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John F. Kennedy and Soviet spy Michael Straight

John Simkin

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In 1963 President Kennedy appointed Michael Straight to the post of the chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Arts. It was a brave appointment as Straight had been editor of the New Republic in the late 1940s and had written a powerful book about McCarthyism, Trial By Television. This made him a target of right-wing forces and he was attacked for his liberalism and accused of being pro-communist.

In fact, Straight had been a Soviet spy in the 1930s. Aware that he would be vetted - and his background investigated - he approached Arthur Schlesinger, one of Kennedy's advisers, and told him that Anthony Blunt had recruited him as a spy while an undergraduate at Trinity College. Schlesinger suggested that he told his story to the FBI.

Straight's information was passed on to MI5 and Arthur Martin, the principal molehunter, went to America to interview him. Straight confirmed the story, and agreed to testify in a British court if necessary. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued that Straight's information was "the decisive breakthrough in MI5's investigation of Anthony Blunt".

Peter Wright, who took part in the meetings about Anthony Blunt case, argues in his book, Spycatcher (1987) that Roger Hollis, the Director General of MI5, decided to give Blunt immunity from prosecution because of his hostility towards the Labour Party and the damage it would do to the Conservative Party: "Hollis and many of his senior staff were acutely aware of the damage any public revelation of Blunt's activities might do themselves, to MI5, and to the incumbent Conservative Government. Harold Macmillan had finally resigned after a succession of security scandals, culminating in the Profumo affair. Hollis made little secret of his hostility to the Labour Party, then riding high in public opinion, and realized only too well that a scandal on the scale that would be provoked by Blunt's prosecution would surely bring the tottering Government down."

Blunt was interviewed by Arthur Martin at the Courtauld Institute on 23rd April 1964. Martin later wrote that when he mentioned Straight's name he "noticed that by this time Blunt's right cheek was twitching a good deal". Martin offered Blunt "an absolute assurance that no action would be taken against him if he now told the truth". Martin recalled: "He went out of the room, got himself a drink, came back and stood at the tall window looking out on Portman Square. I gave him several minutes of silence and then appealed to him to get it off his chest. He came back to his chair and confessed." He admitted being a Soviet agent and named twelve other associates as spies including Straight, John Cairncross, Leo Long, Peter Ashby and Brian Symon.

MI5 then falsely reported to the CIA that Blunt had only spied during the Second World War and that he was not part of the Philby group that was involved in post-war spying.

The truth about Blunt, who was never prosecuted, did not become public until 1979 when a Labour Party MP received information about Blunt. Margaret Thatcher told the Commons that the information that had led to Straight's confession was not "usable as evidence on which to base a prosecution". This was also untrue as they also had Blunt's confession.


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There are a number of connections between these incidents and the assassination, including the fact that Ian Fleming, European editor of the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), was associated with Michael Straight through his brother, and was also betrayed by Philby and the Cambridge spy ring.

A more direct connection to the assassination is the fact that the Julio Fernandez investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI as a suspicious person in the assassination, was a journalist in Cuba and had a son, Julio Fernandez, Jr., who attended a conference of exiled Cuban journalists at the University of Miami (JMWAVE) in the summer of '63. Julio Fernandez, Jr. was also an art student at Penn State University when Sir Anthony Blunt visited there as part of a visiting scholars program.

I wonder why those who claim that Castro or the Soviets killed JFK don't use this fact in support of their thesis?


JFKcountercoup: JFK, Michael Straight, Ian Fleming & Kim Philby

JFKcountercoup: 007, LHO & JFK

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