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H. R. Haldeman and the Assassination of JFK

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Two extracts from H. R. Haldeman's, The Ends of Power (1978):


I was puzzled when he (Nixon) told me, "Tell Ehrlichman this whole group of Cubans is tied to the Bay, of Pigs."

After a pause I said, "The Bay of Pigs? What does that have to do with this?"

But Nixon merely said, "Ehrlichman will know what I mean," and dropped the subject.

After our staff meeting the next morning I accompanied Ehrlichman to his office and gave him the President's message. Ehrlichman's eyebrows arched, and he smiled. "Our brothers from Langley? He's suggesting I twist or break a few arms?"

'I don't know. All he told me was "Tell Ehrlichman this whole group of Cubans is tied to the Bay of Pigs".'

Ehrlichman leaned back in his chair, tapping a pencil on the edge of his desk. "All right," he said, "message accepted."

"What are you going to do about it?"

"Zero," said Ehrlichman. "I want to stay out of this one."

He was referring to an unspoken feud between C.I.A. Director Richard Helms and Nixon.. The two were polar opposites in background: Helms, the aloof, aristocratic, Eastern elitist; Nixon the poor boy (he never let you forget it) from a small California town. Ehrlichman had found, himself in the middle of this feud as far back as 1969, immediately after Nixon assumed office. Nixon had called Ehrlichman into his office and said he wanted all the facts and documents the CIA had on the Bay of Pigs, a complete report on the whole project.

About six months after that 1969 conversation, Ehrlichman had stopped in my office. "Those bastards in Langley are holding back something. They just dig in their heels and say the President can't have it. Period. Imagine that! The Commander-in-Chief wants to see a document relating to a military operation, and the spooks say he can't have it."

"What is it?"

"I don't know, but from the way they're protecting it, it must be pure dynamite."

I was angry at the idea that Helms would tell the President he couldn't see something. I said, "Well, you remind Helms who's President. He's not. In fact, Helms can damn well find himself out of a job in a hurry."

That's what I thought! Helms was never fired, at least for four years. But then Ehrlichman had said, "Rest assured. The point will be made. In fact, Helms is on his way over here right now. The President is going to give him a direct order to turn over that document to me."

Helms did show up that afternoon and saw the President for a long secret conversation. When Helms left, Ehrlichman returned to the Oval Office. The next thing I knew Ehrlichman appeared in my office, dropped into a chair, and just stared at me. He was more furious than I had ever seen him; absolutely speechless, a rare phenomenon for our White House phrase-makers. I said, "What happened?"

"This is what happened," Ehrlichman said. "The Mad Monk (Nixon) has just told me I am now to forget all about that CIA document. In fact, I am to cease and desist from trying to obtain it."

When Senator Howard Baker of the Evrin Committee later looked into the Nixon-Helms relationship, he summed it up. "Nixon and Helms have so much on each other, neither of them can breathe."

Apparently Nixon knew more about the genesis of the Cuban invasion that led to the Bay of Pigs than almost anyone. Recently, the man who was President of Costa Rica at the time - dealing with Nixon while the invasion was being prepared - stated that Nixon was the man who originated the Cuban invasion. If this was true, Nixon never told it to me.

In 1972 I did know that Nixon disliked the CIA Allen Dulles, the CIA Director in 1960, had briefed Jack Kennedy about the forthcoming Cuban invasion before a Kennedy-Nixon debate. Kennedy used this top secret information in the debate, thereby placing Nixon on the spot. Nixon felt he had to lie and even deny such an invasion was in the works to protect the men who were training in secret. Dulles later denied briefing Kennedy. This betrayal, added to Nixon's long-held feeling that the agency was not adequately competent, led to his distrust and dislike.

And now that antipathy was to emerge again on June 23, 1972, when Nixon would once again confront and pressure the CIA.

This time the CIA was ready. In fact, it was more than ready. It was ahead of the game by months. Nixon would walk into what I now believe was a trap.


Years later, former C.B.S. correspondent Dan Schorr called me. He was seeking information concerning the F.B.I. investigation Nixon had mounted against him in August, 1971.

Schorr later sent me his fascinating book Clearing the Air. In it I was interested to find that evidence he had gleaned while investigating the C.I.A. finally cleared up for me the mystery of the Bay of Pigs connection in those dealings between Nixon and Helms. "It's intriguing when I put Schorr's facts together with mine. It seems that in all of those Nixon references to the Bay of Pigs, he was actually referring to the Kennedy assassination."

(Interestingly, an investigation of the Kennedy assassination was a project I suggested when I first entered the White House. I had always been intrigued with the conflicting theories of the assassination. Now I felt we would be in a position to get all the facts. But Nixon turned me down.

According to Schorr, as an outgrowth of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA made several attempts on Fidel Castro's life. The Deputy Director of Plans at the CIA at the time was a man named Richard Helms.

Unfortunately, Castro knew of the assassination attempts all the time. On September 7, 1963, a few months before John Kennedy was assassinated, Castro made a speech in which he was quoted, 'Let Kennedy and his brother Robert take care of themselves, since they, too, can be the victims of an attempt which will cause their death.'

After Kennedy was killed, the CIA launched a fantastic cover-up. Many of the facts about Oswald unavoidably pointed to a Cuban connection.

1. Oswald had been arrested in New Orleans in August, 1963, while distributing pro-Castro pamphlets.

2. On a New Orleans radio programme he extolled Cuba and defended Castro.

3. Less than two months before the assassination Oswald visited the Cuban consulate in Mexico City and tried to obtain a visa.

In a chilling parallel to their cover-up at Watergate, the CIA literally erased any connection between. Kennedy's assassination and the CIA. No mention of the Castro assassination attempt was made to the Warren Commission by CIA representatives. In fact, Counter-intelligence Chief James Angleton of the CIA called Bill Sullivan of the FBI and rehearsed the questions and answers they would give to the Warren Commission investigators, such as these samples:

Q. Was Oswald an agent of the C.I.A.

A. No.

Q. Does the CIA have any evidence showing that a conspiracy existed to assassinate Kennedy?

A. No.

And here's what I find most interesting: Bill Sullivan, the FBI man that the CIA called at the time, was Nixon's highest-ranking loyal friend at the FBI (in the Watergate crisis, he would risk J. Edgar Hoover's anger by taking the 1969 FBI wiretap transcripts ordered by Nixon and delivering them to, Robert Mardian, a Mitchell crony, for safekeeping).

It's possible that Nixon learned from Sullivan something about the earlier CIA cover-up by Helms. And when Nixon said, 'It's likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs' he might have been reminding Helms, not so gently, of the cover-up of the CIA assassination attempts on the hero of the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro - a CIA operation that may have triggered the Kennedy tragedy and which Helms desperately wanted to hide.


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