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Ron Rosenbaum in Slate Magazine on Conspiracy Theories


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Very long article about David Talbot's book by Ron Rosenbaum in Slate Magazine.

http://www.slate.com/id/2167466/

It includes the following:

Why now? Why a new controversy over something that happened 45 years ago? What got Chris Matthews so het up (not that it takes much) that he's done two recent segments on the assassination? You've got to be kidding, right? After all this time?

But suddenly certain developments have converged to thrust the magic bullet and its attendant controversy back into our consciousness, where, in fact, it never lay far beneath the surface. Indeed, you could make the case that JFK conspiracy-theory culture has, in its own way, been responsible for changing the landscape of the American mind: Look at the "9/11 truth" movement, which in various versions holds that the government was behind the tragedy and helped demolish the buildings. Would such elaborate fantasies have thrived if not for the thicket of conspiracy-theory-receptive consciousness ready to feed the fire? Indeed, almost every poll shows that solid majorities of Americans believe JFK was killed by a conspiracy. And Holocaust denial: Does it not prey upon a credulous culture of paranoid suspicion in which conspiracy theories thrive? This culture, which has grown out of JFK conspiracy theories, often slips from a recognition that the truth is sometimes elusive to a belief that everything said to be true is false or the product of a secret cabal, designed to conceal sinister ends.

But must we condemn all conspiracy-theory thinking—the very notion of conspiracy—out of hand because of its abuses? One can rightly condemn a predetermined approach to investigating the truth—one that begins with the assumption of a conclusion rather than reaching a conclusion inductively through the accumulation of solid evidence. But the flaws in conspiracy-theory consciousness—the belief that every history-changing event has a sinister conspiracy, rather than a deranged individual, behind it—does not mean that some history-changing events aren't the result of conspiracies. That conspiracies don't exist at all.

Watergate was one. Iran-Contra was another. "Fixing" prewar intel on Iraqi WMD may have been a third. Further back in history: The assassination of Julius Caesar and the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket ("Will someone not rid me of this [troublesome] prelate") resulted from conspiracies. And people can also conspire toward good ends: The deception operation behind the D-Day landings was a successful, perhaps war-winning conspiracy.

So, conspiracies exist, but Woodward and Bernstein didn't solve the Watergate break-in by assuming there was a conspiracy without discovering evidentiary connections. If they had, they may never have proven there was a conspiracy. They painstakingly worked their way up the ladder of evidence and testimony from the lower rungs to the higher until the shape of the conspiracy became apparent.

Can the concept of conspiracy be rescued from the often shoddy work of conspiracy theorists?

I think it can if we're talking about maintaining a skepticism about official truth—government pronouncements, corporate releases. If that skepticism then leads to scrupulous investigation rather than unfounded theorizing. Doubt is good and stops being good only when it becomes unearned certainty about unproven alternate conclusions that are not subjected to the same skeptical inquiry as the official story.

The three developments that have revived debate over the key contemporary crux of conspiracy theory, JFK's murder, are the publication of Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi's massive, 1,500-page attempt to prove all JFK conspiracies are wrong (Bugliosi is the L.A. prosecutor who convicted Charles Manson), and (almost simultaneously) the appearance of Salon founder David Talbot's Brothers, which reflects Talbot's attempt—less massive but no less impassioned—to persuade us that at least one conspiracy did kill JFK (although he can't say for sure which one).

These two books arrived at almost the same time as the third development: the release of a study by Texas A&M scientists who claimed to prove that previous studies of bullet fragments found in JFK's limo were flawed. Not that they were wrong necessarily, not that there was a conspiracy necessarily, but that the methodology of studies previously conducted that supposedly proved all the bullet fragments found in the limo came from Lee Harvey Oswald's gun were not adequate—needed to be done again, with no guarantee even then that they will offer definitive proof of anything....

........

The investigative climate of suspicion that was engendered by the JFK conspiracy theories played its part in leading to the revelation of some shocking facts about the subterranean world of U.S. intelligence operations in the '60s. Lee Harvey Oswald may not have conspired with the mafia or anti-Castro Cubans to assassinate JFK, but, as David Talbot's book reminds us, the Kennedys, the mafia, and anti-Castro Cubans collaborated in real assassination plots against Castro. At the time of the revelations, it seemed incredible: the Kennedys in bed with the Mob to foment assassination. But Bobby Kennedy was haunted by the possibility that Kennedy involvement in Castro-assassination plots backfired and led to his brother's murder.

And my own trajectory of belief has changed direction a bit, magic-bullet style. When I think back on it, I attribute an overreaction on my part against conspiracy theory for one of my own great missed opportunities as a journalist. During the 1986 midterm elections, I was covering a campaign swing by then-veep George H.W. Bush, and I was in a room with some Bush aides when news of a plane downed over Nicaragua reached the traveling party. Something about a CIA pilot.

There was a lot of bustling back and forth between the inner sanctum, where Bush was closeted with his advisers, and the outer rooms, where the lower-level aides were responding to press inquiries.

I heard words to the effect of "we're not saying anything about it," or possibly something even more weasel-worded: low-level guy, no connection to us. I can't remember exactly now. But it sounded suspicious to me. I had a sense that something was not being fully disclosed, that they knew more than they could say about a conspiratorial connection.

But by that time, my instincts had been blunted by overexposure to bad conspiracy theorizing. I had come to be perhaps too critical of the impulse.

So, I left it alone. And that's how I missed my chance to get in on the beginning of Iran-Contra. I blame the magic bullet.

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Then there is Mr. Rosenbaum's thought-provoking review of Trent Bagley's new book on the Nosenko case:

The Spy Who Came in From Geneva: Nosenko, the K.G.B. Defector

by Ron Rosenbaum

Published: February 11, 2007

I just got off the phone with a legendary spy. Well, let me amend that: a legendary counterspy. Legendary at least to those who have followed the twists and turns of one of the great unresolved spy mysteries of the past century, one of the secret pivots in the clandestine history of the Cold War: the Nosenko affair.

The man on the phone, in Brussels, was Tennent (Pete) Bagley, for many years a key member of the counterintelligence staff of James Jesus Angleton, the mythical “Good Shepherd” of the highly fictionalized film of that name (allow me to point out that the real Angleton was never in Skull and Bones, although it makes a better story. Allow me also, in the interest of full disclosure, to mention that I’ve been working on a screenplay involving some of these matters for director Errol Morris).

Pete Bagley was present from the very beginning of the still baffling, still divisive Nosenko affair, an unfathomably complex Cold War spy case that caused a bitter, decades-long civil war within the C.I.A. and the entire national-security complex. And one that, according to some—myself included—had hidden repercussions that impacted the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

And Mr. Bagley’s new book, Spy Wars (out in March from Yale University Press), is likely to reopen the old wounds—the name-calling, the bitterness, the deep scars that the Nosenko question has left behind—and reawaken questions of why it is that the C.I.A. seems to have gotten just about everything wrong in its entire benighted history, from the Bay of Pigs to George (“W.M.D.’s are a slam-dunk”) Tenet.

I felt a rare thrill talking to Mr. Bagley, a primary player in the Nosenko affair, after years of reading conflicting versions of the case filtered through declassified C.I.A. historical reviews, Congressional testimony, and listening to certain spies’ and journalists’ accounts. It was a thrill despite the fact that, to my surprise, after reading Mr. Bagley’s book, I realized that I might have to rethink my view of the case. I hate when that happens. No, seriously, I’m grateful to Mr. Bagley for giving us a first-person, hands-on account of his side of the story, replete with a remarkable amount of previously unpublished details of the Nosenko interrogation.

I’ve always been drawn to clandestine spy-world disputes and fascinated by the deeply divisive, deeply ambiguous specter of Angleton, and the Nosenko affair that haunts his legacy. And there was no one more inside the inner sanctums of the case than Mr. Bagley.

Indeed, he was there in a Geneva safe house in 1962 for the first contact between Yuri Nosenko, professed K.G.B. defector, and the C.I.A.

And Mr. Bagley was part of the team that interrogated Mr. Nosenko when he arrived in America, and Angleton and others in the C.I.A. began to suspect that he was a K.G.B. plant, a “false defector.” (Of the lurid glimpse of the Nosenko interrogation in the trailer for The Good Shepherd, Mr. Bagley had this to say to me: “Pure horsexxxx.”)

The J.F.K. Hit, Again

Mr. Bagley’s book, Spy Wars, makes a meticulous case that the prevailing revisionist C.I.A. version of the Nosenko affair may need re-revision, although it may well be that Yuri Nosenko—still alive and living under another name somewhere in America—will take his secrets to the grave.

Why should we care? Well, let’s go back to the Kennedy assassination—yes, that can of worms. It was in the aftermath of the J.F.K. hit that Mr. Nosenko’s case assumed a special urgency, because he claimed to have been the K.G.B. agent most familiar with the Soviet spy agency’s contacts with Oswald during his sojourn in the U.S.S.R., before he re-defected to the U.S. and ended up in Dallas in November 1963.

In the aftermath of the assassination there was heated speculation about whether Oswald’s Russian stay might portend a Soviet hand behind the killer. What might have happened if it turned out that Oswald had killed Kennedy on behalf of the K.G.B.? Some—on both sides of the nuclear standoff—feared the worst.

Suddenly, in January 1964, Mr. Nosenko showed up in Geneva again, and, in return for safe passage to the U.S., offered to reveal all about the K.G.B.-Oswald connection, which he claimed was negligible and certainly not assassination-related. He was prepared to testify before the Warren Commission, but doubts arose about his story and his identity after he arrived in America, and he never testified.

It is here that the Nosenko case branches into two radically conflicting narratives, two conflicting Nosenkos.

There is one narrative—let’s call it Nosenko Narrative A—which is now the prevailing wisdom embedded in C.I.A. official histories of the case, a narrative to which I contributed a rationale: the “notional mole” theory (acknowledged in Professor Robin Winks’ study, Cloak and Gown).

In Nosenko Narrative A, Nosenko, a genuine defector, is suddenly and unjustly called into question by Angleton and his counterintelligence-based cabal because Angleton has come under the sway of a Svengali-like previous K.G.B. defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn. Golitsyn had convinced Angleton that the K.G.B. was going to be dispatching “false defectors” to follow him, discredit his leads and protect the Hidden Mole in the C.I.A. Mr. Nosenko—according to Golitsyn—was the first of the false.

In Nosenko Narrative A, Mr. Nosenko is subjected to increasingly harsh and inhuman interrogation and confinement, even locked up in a “dungeon” for three years, tortured by sensory deprivation and physical, psychological and pharmacological abuse, but still never concedes that he’s a K.G.B. plant. Instead, the holes in this narrative are attributed to the sort of innocent mistakes and memory lapses that may have resulted from his trying to build himself up to make himself seem more important.

Nonetheless, Mr. Nosenko becomes the rationale for an Angleton-led witch hunt that tears apart and paralyzes the C.I.A. in its hunt for the Hidden Mole, and results in destructive rebuffs of genuine defectors, because of a paranoid “sick think” mindset that imagined a K.G.B. Master Plan of Deception and Disinformation that succeeded in befuddling the West—all of which resulted in Angleton’s firing, Mr. Nosenko’s rehabilitation and the triumph of the K.G.B. mole in the C.I.A., who had succeeded in turning the C.I.A. “inside out.” Indeed, some of the cult-like Angletonians were so paranoid that they believed the man who fired Angleton, the one-time head of the C.I.A. itself, William Colby, was the mole. (Mr. Bagley, who doesn’t buy it, nonetheless conceded that he’s heard muttering to this effect.)

My “notional mole” theory posited that former Angleton confidante Kim Philby, his M.I.-6 counterpart in the U.K.—and a notorious Soviet mole himself—had gotten inside Angleton’s head and used a technique dating back to World War II’s “Double Cross System”: planting the false notion that there was a mole in the C.I.A. In my version of Nosenko Narrative A, the fear of this notional (i.e., nonexistent) mole had driven Angleton crazy.

Narrative B and ‘Team B’

Mr. Bagley’s book goes a long way, in my mind, toward rehabilitating Nosenko Narrative B: that Angleton was right in calling him a K.G.B. plant. For one thing, Mr. Bagley reprints—for the first time ever, he says—the Discrepancy List: the substantial objections, not minor memory lapses, that brought Mr. Nosenko under suspicion. (Edward Jay Epstein had previously outlined some of the problems in his book, Legend.) Mr. Bagley also disputes the “myth” that the Nosenko interrogation involved “torture.” He says there was no “dungeon,” and that yelling during the interrogation was as bad as it got. Of the scene in the trailer for The Good Shepherd, where water is thrown over the Nosenko figure’s head, he says, “I wish I’d thought of that”—jokingly, I believe.

In addition, Mr. Bagley has put in some investigative work, making it a point to meet informally with ex-K.G.B. operatives after the end of the Cold War. He believes that they cumulatively paint a different picture of the Nosenko case than my sense had been. Of course, the question of whether former K.G.B. officers can be trusted is open to doubt, particularly when, as Mr. Bagley noted in my phone call with him, “things are getting tighter again”—the U.S.-Russia standoff looks more and more like the old C.I.A./K.G.B. Cold War confrontation.

“‘We’re still working against you,’ one old Chekhist told me,” Mr. Bagley said over the phone, using the original name of Lenin’s secret police. According to Mr. Bagley, a recent study showed that the current Putin government is staffed at the highest levels by an overwhelming number of ex-K.G.B. men (like Mr. Putin himself). Which explains why the former Soviet Union is acting more and more like the former Soviet Union again.

The details in Mr. Bagley’s Discrepancy List that serve to cast doubt on Mr. Nosenko are the heart of his book—and, alas, are far too complex to go into here. But Mr. Bagley makes the best case for Nosenko Narrative B that I’ve seen, and I’ll be interested to see what the advocates of Nosenko Narrative A have to say in response.

Meanwhile, in terms of its effect on the actual history and the endgame of the Cold War, the import of Nosenko Narrative B cannot be underestimated—particularly the influence of Narrative B on “Team B.”

Team B, students of Cold War history will recall, was the array of outside experts on the Soviet Union’s military, economic and strategic intentions brought in by George H.W. Bush in 1976 when he became C.I.A. chief, in order to challenge the C.I.A.’s official estimates of the questions. (Sound familiar?)

I asked Mr. Bagley if I was correct to say that Team B had been influenced by the Angleton post-Nosenko analysis of Soviet capabilities, an analysis that focused on what the Angletonians believed was deceptively coded telemetry—data gleaned from Russian missile launches by long-range technical means.

“Deceptively coded telemetry”: It sounds arcane, but essentially it meant that the Russians were using their Angletonian “false defectors” in order to bolster the disguise of their aggressive, first-strike, surprise-attack nuclear-war-fighting capacity.

Which meant, Team B argued (relying at least in part on Nosenko Narrative :tomatoes, that the U.S. had to respond by building the equivalent in counterforce attack capability and counterforce defense: ergo, huge defense increases, Star Wars. Sequel: the collapse of the Soviet economy—and the Soviet polity—as it attempted to keep up with us. Ergo: Nosenko Narrative B won the Cold War.

I had come to believe that there might be some truth to this, even though I disbelieved the essence of Narrative B: that we won the Cold War because of a paranoid mistake. Or maybe even a deliberately Machiavellian Angletonian strategy: a deliberate mistake. I have to rethink the whole thing now. I think a lot of people who read Mr. Bagley’s book will. I’ll get back to you when I’ve figured it all out. Again.

By the way, I ended my conversation with Mr. Bagley by asking what he’d say to Yuri Nosenko if he ever ran into him.

His answer: “Don’t shoot.”

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Well, well. Let me be the first to welcome you back Tim. However I hope that during this go round you will spare us all from your view that Castro killed JFK.

That is of course why he posted the article by Ron Rosenbaum.

Mr. Bagley’s book, Spy Wars, makes a meticulous case that the prevailing revisionist C.I.A. version of the Nosenko affair may need re-revision, although it may well be that Yuri Nosenko—still alive and living under another name somewhere in America—will take his secrets to the grave.

Why should we care? Well, let’s go back to the Kennedy assassination—yes, that can of worms. It was in the aftermath of the J.F.K. hit that Mr. Nosenko’s case assumed a special urgency, because he claimed to have been the K.G.B. agent most familiar with the Soviet spy agency’s contacts with Oswald during his sojourn in the U.S.S.R., before he re-defected to the U.S. and ended up in Dallas in November 1963.

In the aftermath of the assassination there was heated speculation about whether Oswald’s Russian stay might portend a Soviet hand behind the killer. What might have happened if it turned out that Oswald had killed Kennedy on behalf of the K.G.B.? Some—on both sides of the nuclear standoff—feared the worst.

Suddenly, in January 1964, Mr. Nosenko showed up in Geneva again, and, in return for safe passage to the U.S., offered to reveal all about the K.G.B.-Oswald connection, which he claimed was negligible and certainly not assassination-related. He was prepared to testify before the Warren Commission, but doubts arose about his story and his identity after he arrived in America, and he never testified.

It is here that the Nosenko case branches into two radically conflicting narratives, two conflicting Nosenkos.

There is one narrative—let’s call it Nosenko Narrative A—which is now the prevailing wisdom embedded in C.I.A. official histories of the case, a narrative to which I contributed a rationale: the “notional mole” theory (acknowledged in Professor Robin Winks’ study, Cloak and Gown).

In Nosenko Narrative A, Nosenko, a genuine defector, is suddenly and unjustly called into question by Angleton and his counterintelligence-based cabal because Angleton has come under the sway of a Svengali-like previous K.G.B. defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn. Golitsyn had convinced Angleton that the K.G.B. was going to be dispatching “false defectors” to follow him, discredit his leads and protect the Hidden Mole in the C.I.A. Mr. Nosenko—according to Golitsyn—was the first of the false.

In Nosenko Narrative A, Mr. Nosenko is subjected to increasingly harsh and inhuman interrogation and confinement, even locked up in a “dungeon” for three years, tortured by sensory deprivation and physical, psychological and pharmacological abuse, but still never concedes that he’s a K.G.B. plant. Instead, the holes in this narrative are attributed to the sort of innocent mistakes and memory lapses that may have resulted from his trying to build himself up to make himself seem more important.

Nonetheless, Mr. Nosenko becomes the rationale for an Angleton-led witch hunt that tears apart and paralyzes the C.I.A. in its hunt for the Hidden Mole, and results in destructive rebuffs of genuine defectors, because of a paranoid “sick think” mindset that imagined a K.G.B. Master Plan of Deception and Disinformation that succeeded in befuddling the West—all of which resulted in Angleton’s firing, Mr. Nosenko’s rehabilitation and the triumph of the K.G.B. mole in the C.I.A., who had succeeded in turning the C.I.A. “inside out.” Indeed, some of the cult-like Angletonians were so paranoid that they believed the man who fired Angleton, the one-time head of the C.I.A. itself, William Colby, was the mole. (Mr. Bagley, who doesn’t buy it, nonetheless conceded that he’s heard muttering to this effect.)

My “notional mole” theory posited that former Angleton confidante Kim Philby, his M.I.-6 counterpart in the U.K.—and a notorious Soviet mole himself—had gotten inside Angleton’s head and used a technique dating back to World War II’s “Double Cross System”: planting the false notion that there was a mole in the C.I.A. In my version of Nosenko Narrative A, the fear of this notional (i.e., nonexistent) mole had driven Angleton crazy.

Narrative B and ‘Team B’

Mr. Bagley’s book goes a long way, in my mind, toward rehabilitating Nosenko Narrative B: that Angleton was right in calling him a K.G.B. plant. For one thing, Mr. Bagley reprints—for the first time ever, he says—the Discrepancy List: the substantial objections, not minor memory lapses, that brought Mr. Nosenko under suspicion. (Edward Jay Epstein had previously outlined some of the problems in his book, Legend.)

Maybe Tim has rejoined so that he can explain the success of George Bush's policy in Iraq. Tim will probably want to explain Bush's new policy on climate change.

By the way Tim, I heard a good quote today. Apparently, some left-wing American said: "The Christian Right only believe in the sanctity of life between conception and birth.” Would you agree with that?

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John, sorry, I no longer have time to engage in extended debates. I just thought the Rosenbaum article deserved attention since you had posted his review of "Brothers".

But I must comment on your quoting someone that the Christian right only believes in the sanctity of life between conception and birth. Surely you are intelligent enough to realize the total absurdity of the last quotation. Look for instance at the Terry Schiavo case where the Christian Right (as well as several non-Christians) fought to preserve the life of Ms. Schiavo. You may or may not agree with the position that Ms. Schiavo's life was entitled to protection given her medical condition but the Schiavo matter certainly demonstrates the ludicricy of that quotation.

Interestingly, however, the person who made that statement agrees that life in fact begins at conception. Ergo, abortion is indeed the taking of a human life.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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But I must comment on your quoting someone that the Christian right only believes in the sanctity of life between conception and birth. Surely you are intelligent enough to realize the total absurdity of the last quotation. Look for instance at the Terry Schiavo case where the Christian Right (as well as several non-Christians) fought to preserve the life of Ms. Schiavo. You may or may not agree with the position that Ms. Schiavo's life was entitled to protection given her medical condition but the Schiavo matter certainly demonstrates the ludicricy of that quotation.

Interestingly, however, the person who made that statement agrees that life in fact begins at conception. Ergo, abortion is indeed the taking of a human life.

The point that they seem to be making is that the Christian Right use the sanctity of life when debating abortion but not when they are discussing capital punishment and the Iraq War. As someone else said, the main purpose of organized religion is the suppression of women.

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Too many years ago I was taught to begin a critique on a positive note.

Ron Rosenbaum once described his visit to Dealey Plaza in the company of Penn Jones as a tour of the "Stations of the Crossfire."

Done.

In terms of Rosenbaum's ruminations on the JFK assassination, alas, this witty, literate, and often erudite man is rendered senseless by his laughably off-point armchair psychoanalyses of aggrieved conspiracy believers and, more significantly, by his conflation of the "how" and "who and why" questions.

He fails to comprehend that the demonstrable absurdity of many proffered answers to the latter query has ZERO impact on the legitimacy of the science that has answered -- definitively, to the degree of metaphysical certitude -- the former in two simple words:

"Criminal conspiracy."

As I wrote for another thread: Imagine that the first official US government investigation of the assassination concludes, on the basis of available evidence, that a conspiracy, likely of domestic origin and with political motivations, resulted in the death of JFK, and that Lee Harvey Oswald, clearly connected to more than one American intelligence agency, had been set up as a patsy.

Further imagaine that, before the ink is dry on this report, a small, vocal group of self-styled "critics" argues that in fact LHO acted alone -- a conclusion based upon the "evidence" that the real-life WC, and later Posner and Bugliosi and their merry little band of irregulars (indeed, irregularity could account for their shared -- discomforts), actually did present and endorse.

How long would these critics' "arguments" have lasted? Fourty-plus years?

How about 40 minutes?!

It is the imprimatur of the state -- and NOTHING ELSE -- that breathes life into the LN fantasy. Take it away, and what have you got?

I'm reminded of William F. Buckley's early 1960s insight: Take away the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal, and what you've got is India. (I know: no longer valid, thanks to Homi Bhabha.)

All of Rosenbaum's blather about the emotional and psychological drives toward embrace of conspiracy theories is beside the point -- at least when it comes to answering the "how" question.

Emblematic of this sort of nonsense is the too-well-traveled bromide, "We believe in a JFK conspiracy because we can't accept the fact that a nobody killed a somebody."

What the hell does that have to say about incontrovertible evidence of a headshot from the front?

Ron Rosenbaum also has postulated, tongue firmly in cheek, that the fact that Hitler had one testicle gave rise to the first lone nut theory.

Yeah, he's good. We could use him on our side.

Charles

Edited by Charles Drago
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Rosenbaum talks of three recent developments reviving the JFK debate. Of course E. Howard Hunt's near-deathbed "confession" isn't one of them, nor does it qualify as a fourth development. It continues to be a non-news item in the media.

It makes one wonder how Hunt got to be such a famous character, with Watergate and the tramp photo and his status as suspect in the JFK hit over the decades, only to be a non-person to America's journalists when he finally (sort of) owned up.

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John, sorry, I no longer have time to engage in extended debates. I just thought the Rosenbaum article deserved attention since you had posted his review of "Brothers".

But I must comment on your quoting someone that the Christian right only believes in the sanctity of life between conception and birth. Surely you are intelligent enough to realize the total absurdity of the last quotation. Look for instance at the Terry Schiavo case where the Christian Right (as well as several non-Christians) fought to preserve the life of Ms. Schiavo. You may or may not agree with the position that Ms. Schiavo's life was entitled to protection given her medical condition but the Schiavo matter certainly demonstrates the ludicricy of that quotation.

Interestingly, however, the person who made that statement agrees that life in fact begins at conception. Ergo, abortion is indeed the taking of a human life.

Hi Tim.

We never met, but I have had the delight of reading some of your earlier posts.

Interesting your views on abortion. A lot of the folk at the Republican Broadcasting Network share your belief in the sanctity of human life post conception. I wonder if you tune in often?

One of the regular radio hosts there is Michael Collins Piper. His show is archived here. He discusses the JFK assassination from time to time. Piper, as you may recall, is an anti-war extremist who holds the peculiar view that the US Government should not militarily attack other nations as and when it pleases.

I mention this, because on my reading, Piper's brief appearance in this forum seemed to provoke some rather un-Christian outbursts on your part.

Still, I imagine you may be undergoing a broad policy re-assessment, like the Great Decider himself?

Incidentally, a penny for your thoughts on Iran. Talk to them? Or bomb hell out of them? Whadya reckon? What would Jesus do?

In fairness, though, I should note that I thought you told a rather good JFK joke, which I encountered when researching this post. The one about going to heaven, asking who killed JFK and God's response "I've got a theory about that".

I suspect JFK would have appreciated it too. If the human soul is truly immortal, perhaps he does? I gather, however, that you are one of the minority of Americans who believe JFK wouldn't have made it into heaven.

Edited by Sid Walker
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  • 2 months later...

This is a post by Martin Shackleford (from alt.assassination.jfk) on Bagley and Nosenko.

I submit that no one can truly understand the Kennedy assassination without understanding the role

of Yuri Nosenko. I am ordering "Spy Wars" tomorrow.

It now seems quite clear that, as Shackleford writes, Nosenko was in fact a "doubled agent". Why he

was sent shortly after the Kennedy assassination with information about the KGB and LHO remains a puzzle.

It is possible that although Nosenko lied about his allegiance to the KGB, the information

he was providing was in general correct: that LHO was not on a KGB mission.

I do not want to use this thread to restart a "Russians Did It" debate but I would note that

Joseph Trento wrote that the assassination was orchestrated by a faction in the Politburo

and had nothing to do with the KGB. VB must not have read Trento's book because he

spends a chapter on the KGB but never mention's Trento's thesis.

In any event here is Shackleford's post:

One of the best CIA books I've seen is Spy Wars: moles, mysteries and deadly

games by Tennent H. Bagley. I've read a lot about Yuri Nosenko over the

years, and Bagley seems to put the final nails in the coffin of Nosenko's

credibility.

It has become clearer with each passing year that Nosenko was a phony

defector.

During the late 1960s and since, the CIA "rehabilitated" him, declared him

credible, and lied through their teeth to the HSCA, reporters, historians

and their own staff; gave Nosenko access to CIA headquarters; and used him

as an instructor. Many current CIA people still accept the myth that he was

the genuine article.

The HSCA, to their credit, didn't buy it. They realized that he wasn't

worthy of belief, not even close.

To the objective viewer, those who backed Nosenko now look like a bunch of

morons, with their dismissals of Bagley, Angleton, and the genuine defector

Anatoly Golitsin as "paranoid." As a result, they influence a number of

authors, including David Martin (Wilderness of Mirrors, which falsely pits

Angleton against Harvey), Tom Mangold (Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton:

The CIA's Master Spy Hunter) and others. One of the few who didn't take the

bait was Edward Jay Epstein (Legend).

Among the "accomplishments" of the Nosenko defenders was the rehabilitation

of other phoney-baloney "defectors" who vouched for Nosenko (including the

FBI's "Fedora" source, who it eventually realized had been a plant), the

death of a genuine defector (whose alias was Nicholas Shadrin), and the

dismantling of the CIA's counterintelligence program. The pro-Nosenko

faction included directors Colby and Turner (Helms, despite his deputy

director's "clearing" of Nosenko, referred Epstein to Bagley, Angleton and

others who could tell him the real story).

The mindset thus created helped to protect Aldrich Ames for nine years, as

the CIA had concluded that the KGB didn't send actual KGB officers as fake

defectors, so any KGB officers must be genuine defectors (like Nosenko, and

Yurchenko--who duped them about Ames).

Bagley has done a genuine service.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Very long article about David Talbot's book by Ron Rosenbaum in Slate Magazine.

http://www.slate.com/id/2167466/

It includes the following:

Why now? Why a new controversy over something that happened 45 years ago? What got Chris Matthews so het up (not that it takes much) that he's done two recent segments on the assassination? You've got to be kidding, right? After all this time?

BK: IF CHRIS MATHEWS ADDRESSED THE ISSUE TWICE, HE'S GOING TO DO IT AGAIN, ESPECIALLY AFTER BEING RIGHTFULLY EMBARRASED BY HIS "FRIEND" DAVID TALBOT.

But suddenly certain developments have converged to thrust the magic bullet and its attendant controversy back into our consciousness, where, in fact, it never lay far beneath the surface. Indeed, you could make the case that JFK conspiracy-theory culture has, in its own way, been responsible for changing the landscape of the American mind:

WAIT A MINUTE - IT ISN'T THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONSPIRACY CONSCIOUSNESS - IT'S THE FAILURE OF THE GOVERNMENT TO LEGALLY RESOLVE THE JFK ASSASSINATION - THOSE ORDINARY CITIZENS WHO BELIEVE IN A CONSPIRACY WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING THE PRESIDENT HAVE NO POWER TO INVESTIGATE AND SOLVE THE CRIME.

Look at the "9/11 truth" movement, which in various versions holds that the government was behind the tragedy and helped demolish the buildings. Would such elaborate fantasies have thrived if not for the thicket of conspiracy-theory-receptive consciousness ready to feed the fire?

NO THEY WOULDN'T THRIVE IF REAL CONSPIRACIES WERE PROPERLY INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTED. BY NOT SERVING TRUTH OR JUSTICE, - BY NOT DETERMINING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE MURDER OF THE PRESIDENT OR 9/11 THEY HAVE ALLOWED EVRYONE TO BELIVE ANYTHING AND KNOW NOTHING.

Indeed, almost every poll shows that solid majorities of Americans believe JFK was killed by a conspiracy.

A BELIEF FOUNDED ON GOOD REASON.

And Holocaust denial:

AND WHAT DOES HOLOCAUST DENIAL HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS COMMENT TO ME?

Does it not prey upon a credulous culture of paranoid suspicion in which conspiracy theories thrive? This culture, which has grown out of JFK conspiracy theories, often slips from a recognition that the truth is sometimes elusive to a belief that everything said to be true is false or the product of a secret cabal, designed to conceal sinister ends.

But must we condemn all conspiracy-theory thinking—the very notion of conspiracy—out of hand because of its abuses?

NOT ALL ALLEDGED CONSPIRACIES ARE IN FACT CONSPIRACIES, AND IF WE ARE ONLY TALKING ABOUT THE JFK ASSASSINATION AND 9/11 - THEY WERE CONSPIRACIES.

One can rightly condemn a predetermined approach to investigating the truth—one that begins with the assumption of a conclusion rather than reaching a conclusion inductively through the accumulation of solid evidence.

WHOSE TO SAY THAT THAT THE TRUTH AND THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK CAN'T BE IDENTIFIED INDUCTIVELY THROUGH THE ACCUMULATION OF SOLD EVIDENCE, SINCE THE GOVERNMENT HAS NEVER TRIED?

THOSE RESPONSIBLE CAN BE IDENTIFIED THROUGH THE ACCUMULATION OF SOLID EVIDENCE, THOUGH RON ROSENBLOOM HAS OBVIOUSLY NOT TRIED.

But the flaws in conspiracy-theory consciousness—the belief that every history-changing event has a sinister conspiracy, rather than a deranged individual, behind it—does not mean that some history-changing events aren't the result of conspiracies. That conspiracies don't exist at all.

NO IT DOESN'T, AND INSTEAD OF BRINGING IN EVERY POSSIBLE CONSPIRACY, WHY NOT JUST STICK THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK? BECAUSE IF YOU DO, THE CONSPIRACY WILL EVENTUALLY REVEAL ITSELF.

Watergate was one. Iran-Contra was another.

AND BOTH INCLUDED THE SAME CAST OF CHARACTERS WE'VE MET AT DEALEY PLAZA.

"Fixing" prewar intel on Iraqi WMD may have been a third.

AND MOST CERTAINLY WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED IF THE JFK ASSASSINATION, WATERGATE AND IRAN-CONTRA WERE PROPERLY INVESTIGATED AND PROSECUTED.

Further back in history: The assassination of Julius Caesar and the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket ("Will someone not rid me of this [troublesome] prelate") resulted from conspiracies. And people can also conspire toward good ends: The deception operation behind the D-Day landings was a successful, perhaps war-winning conspiracy.

AND THE DECEPTION OPERATION BEHIND DEALEY PLAZA - THAT CASTRO WAS BEHIND THE HIT - WAS UNSUCCESSFUL - A DECEPTION OPERATION THAT ITSELF IS PROOF THAT JFK WAS NOT THE VICTIM OF A LONE, DEGRANGED NUT - AS NUT CASES DON'T PRODUCE BLACK PROPAGANDA.

So, conspiracies exist, but Woodward and Bernstein didn't solve the Watergate break-in by assuming there was a conspiracy without discovering evidentiary connections. If they had, they may never have proven there was a conspiracy. They painstakingly worked their way up the ladder of evidence and testimony from the lower rungs to the higher until the shape of the conspiracy became apparent.

SOMETHING ROSENBLOOM HAS NEVER DONE IN REGARD TO JFK ASSASSINATION, OR HE WOULD KNOW BETTER.

Can the concept of conspiracy be rescued from the often shoddy work of conspiracy theorists?

CONSPIRACY THEORISTS DON'T PRODUCE THE ASSASSINATION CONSPIRACIES, CRIMINALS AND TERRORISTS DO, AND THE CONCEPT OF CONSPIRACY IS IN NO NEED OF BEING RESCUED - THE US CONSTITUTION AND FORM OF GOVERNMENT ARE WHAT'S AT STAKE, AND NEED TO BE RESCUED NOT FROM THEORIZORS BY FROM THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF.

I think it can if we're talking about maintaining a skepticism about official truth—government pronouncements, corporate releases. If that skepticism then leads to scrupulous investigation rather than unfounded theorizing. Doubt is good and stops being good only when it becomes unearned certainty about unproven alternate conclusions that are not subjected to the same skeptical inquiry as the official story.

THE AMERICAN PUBLIC'S LOSS IN CONFIDENCE IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BEGAN, ACCORDING TO ALL PUBLIC POLLS, SHORTLY AFTER THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK AND HAS DECLINED EVER SINCE, AND WILL NOT REBOUND UNTIL THE ISSUES OF THE ASSASSINATON ARE ADDRESSED.

The three developments that have revived debate over the key contemporary crux of conspiracy theory, JFK's murder, are the publication of Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi's massive, 1,500-page attempt to prove all JFK conspiracies are wrong (Bugliosi is the L.A. prosecutor who convicted Charles Manson), and (almost simultaneously) the appearance of Salon founder David Talbot's Brothers, which reflects Talbot's attempt—less mase but no less impassioned—to persuade us that at least one conspiracy did kill JFK (although he can't say for sure which one).

These two books arrived at almost the same time as the third development: the release of a study by Texas A&M scientists who claimed to prove that previous studies of bullet fragments found in JFK's limo were flawed. Not that they were wrong necessarily, not that there was a conspiracy necessarily, but that the methodology of studies previously conducted that supposedly proved all the bullet fragments found in the limo came from Lee Harvey Oswald's gun were not adequate—needed to be done again, with no guarantee even then that they will offer definitive proof of anything....

........

The investigative climate of suspicion that was engendered by the JFK conspiracy theories played its part in leading to the revelation of some shocking facts about the subterranean world of U.S. intelligence operations in the '60s. Lee Harvey Oswald may not have conspired with the mafia or anti-Castro Cubans to assassinate JFK, but, as David Talbot's book reminds us, the Kennedys, the mafia, and anti-Castro Cubans collaborated in real assassination plots against Castro.

YEA, BUT IT WAS JFK AND RFK WHO WERE MURDERED, NOT CASTRO.

At the time of the revelations, it seemed incredible: the Kennedys in bed with the Mob to foment assassination.

WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE - I THOUGHT IT WAS THE CIA AND THE MOB AND THEY GOT IN BED BEFORE JFK WAS ELECTED?

But Bobby Kennedy was haunted by the possibility that Kennedy involvement in Castro-assassination plots backfired and led to his brother's murder. ;

INDEED, SO WHY NOT FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION ON THE CASTRO ASSASSINATION PLOTS AND DETERMINE EXACTLY WHICH PLOT(S) ALLEGEDLY BACKFIRED AND LET TO JFK'S MURDER? WHY NOT GO THERE? THAT'S WHERE THE ANSWERS ARE.

And my own trajectory of belief has changed direction a bit, magic-bullet style. When I think back on it, I attribute an overreaction on my part against conspiracy theory for one of my own great missed opportunities as a journalist.

REALLY RON, YOU MISSED THE JFK CONSPIRACY AND WATERGATE, WHY ARE YOU SO SURPRISED YOU BLEW IRAN-CONTRA?

During the 1986 midterm elections, I was covering a campaign swing by then-veep George H.W. Bush, and I was in a room with some Bush aides when news of a plane downed over Nicaragua reached the traveling party. Something about a CIA pilot.

There was a lot of bustling back and forth between the inner sanctum, where Bush was closeted with his advisers, and the outer rooms, where the lower-level aides were responding to press inquiries.

I heard words to the effect of "we're not saying anything about it," or possibly something even more weasel-worded: low-level guy, no connection to us. I can't remember exactly now. But it sounded suspicious to me. I had a sense that something was not being fully disclosed, that they knew more than they could say about a conspiratorial connection.

But by that time, my instincts had been blunted by overexposure to bad conspiracy theorizing. I had come to be perhaps too critical of the impulse.

YEA RON, BLAME YOUR OWN BAD JOURNALISM ON CONSPIRACY THEORISTS, AND CONSIDER YOURSELF LUCKY FOR NOT FOLLOWING YOUR INSTINCTS, AS YOU WOULD HAVE PROBABLY ENDED UP MORE DISCRACED THAN YOU ARE.

So, I left it alone. And that's how I missed my chance to get in on the beginning of Iran-Contra. I blame the magic bullet.

BUT RON, IT'S NOT TOO LATE FOR REDEMPTION, AND YOU CAN STILL FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE FROM DEALEY PLAZA TO THOSE RESPONSIBLE, WRITE ABOUT IT AND WIN A PULITZER PRIZE, BUT WHY BOTHER, WHEN YOU CAN SIT BACK AND SPROUT OFF ABOUT CONSPIRACY THEORISTS.

BK

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