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Harold Weisberg


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What do members of the forum think of the work of Harold Weisberg?

John Kelin has an interesting passage about a dispute between Weisberg and Popkin in his excellent book, Praise from a Future Generation (2007)

Another book published during this period was The Second Oswald by Richard Popkin. It was a short book, only 174 pages including nine appendices, and first appeared in condensed form in the July 28, 1966, issue of The New York Review of Books.

Most of the critics had never heard of the author. "Who is Popkin?" Harold Weisberg asked Sylvia Meagher in August. Popkin was then the chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California in San Diego; he had previously published a book called The History of Skepticism from Erasynus to Descartes.

Ostensibly, Popkin's article was a review of Whitewash and Inquest. Popkin acknowledged that the former was the first critical study of the Commission's case based on a close analysis of the twenty-six volumes, but said its power was diminished by its noisy and tendentious tone. Inquest, on the other hand, was "a remarkably effective book" that explained how the Warren Commission's main objective was presenting a politically acceptable account of the assassination.

But the thrust of Popkin's article was a theory he felt explained the assassination based on the available evidence. The first-generation critics - and here Popkin meant not just Weisberg and Epstein, but Vince Salandria, Fred Cook, Sylvan Fox, and even Thomas Buchanan - did little more than raise questions that the Warren Commission had left unanswered. An alternative explanation was needed. As Allen Dulles had commented, if the critics had found another assassin, "let them name names and produce their evidence."

The solution offered by Professor Popkin was what he called the "second Oswald" - a scenario derived from the official evidence suggesting that someone might have been impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald in the weeks and months before the assassination. The twenty-six volumes, Popkin wrote, contained numerous reliable reports placing Oswald in one location when equally reliable reports placed him elsewhere at the same time. Toward what end? "Critics have brought up the second Oswald as an insufficiently explored phenomenon that might throw light on the case.

One of those critics was Harold Weisberg, who during the summer of 1966 was beginning to feel more optimistic about his work. Whitewash was about to be serialized in a Spanish newspaper and was selling well enough for him to have another five thousand copies printed. He also felt the attitude of the American press was beginning to change. He was being called more often to make speeches and to appear on radio and TV.

When Weisberg read Popkin's article, he concluded Popkin had stolen his work. An entire chapter in Whitewash was devoted to what Weisberg called the "false Oswald," which he said proved there had been a conspiracy. Popkin's plagiarism was so obvious, Weisberg told Sylvia Meagher, that even her old associate Curtis Crawford had mentioned it to him.

Meagher thought the allegation was absurd. "I am amazed at the suggestion that any plagiarism was involved," she told Harold. "What do you refer to? I am very careful always to take into consideration parallel discovery and reasoning, which is widespread among critics of the WR and almost inevitable."

Weisberg declined to elaborate. But this was not the first time he had lashed out at other critics, and it was a cause of some concern for Sylvia; she was beginning to think Weisberg suffered from a persecution complex. The previous spring Weisberg had clashed with Vince Salandria after concluding Salandria could have placed a review of Whitewash, but did not, in Liberation. He had also been angry with M.S. Arnoni, who had dismissed Whitewash as having nothing new. "You are much too conceited about your book," Arnoni told him. Weisberg challenged this, but Arnoni would not be drawn into a debate.

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Harold was a contradiction. He was tireless in his research and unskilled writing, and in helping

other researchers. But he lashed out at phonies and those who did not appreciate his efforts.

Personally, he came off as a crotchety curmudgeon who had to be suffered because of his

enormous knowledge. He was the first researcher I ever contacted, and he corresponded with

me periodically. He was always very kind to me and my research...and I am glad I never

"crossed him", because he was a formidable foe. His books are filled with fantastic research and

insights, if one can wade through the mass of bad writing and lack of a wise editor. Unfortunately

he let himself be "used" in a covert attempt to sabotage Oliver Stone. Time took a toll on him,

and near the end, his effectiveness was somewhat reduced. I met him two times, but he was hard to

get to know because of his gruff persona.

Jack

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Harold was a contradiction. He was tireless in his research and unskilled writing, and in helping

other researchers. But he lashed out at phonies and those who did not appreciate his efforts.

Personally, he came off as a crotchety curmudgeon who had to be suffered because of his

enormous knowledge. He was the first researcher I ever contacted, and he corresponded with

me periodically. He was always very kind to me and my research...and I am glad I never

"crossed him", because he was a formidable foe. His books are filled with fantastic research and

insights, if one can wade through the mass of bad writing and lack of a wise editor. Unfortunately

he let himself be "used" in a covert attempt to sabotage Oliver Stone. Time took a toll on him,

and near the end, his effectiveness was somewhat reduced. I met him two times, but he was hard to

get to know because of his gruff persona.

Jack

Very interesting account. I suspect that it is impossible to take up a case like the JFK assassination without having a "divergent" personality. Without this you would just accept the status quo. This helps to explain why JFK researchers spend so much time attacking each other.

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Harold was a contradiction. He was tireless in his research and unskilled writing, and in helping

other researchers. But he lashed out at phonies and those who did not appreciate his efforts.

Personally, he came off as a crotchety curmudgeon who had to be suffered because of his

enormous knowledge. He was the first researcher I ever contacted, and he corresponded with

me periodically. He was always very kind to me and my research...and I am glad I never

"crossed him", because he was a formidable foe. His books are filled with fantastic research and

insights, if one can wade through the mass of bad writing and lack of a wise editor. Unfortunately

he let himself be "used" in a covert attempt to sabotage Oliver Stone. Time took a toll on him,

and near the end, his effectiveness was somewhat reduced. I met him two times, but he was hard to

get to know because of his gruff persona.

Jack

From my interactions with Harold, I'd say Jack has it exactly correct. I had contacted him by mail [later by phone] asking about particular points in his books and generally how to interpret FBI and othe agency document routing and margenallia etc. He was at once very gruff and the curmudeon, yet at the same time enourmously generous of his time and knowledge. I once mis-interpreted some notes on an FBI document's routing in the margin and he nearly exploded at me - yet immediately 'cooled-down' and took more than two hours to fully-inform me so I'd not make the mistake again. I don't think people should read anything into his personal quirks beyond their being his own psychological style. As a researcher he plowed much new ground and found much in those fields. He did make a few adversaries, mostly of those who weren't appreciative of his work. He worked tirelessly and at his own immense cost. No one 'normative' takes-up this cause full-time, working at full throttle and with afterburners on..... His death was a great loss IMO and his body of work [despite its bad editing and horrible self-published look] invaluable. It should be in anyone's JFK library. Kelin's great book brings-up a number of feuds between early researchers. I think most would regret it now, if one could ask them. Not only are we all mortal, but all human - with all the foibiles, jealousies, paranoia, and personality oddities or everyone - and perhaps more than many - add to that the lack of societal appreciation [and often official denegration] for most of the work. Some [not all] of the disputes between researchers IMO were ignited and fanned by those who sought to keep the secrets secret. They do so still. The psychological aspects still play into many others.

Peter

Great post, very perceptive, thank you.

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Harold Weisberg ONE MAN VS. ONE GOVERNMENT (Part 1 of 2)

By Liam Farrell

News-Post Staff

12-25-05

FREDERICK -- For decades, the most-powerful domestic intelligence agency in the United States watched a Maryland chicken farmer.

For decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote analyses of his public statements, books and newspaper articles.

For decades, the FBI's highest-ranking intelligence officials, including its legendary and controversial director, J. Edgar Hoover, personally exchanged correspondence on his life, which was spent investigating the veracity of the government's conclusions on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The Frederick News-Post has obtained the FBI files of Harold Weisberg, local author, farmer and noted expert on assassinations, through the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Weisberg, who died in 2002 at his home just outside Frederick city, has a 178-page file. The newspaper will appeal the government's decision to withhold 39 pages.

Mr. Weisberg gained notoriety for his books criticizing the FBI and Warren Commission for their investigations of JFK's assassination, and he is well-known for his extensive collection of government files and information, now housed in a library at Hood College.

The FBI looked into Mr. Weisberg long before he published his first book in 1965, however.

In 1939, Mr. Weisberg jeopardized the security of government information by leaking to a communist newspaper, The Daily Worker, and harbored subversive ideological sympathies, the FBI file states.

Throughout the years, government documents contain frequent attacks on the author's character, describing him as a miscreant with delusions of conspiracy.

As Mr. Weisberg's efforts to obtain information for his books continued from the 1960s onward, the FBI tried to obstruct his work. The FBI ignored his requests even after the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, culminating in a 1970 memorandum from Mr. Hoover to a deputy assistant attorney general instructing that no information be given to Mr. Weisberg.

"In view of Weisberg's character, he should not be given the information he requests, and there is legal ground for our position," Mr. Hoover's memo states.

For decades, Mr. Weisberg was watching the government. And for decades, it was watching him back.

In part one of a two-part investigation into the confrontational history between Mr. Weisberg and the FBI, The Frederick News-Post will examine his early government career.

These conflicts established the groundwork for the FBI's later accusations that Mr. Weisberg was a communist and deserved to be denied access to information about JFK's assassination.

In part two on Monday, the newspaper will explore the details of the historian's battles for government transparency. Part two will also look into the growing FBI case against Mr. Weisberg's supposed political beliefs and how they played a significant role when he was trying to find out the truth about President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Although the FBI's efforts would increase after Mr. Weisberg began publishing his books, the roots of his FBI file go back to some of the earliest moments of the nation's anti-communist fervor.

Mr. Weisberg was not only a later victim of the Cold War ethos; he was also an early casualty.

The New World

As the torrents of immigrants into the United States continued in the early 20th century, the waves of western Europeans were replaced by eastern Europeans, who in turn became the new victims of not only anti-immigration ideology but also virulent anti-Semitism and anti-communism.

Mr. Weisberg was part of this changing society as the son of two Jewish immigrants from Russia. He was born on April 8, 1913, in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia.

In a 1993 interview with Joy Derr of Hood College, Mr. Weisberg remarked how significant his birth in America was.

"I'm the first member of my family, as I've thought often in recent years, ever born into freedom, going back as far as Adam and Eve," he said.

Friends of the writer believe that his family's background was an influential component in formulating his faith in America's promise and ideals.

"He, being a first-generation American, was extremely patriotic," said Clayton Ogilvie, a friend and caretaker of Mr. Weisberg's archives. "His patriotic fervor was based on his parents telling him stories of the old country."

After high school, Mr. Weisberg worked as a reporter for the Wilmington Morning News and the Philadelphia Ledger, and he obtained some college education at the University of Delaware in Newark before dropping out when his father died.

Mr. Weisberg then went to work for the government.

Leaky Allegations

According to the FBI file, Mr. Weisberg's first position with the government was on the U.S. Committee on Education and Labor, also known as the LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee, headed by U.S. Sen. Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., of Wisconsin.

The committee had begun during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal as part of a National Labor Relations Board inquiry into attempts by businesses to disrupt unions. At the time, labor reform efforts were increasingly seen as tantamount to communism.

Mr. Weisberg began working for the committee in September 1936 and was stationed in Harlan, Ky., known as "Bloody Harlan" for its violence, to investigate the efforts of coal owners to dismantle labor's strength. In a 1993 interview, he told Ms. Derr he was "deep" into the region's corporate corruption and violence.

Mr. Weisberg's actions were apparently high-profile enough that the Louisville division of the FBI was alerted by an unnamed person that he was in the state, according to a December 1947 summary of Mr. Weisberg's activities.

Although FBI files from the late 1940s indicate Mr. Weisberg ceased working for Mr. LaFollette in June 1939, the reason for his dismissal is not established until the mid-1960s, following the publication of his first book, which was critical of the FBI.

In a June 6, 1966 memo from Alex Rosen, the FBI assistant director of the general investigative division, to Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, the assistant to the director in charge of investigations, Mr. LaFollette fired Mr. Weisberg for leaking information to The Daily Worker, the foremost communist newspaper in America.

Neither the specific allegations or accuser is established until more than 25 years after the fact.

Until the Rosen-DeLoach memo, FBI files only identified Mr. Weisberg as editor of committee publications by a "reliable source of information" who knew him from 1936 to 1937 and "was of the opinion that Mr. Weisberg was at least a communist sympathizer, but probably was closer than that to the Party."

Labor Problems

During the same time period that Mr. Weisberg was in Harlan, Martin Dies, a Texas Democrat in the House of Representatives, got a resolution passed on May 26, 1938 to create the Dies Committee.

Although ostensibly created to focus on German-American activities in American Nazi organizations and the Ku Klux Klan, the committee was actually the forerunner to the House Un-American Activities Committee. It spent its time looking for communist sympathizers in New Deal groups such as the Federal Theatre Project.

According to the FBI files, in March 1940, Mr. Weisberg told officials that following his dismissal from the LaFollette Committee, he conducted "special research" for the Dies Committee. No specific chronology of his work is available in the FBI file.

The reason why a government body that evolved into a group synonymous with anti-communism would hire someone who had spent three years investigating on the side of labor and allegedly leaking information to the very people Dies was trying to destroy is unclear, from both the FBI files and past interviews with Mr. Weisberg himself.

"That does make it rather counterintuitive," said Gerald McKnight, emeritus professor of history at Hood and a friend of Mr. Weisberg's for 30 years.

According to the book "The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities" by politics and ethics writer Walter Goodman, Mr. Dies had been actively trying to disrupt the LaFollette Committee with a proposal of an investigation into sit-down strikes "frankly designed to counteract" its work, which extended into 1941.

In Mr. Goodman's book, Mr. Weisberg was recruited by Gardner Jackson, a legislative representative of the pro-labor group Labor's Non-Partisan League, in an effort to uncover allegations that Mr. Dies had made a secret agreement with right-wing groups that any investigations would focus on left-leaning groups or individuals.

According to Mr. Goodman, David Mayne, a Washington representative of the fascist group Silver Shirts, founded by William Dudley Pelley, sold forged letters indicating a conspiracy between Mr. Dies and Mr. Pelley. Mr. Weisberg, on instructions from Mr. Jackson, bought these letters for $105.

Mr. Mayne, who eventually confessed to forging the letters in an attempt to trap anyone out to get Mr. Dies, was brought to trial, pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence.

This event is referenced in a letter Mr. Weisberg wrote to someone named "Cameron" on March 14, 1940, in which he wrote he can send information about the "Mayne-entrapment story."

If he was actively trying to obtain more dire information about the Dies Committee while working for it, no information definitively indicates he was working as a double agent. The FBI reported on his activities in Harlan in 1936 but the files indicate Mr. Weisberg was not being studied until the investigation in March 1940.

Mr. Ogilvie said Mr. Weisberg knew about bribery and misconduct among committee officials.

"He found corruption within the Dies Committee," he said, adding that Mr. Weisberg was brought before a grand jury and made a scapegoat for his work. "They knew they were being subject to scrutiny they couldn't afford."

Mr. McKnight was also aware of these events, and said Lillian, Mr. Weisberg's wife and a worker in the U.S. agricultural department, alerted her husband to the coming problem when she saw his name in a memo.

"(His work in Harlan) got the attention of the Dies Committee," Mr. McKnight said. "(Mr.) Dies would not have any problem with union leaders being blown up in their homes."

In one of the 1993 interviews with Ms. Derr, Mr. Weisberg alluded to a confrontation with the Dies Committee.

"They framed me. It was a hell of a fight," he said. "I won...I took the grand jury away from the United States Attorney and I got the Dies agent indicted on two felony charges. That was an experience like you can't imagine."

Following Mr. Weisberg's strange role with the Dies Committee, the FBI files indicate he worked for two magazines, Click and Friday as its Washington, D.C. correspondent. While with Friday, Mr. Weisberg wrote an article critical of Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle, Jr., in 1940.

Mr. Weisberg told Ms. Derr that much of his reporting work centered on uncovering the business of Nazi cartels. The FBI took notice, mentioning his 1941 Click article about a Czech shoe manufacturer entitled "Hitler's Foot Soldier."

The FBI also notes, "one Harold Weisberg was connected with the offices of Congressman Vito Marcantonio," a politician noted for his radical leftist politics. The FBI's summary states "it is not known if this individual is identical with the subject of this memorandum."

Mr. Weisberg did have contact with the congressman, according to those who knew him.

"They were good social friends," Mr. McKnight said. "That's all (Mr.) Hoover would need to know."

From Dec. 18, 1942 to Nov. 17, 1944, Mr. Weisberg served in the U.S. Army. He did not see combat because he came down with mumps.

But very little of this information surfaces on FBI memos actually dated for this time period. It is not until Mr. Weisberg is again fired from a government agency, this time the State Department, for being an alleged communist, that the FBI begins its prolonged interest in his activities.

Postwar Paranoia

"The United States was trying, in the postwar decade, to create a national consensus -- excluding the radicals, who could not support a foreign policy aimed at suppressing revolution -- of conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, around the policies of cold war and anti-Communism," writes historian Howard Zinn in "A People's History of the United States."

One of the marked results of the worries over domestic subversion was the FBI's move toward investigations of political ideology, particularly among government workers. Immunity for government employees did not exist on any level, and Mr. Weisberg was caught up in the purges of suspected communists in government positions.

In a recent interview with The Frederick News-Post, Mr. DeLoach said the FBI's inquiries into the Communist Party were necessary. Once the priorities of the FBI shifted from working on crime to intelligence gathering and espionage during World War II, investigating communists was a natural part of the FBI's missions, he said.

"The Communist Party, today, people think, is a futile organization," he said. "The Soviets viewed it as an excellent propaganda and espionage tool."

As an example, Mr. DeLoach pointed to the FBI's "Solo Case," which detailed the attempts of Soviet officials to buy influence in America's Communist Party for millions of dollars.

Mr. DeLoach emphasized every case on suspected communists was opened for good reasons, and the variety of FBI informants were of good quality.

"Our purpose was to investigate and report to the attorney general and the president of the United States. We didn't decide the principals," he said. "In order to protect the best interests of the United States, it was absolutely necessary to investigate communism."

On March 24, 1947, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order No. 9835, establishing the Federal Employees Loyalty and Security Program.

In "Truman," historian David McCullough details how the president was pressured into this decision by the elections of 1946, in which Republicans had successfully campaigned on a platform of sniffing out communists. Mr. Truman hoped an executive initiative could blunt the overzealous factions in government.

"Importantly, he wanted no accusations of administration softness on communism at home just as he was calling for a new hard approach to communism abroad," Mr. McCullough wrote.

Under the program, 212 government employees were fired. Harold Weisberg was one of them.

Anti-Government or Anti-Semitic?

Beginning in March 1946, Mr. Weisberg, despite being an alleged political dissident and leaker to subversive literature, was hired by the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency.

According to the FBI, he worked in the research and analysis branch for the Latin American division.

Mr. McKnight said a difference in security culture between then and now, as well as the lack of truth to Mr. Weisberg's communist leanings, were probably the reasons a suspected communist was able to receive a job dealing with highly sensitive information.

"I don't think people were as wrapped up in security as they are today," he said. "I think if he were a stand-up card-carrying member he wouldn't have gotten into security matters."

But it did not take long for the federal government to become suspicious of Mr. Weisberg.

On Nov. 26, 1946, months before Mr. Truman's loyalty program started, the State Department began its own inquiry into Mr. Weisberg, running a neighborhood investigation, reference checks, and, most tellingly, a review of the Dies Committee reports and Committee on Un-American Activities information.

Soon afterward, the State Department brought in the FBI, and although a Dec. 5, 1946, "spot check" of Mr. Weisberg came up with no information, 15 days later the FBI said he was a friend and contact for people under investigation in the Nathan Gregory Silvermaster case.

The Silvermaster, or "Gregory" case, was an investigation into a Soviet spy ring in the Department of Treasury. The FBI does not give any further elaboration regarding Mr. Weisberg's association with the Silvermaster case, despite repeating the claim in multiple FBI memos.

After a seven-month investigation, Mr. Weisberg and nine other employees were dismissed on June 23, 1947, under the McCarran Rider, which authorized the Secretary of State to terminate any employee when it would be in the best interests of the United States.

Mr. Weisberg's communist sympathies are only definitively described in FBI documents following his dismissal from the State Department, and allegations against him continually expand as he becomes a high-profile critic of the FBI in the 1960s.

It cannot be answered why Mr. Weisberg's communist sympathies were not detailed earlier, and the knowledge gap lends credibility to any claims the FBI only set about looking for its evidence after it had decided the conclusion.

Both Mr. Ogilvie and David Wrone, history professor emeritus from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a friend of Mr. Weisberg's, believe anti-Semitism had more to do with his firing from the State Department than communism.

"(The employees) were Jews...it was an anti-Semitic thing," Mr. Wrone said. "Harold Weisberg was not a communist by any means. It was a political maneuver, so they tried to make them look like communists."

Because of his politics and dealings with labor, Mr. Weisberg inevitably knew communists, Mr. McKnight said, but there is a difference between those interactions and collusion.

"I don't doubt that Harold socialized (with communists), but he was never a card-carrying member," he said. "But it didn't matter in those days."

After a legal battle, Mr. Weisberg and his dismissed colleagues were allowed to resign from the State Department without any record against them in November 1947.

Mr. Weisberg's file contains a letter from his attorneys, several of whom played large parts in Mr. Roosevelt's administration and the New Deal -- Thurman Arnold, Abe Fortas, Paul A. Porter and Milton V. Freeman. The letter thanks Mr. Weisberg for a gift he sent.

"You know it was a pleasure to be of service to you and your own calmness and dignity under the most adverse circumstances were in no small measure responsible for your ultimate vindication," the letter states.

But in the FBI files, Mr. Weisberg was anything but vindicated.

ONE MAN VS. ONE GOVERNMENT (Part 2 of 2)

By Liam Farrell

News-Post Staff

Among Harold Weisberg's voluminous files, the late, self-made historian had written a small note, possibly meant only for his eyes.

It is a poem, a brief rumination on the power of confusion. It contains a reference to an excerpt in the Bible, Isaiah 59 : 9

"So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us," the Bible passage reads. "We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows."

Such sentiment is indelible to Mr. Weisberg, who spent the bulk of his lifetime searching for answers to what he considered the darkest and most troubling events in American history.

Mr. Weisberg, who died in 2002 at the age of 88 at his Frederick County home, is known for a tumultuous career investigating assassinations and self-publishing controversial books asserting government wrongdoing and cover-ups.

His eight books, notably "Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report," "Whitewash II: The FBI-Secret Service Cover-up," and "Post-mortem: JFK Assassination Cover-up Smashed!," primarily focused on the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination, and Mr. Weisberg tried to use the government's own documents against it.

He asserted the FBI and Warren Commission inquires into JFK's assassination were faulty, ignoring, discarding, or obscuring evidence, and were preconceived to conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

Mr. Weisberg worked extensively in getting the government to release documents on the JFK assassination and others, such as the shooting death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In an interview with Joy Derr of Hood College in 1993, he estimated he had been involved in 13 separate lawsuits to obtain information, most of which he managed to get released.

In all, he donated the more than 300,000 government documents he collected in filing cabinets in his basement to Hood College.

"(My work) is selfish. It's selfish," Mr. Weisberg told Ms. Derr. "Here I was, the first member of my family ever born into freedom and when I was old enough to realize it, I felt that I had an obligation to meet.

"What are (poet Robert) Frost's words? 'Promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep'? It gave me an opportunity to repay that obligation. And it means much to me, so much to me that although I have sleep problems I never have trouble falling asleep."

Mr. Weisberg's FBI file was obtained by The Frederick News-Post through the Freedom of Information Act.

The FBI, which had investigated Mr. Weisberg since the late 1930s and escalated its efforts after he was dismissed from the State Department for allegedly being a communist, had not stopped watching him after he left public employment in 1947.

In fact, the legacy of dissidence he created during his government career, from 1936 with the LaFollette Civil Liberties Commission to 1947 when he was fired from the State Department, would haunt him as he worked to investigate the JFK assassination and other historic events.

Counting chickens

Mr. Weisberg's reappearance in FBI files was not planned. The roughly 16 years between his dismissal from the State Department's Office of Strategic Services for alleged communist sympathies and the assassination of Mr. Kennedy were focused mainly on chicken farming.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Weisberg made headlines in Frederick newspapers because of the work on his Coq d'Or Farm in Hyattstown, where he and his wife, Lillian, raised an assortment of poultry and founded the "Geese for Peace" program, which donated ducklings and geese to St. Lucia and Liberia for the Peace Corps and subsistence farming programs.

Mr. Weisberg was also an award-winning cook, claiming the National Barbecue King title in 1959. His wife was also a star in that field, winning many contests, including being named the 1956 National Chicken Cooking Champion.

According to the interview with Ms. Derr, on Nov. 22, 1963, Mr. Weisberg was in the henhouse gathering eggs when the transistor radio on his waist broadcast the news that Mr. Kennedy had been shot.

"I stayed glued to the television as much as I could," he said. "None of the things that happened should have happened."

Lee Harvey Oswald was killed the following day and about two weeks later Mr. Weisberg filed a lead and summary for a proposed book to his agent, convinced from the suspicious train of events in Dallas that Oswald could not have been the true assassin.

The reply was not what he expected.

"She said 'I can't possibly handle this because nobody in New York will consider anything other than what the government is saying'," Mr. Weisberg told Ms. Derr. "She was so right you can't imagine how right. I couldn't get another agent."

Fighting the power

Mr. Weisberg's overt conflicts with the government began again in 1961, when Mr. Weisberg and his wife filed a federal torts suit against the government for $9,950 in damages caused by low-flying helicopters they claimed were ruining their poultry farm. The Weisbergs were awarded $750, but the most serious damage the FBI did to Mr. Weisberg had nothing to do with farming.

During the 1950s the FBI had been building its case that Mr. Weisberg was a communist. A memo from the special agent in charge in the Washington Field Office to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on Jan. 1, 1955, implicates Mr. Weisberg in the Harry Dexter White espionage case, which was related to the investigation of the Treasury Department spy ring and Nathan Gregory Silvermaster.

The memo concerns a suspect in the White case whose name was blacked out by the FBI. A telephone directory seized from this person's home by Washington Metro Police in 1948 contained Mr. Weisberg's name, according to the FBI file.

No information is provided to explain Mr. Weisberg's connection to either investigation. The events relating to the espionage cases occurred seven years prior to the memo, and no other documents in the FBI file contain this information.

While the telephone directory did not become part of the FBI's official canon of communism on Mr. Weisberg, other tenuous information did.

The FBI states Mr. Weisberg inquired in Sept. 1959 about how Soviets would react to his chickens competing against Russian poultry. Despite the time frame of this information and some ambiguous references in earlier memos, the alleged communist activities of Mr. Weisberg on his farm are only published in definitive form in memos dating from the mid-1960s and later.

This demonstrates the significant increase in the amount of correspondence detailing Mr. Weisberg's life after the release of his first two books -- in 1965 and 1966.

In a summary of Mr. Weisberg's history from Nov. 8, 1966, new information is inserted, stating the farmer held celebrations of the Russian Revolution with an annual picnic "attended by 25 or 30 people." No informant or source of the new information is cited.

David Wrone, professor emeritus of history from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a friend of Mr. Weisberg's, said the idea of Mr. Weisberg holding celebrations of the Russian Revolution is absurd.

He said Mr. Weisberg would invite a local rabbi and Jewish children to his farm, letting them play with his animals in celebration of the Jewish new year.

"They were observing a Jewish ritual," Mr. Wrone said. "That was in September. The Russian Revolution was in the last part of October."

Mr. Weisberg got the files the FBI had on him, Mr. Wrone said, and he was extremely troubled by this information.

"It so enraged Harold when he got these documents," he said. "Why would someone do this?"

The farmer knew the FBI was watching him, Mr. Wrone said, as Mr. Weisberg could often pick out "men in dark suits" during public appearances to talk about his books and he kept a log of the suspicious phone calls he received in the middle of the night.

The first major criticism of Mr. Weisberg's work, and not his alleged political beliefs, occurs after the printing of his first book, "Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report," which contended both the FBI and Warren Commission engaged in egregious failures of evidentiary investigation to reach a preconceived conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

In a June 6, 1966 memo from FBI assistant director Alex Rosen to Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, an assistant to Mr. Hoover and the No. 3 man in the FBI, Mr. Weisberg is attacked for what the FBI considers his book's failures.

"Due to the inaccuracies, falsehoods and deliberate slanting of facts to fit his own purpose, coupled with Weisberg's subversive background...it is not felt the Bureau should add dignity or credibility to him by acknowledging his communication," Mr. Rosen writes.

Mr. Rosen did not stray from personal attacks in the memo.

"He also said that there are nervous people and neurotics inevitably (sic) there are those who have axes to grind -- hatreds or dislikes to be indulged, and political objectives to be attained," Mr. Rosen wrote. "From these comments it would appear Weisberg is adequately describing himself."

This memo also offers a paragraph of background information that is included in virtually all correspondence about Mr. Weisberg's publications and attempts to get government documents.

"Following a review of this book it was determined it is nothing more than a vitriolic and diabolical criticism of the President's Commission and the FBI relating to the assassination of President Kennedy," the memo states.

Credibility and character

Mr. DeLoach, who worked extensively with the media and the release of information during the JFK investigation, was confident the FBI, the Warren Commission and others involved in the JFK assassination reached the right conclusion.

"Many authors try to sell a book and get a fast buck," he said in a recent interview with The Frederick News-Post. "The fact remains that Lee Harvey Oswald and Lee Harvey Oswald alone assassinated John F. Kennedy."

Although he did not remember Mr. Weisberg well, Mr. DeLoach said he read his work on the Martin Luther King, Jr., assassination, which was of primary concern because he headed the FBI's investigation.

He said Mr. Weisberg's work contained "many fallacies."

"We always looked at criticism to determine whether they were valid or not," Mr. DeLoach said. "We never investigated the authors (of critical books) just to investigate them."

In addition, Mr. DeLoach said the FBI worked as efficiently as possible giving out information to the public, but the FBI has responsibilities to its sources and the sensitivity of its files.

"We tried the best we could to give out any information," he said. "I have many good friends in the press. I've always worked with the press and trusted them."

Although the FBI goes to great lengths detailing its disagreements with Mr. Weisberg's findings and his statements during radio and television appearances, the agency also criticized his character and used his background as a reason not to give him information.

Here are some examples:

"All in all, the interview with Weisberg was a rehash of the many unfounded allegations which have been made concerning the assassination and merely another effort on the part of a writer to exploit the assassination for his own financial gain." - Milton A. Jones, chief of FBI crime records to Robert E. Wick, Mr. DeLoach's deputy, Sept. 13, 1966.

"In view of Weisberg's suspected Communist background, it was recommended...that the FBI could not be of assistance to Weisberg in this matter." - memo from R.H. Jevons, FBI assistant, to Ivan W. Conrad, assistant chief of FBI Bureau Lab, Nov. 8, 1966.

"In view of Weisberg's background and his baseless allegations toward Bureau Agents, it is not felt his letter of March 24th or any subsequent correspondence should be acknowledged as it will only encourage further letters from him." -- memo from G.E. Malmfeldt, an agent of the FBI, to Thomas E. Bishop, assistant FBI director, April 1, 1969.

"It is unfortunate that the change in administration has not and apparently will not make you certain that the element of politics played no role in the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy or the formulation of the guidelines for release to the public of information on the matter in Government files." - letter from Will Wilson, assistant attorney general criminal division, to Mr. Weisberg, April 8, 1969.

Some of these quotes are contradictory in noting how Mr. Weisberg's communist background precludes agency cooperation while publicly telling him politics are not a factor.

In a memo from Mr. Hoover to an assistant attorney general, dated Oct. 28, 1970, the director sets forth a policy based on Mr. Weisberg's background.

"In view of Weisberg's character, he should not be given the information he requests, and there is legal ground for our position," the memo states.

In denying Mr. Weisberg's requests for information, the FBI had offered any one of three reasons: Mr. Weisberg was incorrect, the FBI did not have the information he was looking for and his requests were not legitimate because he had a history of communist activity.

The timing of the FBI's allegations, and the testimony of friends that its information about Mr. Weisberg is baseless, can easily lead to the question of what the bureau's real motives were.

Mr. Weisberg suspected the FBI was trying to obstruct him, commenting in a Frederick News-Post article on July 31, 1980, "The truth is (the FBI is) out to get me...they're out to stop me."

Even years before, when he was working as an investigator for James Earl Ray, accused of killing Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. Weisberg wrote a letter to Attorney General John Mitchell on March 12, 1969, accusing the FBI of spreading false information about him.

"I have been informed that teams of FBI agents are going around telling people, some of whom I have never met, that I am a dangerous person, in some unspecified way under 'Communist' influence," the letter states.

In spite of what the FBI file contains, the people who knew Mr. Weisberg are adamant that he was not a communist.

Mr. Wrone said the author spent his life trying to improve America's institutions, not bring them down.

"He thought this was the greatest country that ever lived," he said. "Sometimes people call that patriotism."

Gerald McKnight, professor emeritus at Hood College and a friend of Mr. Weisberg's for 30 years, said the farmer's personality could be overwhelming and confrontational, and although such an attitude harmed their friendship it was necessary to the work he did.

"There was a real authentic loyalty to the United States. He was determined to fight this tooth and nail," Mr. McKnight said. "He had a cathedral-like ego. One had to put up with that because it took someone like that."

Mr. McKnight said Mr. Weisberg's accomplishments, regardless of his personality, deserve respect.

"He was dictatorial, a control freak," he said. "On the other hand I have to honor him because he was a remarkable man. Every day of his life he worked on this topic."

Listening to Mr. Weisberg's own statements, he is candid about what he tried to accomplish.

"If you want your country to be what it's supposed to be, no matter how many times you don't succeed, you keep on trying," Mr. Weisberg told Ms. Derr. "If you want to accept what happened and pretend it didn't happen, you have a right to do it. But I don't want a country that lies to the people.

"I don't want a country in which a president can be gunned down in broad daylight on the streets of an American city and consigned to history with the dubious epitaph of a whitewashed investigation.

"I don't want a country in which federal agents can lie with impunity, including under oath, and only be promoted for it, in which the courts don't work the way they're supposed to work, in which the Congress doesn't and the media don't.

"And I don't think it's going to change right away. I have reason to believe it will but I know that if you don't try you can't succeed."....

****************************************************

Harold Weisberg Died Feb. 21, 2002

Mr. Harold Weisberg, 88, of Frederick, renowned authority and author on the

assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died

Thursday, Feb. 21, at his home in Frederick. He was the husband of Lillian Stone

Weisberg.

Born on April 8, 1913, in Philadelphia, he was a son of the late Frederick and

Sarah Spiegle Weisberg.

Mr. Weisberg was educated in public schools in Philadelphia and Wilmington,

Del. He attended the University of Delaware, and was later conferred with a

degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, from Hood College in 1993.

Mr. Weisberg was author of seven books that revealed many government

inaccuracies in the assassination of the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

and the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hundreds of thousands of pages, papers

and information obtained directly through various government agencies, and which

formed the basis for his writings and conclusions, were given to Hood College in

Frederick.

Mr. Weisberg worked in journalism with the Wilmington Morning News and later

the Philadelphia Ledger. He also worked as a Senate Committee Investigator, and

served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

He and his wife lived in Hyattstown prior to moving to Frederick County, where

they raised poultry on the Coq d'Or Farm. Mr. Weisberg was a renowned gourmet

cook, and he and Mrs. Weisberg won many honors throughout the Delmarva region

and nationally. Mr. Weisberg was named national barbecue king in 1959.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two sisters, Gloria Packer and husband

Marvin of Philadelphia, and Alma Handelman of Delaware; and a number of nieces

and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his step-father, Harry Kety.

He will be remembered by his many associates, followers and historians, with

whom he enjoyed spending time at his home, and sharing information and stories.

Funeral services were held Monday, Feb. 25, at Etchison Memorial Chapel of

Keeney and Basford Funeral Home, 106 E. Church St., Frederick. The Rev. Dr. W.

Phillip Fogarty officiated.

Interment will be in Resthaven Memorial Gardens, Frederick.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to Hood College,

Harold Weisberg Archives, c/o Jan Samet, 401 Rosemont Ave., Frederick, MD 21701.

*********************

B........

Edited by Bernice Moore
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  • 11 years later...
On 7/13/2020 at 5:19 PM, B. A. Copeland said:

@Rob Clark as guest host on Midnight Writer News show by S.T Patrick:

MWN Episode 145 – Rob Clark on The Fan & Harold Weisberg

 

B.A.,

I look forward to listening to the interview later tonight.

Meanwhile, I can attest personally that Mr. Weisberg did indeed realize at a very early date the significance of both the “False Oswald” and of the “ False false Oswald.”

He was seeking witnesses to the “Second Oswald” in the Marine Corps by 1967. 
 

Further, he confided to me that the key was to figure out exactly who controlled the autopsy - that was a path to the conspirators.

During that phone conversation, he mentioned he suspected his phone was tapped ( this was in 1999 or 2000.) As soon as he said “Admiral Kenney” (USN Surgeon General in 1963), a loud audible hum started on our phones.

He believed certain names triggered an automatic recording system.

For all I know, he may have been right.

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On 7/15/2020 at 10:56 AM, Paul Jolliffe said:

B.A.,

I look forward to listening to the interview later tonight.

Meanwhile, I can attest personally that Mr. Weisberg did indeed realize at a very early date the significance of both the “False Oswald” and of the “ False false Oswald.”

He was seeking witnesses to the “Second Oswald” in the Marine Corps by 1967. 
 

Further, he confided to me that the key was to figure out exactly who controlled the autopsy - that was a path to the conspirators.

During that phone conversation, he mentioned he suspected his phone was tapped ( this was in 1999 or 2000.) As soon as he said “Admiral Kenney” (USN Surgeon General in 1963), a loud audible hum started on our phones.

He believed certain names triggered an automatic recording system.

For all I know, he may have been right.

Thanks for your input Paul. I mean that sounds fascinating as hell honestly....I swear I suspect Admiral Galloway as well....I don't think I've ever heard of Kinney being connected to the murder in any way but I'm always willing to learn, you have to in a case of this nature. Thanks again.

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