a United States Senator, act to investigate publicly the death of his brother. He had too much to hide, and his presidential ambitions were at stake. Do you think "any of our people were involved?" Bobby demanded of his press secretary, Frank Mankiewicz immediately after the assassination of his brother. Obviously he meant Oswald. Mankiewicz told me he had thought then: "Did you think there might be?" Mr. Talbot would do well to withdraw the applications for sainthood he files for both Robert Kennedy and Walter Sheridan and reconsider his highly specious thesis. As a biographer, I am well aware of the temptation to hagiography, glorifying one's subject. A re-examination of those terrible times, however, is too important to the Republic at this perilous moment. Another cover-up is not what we need.
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