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Very possibly Cliff, as long as we understand street smarts are handy for investigators but in the end even they have to come up with some facts that will convince a DA to take a case to court. At this point all I'm trying to do is present the range of what is known about the subject....everybody is free to apply their own smarts and take themselves where they want to go. I've already written two books about where I think it all goes so I've no need to keep repeating my own theory (street smart or not).

And to be clear, I'm not at all suggesting anybody should walk away from the subject, I'm spending time on it and will continue to do so. I'm just trying to get straight what we do know from multiple sources and what parts of it can be corroborated. If I were trying to walk away from it I would certainly not be investing time here, working with Bill and even holding a roundtable on it at this weeks conference. In no way am I trying to stifle it, actually just the opposite.

Edited by Larry Hancock
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Very possibly Cliff, as long as we understand street smarts are handy for investigators but in the end even they have to come up with some facts that will convince a DA to take a case to court.

That was never going to happen. Not in this case. Not ever. I'm applying a different standard, admittedly.

Harriman and Bundy are long dead.

Harriman's private army -- attached to US Army Special Operations Division involving people with both military and CIA background (according to William Corson) -- dead as well.

Who gets more attention as a top perp -- Allen Dulles or Averell Harriman?

Dulles, it's not even close. One more example of mis-direction...

At this point all I'm trying to do is present the range of what is known about the subject....everybody is free to apply their own smarts and take themselves where they want to go. I've already written two books about where I think it all goes so I've no need to keep repeating my own theory (street smart or not).

And to be clear, I'm not at all suggesting anybody should walk away from the subject, I'm spending time on it and will continue to do so. I'm just trying to get straight what we do know from multiple sources and what parts of it can be corroborated. If I were trying to walk away from it I would certainly not be investing time here, working with Bill and even holding a roundtable on it at this weeks conference.

We have a different definition of what "it" is. I'm referring to a focus on Harriman/Bundy/Ball, not the subject of the AF1 tapes in general.

One way of wandering away from the proper study of these Persons of Interest is to make a rabbit hole out of the subject, one more opaque detail.

Under-scoring Bundy's highly probable role is appropriate, imo.

In no way am I trying to stifle it, actually just the opposite.

Fair enough. Do you feel there is sufficient corroboration to say that someone informed both AF1 and the Cabinet Plane the lone assassin was in custody?

Edited by Cliff Varnell
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We know that the Cabinet plane was receiving the wire service feed and reading it, that is mentioned on the tape. We also know they asked the Situation Room to also repeat information to them and there are several early instances of the Situation Room literally reading information off the services or repeating it off TV to them. Most of that is earlier in the afternoon and I have seen no mention of Oswald's capture in that but perhaps I missed it. It seems safe to say the Cabinet plane did get the wire service reports of a suspect's capture and of Oswald being named and his Russian connection. But we also know that the wire services carried conflicting information....Manchester specifically talks about the the specific wire service story about the President being shot from the front of the limo. It might be an interesting research story to see how many wire service/broadcast TV items suggested multiple shooters or indications of conspiracy. Certainly there were reports of multiple weapons recovered.

Beyond that we know from Manchester that the people on AF I were watching broadcast TV and heard of the suspect's arrest, Oswald, etc. Again if would be interesting if any of the wire service or broadcasts referred to a lone assassin or single assassin and how early that happened.

What we don't know for certain is who Johnson might have talked to from the plane about a conspiracy (Bundy or others such as perhaps Hoover), whether he did it on an open circuit and that has been erased from the tape or whether he did it on a secure circuit that would not be recorded - and everybody lied about no such circuits existing.

So for starters we know people on both aircraft did hear about the arrest and about Oswald being in custody. We also know, anecdotally, that Johnson continued to talk about Russian involvement that afternoon and privately about conspiracy for the next several days and even longer. We know that Hoover pitched indications of conspiracy to him Saturday morning, also told him they had a very weak case against Oswald on both Saturday morning to Johnson's aide Jenkins on Sunday morning.

I have no definite opinion on who started the "lone nut" , no conspiracy, Oswald alone pitch - but it appears certain, based on calls to Dallas from DC and the rewrite of the charges against Oswald, that it was in play from Johnson and his people by Friday night.

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We know that the Cabinet plane was receiving the wire service feed and reading it, that is mentioned on the tape. We also know they asked the Situation Room to also repeat information to them and there are several early instances of the Situation Room literally reading information off the services or repeating it off TV to them. Most of that is earlier in the afternoon and I have seen no mention of Oswald's capture in that but perhaps I missed it. It seems safe to say the Cabinet plane did get the wire service reports of a suspect's capture and of Oswald being named and his Russian connection. But we also know that the wire services carried conflicting information....Manchester specifically talks about the the specific wire service story about the President being shot from the front of the limo. It might be an interesting research story to see how many wire service/broadcast TV items suggested multiple shooters or indications of conspiracy. Certainly there were reports of multiple weapons recovered.

Beyond that we know from Manchester that the people on AF I were watching broadcast TV and heard of the suspect's arrest, Oswald, etc. Again if would be interesting if any of the wire service or broadcasts referred to a lone assassin or single assassin and how early that happened.

What we don't know for certain is who Johnson might have talked to from the plane about a conspiracy (Bundy or others such as perhaps Hoover), whether he did it on an open circuit and that has been erased from the tape or whether he did it on a secure circuit that would not be recorded - and everybody lied about no such circuits existing.

So for starters we know people on both aircraft did hear about the arrest and about Oswald being in custody. We also know, anecdotally, that Johnson continued to talk about Russian involvement that afternoon and privately about conspiracy for the next several days and even longer. We know that Hoover pitched indications of conspiracy to him Saturday morning, also told him they had a very weak case against Oswald on both Saturday morning to Johnson's aide Jenkins on Sunday morning.

I have no definite opinion on who started the "lone nut" , no conspiracy, Oswald alone pitch - but it appears certain, based on calls to Dallas from DC and the rewrite of the charges against Oswald, that it was in play from Johnson and his people by Friday night.

So the statements of Theodore White, Pierre Salinger, and Charles Roberts are light as feathers?

And thus Bundy-told-LBJ-lone-nut becomes one more opaque detail...

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OK Cliff, lets walk though this again and you can point out what I've missed, its pretty complex so perhaps I did miss something. The following is a link to the Salandria article:

http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=4269&relPageId=12

On White:

The Salandria article linked above quotes White as saying that there was a tape recording of communications to AF 1 and the Cabinet plane. Then it quotes from his book saying that on the flight back people learned there was no conspiracy, of Oswald and his arrest…

It does not state how that happened, it just says people learned. It says nothing specific about a Bundy call to Johnson or vice versa for that matter. There has been speculation that either “people” in general or Johnson specifically got that news from a radio call from Bundy in the situation room, does White specifically state that and say it came from Bundy?

The only other source we have on how people heard such information is from Manchester - who said that only those listening to broadcast TV news heard about the arrest, etc.

On Salinger:

He confirmed there was a transcript of the taped communication with the Cabinet plane…that’s it...he had that but nothing pertaining to communications with Air Force 1

So, both men confirmed that communications was being taped, White stated that people on the plane heard news about the arrest, Oswald etc. Salinger was on the Cabinet plane so of course he had no direct knowledge of communications on Air Force One. The same is true for the other State Dept individual on the Cabinet plane, who separately confirmed that communications had been taped.

On Roberts:

His information is actually the most interesting since he sources it to a personal talk with Bundy….as I mentioned earlier, I’m not blowing him off, I’m just pointing out that none of what we now have in the tapes, Manchester’s writing and Bundy’s notes confirms that information so it remains an open question.

....but then lets take it a step further. There is no argument that people on both planes had access to information coming in over the news wires and in AF 1 to broadcast TV coverage. So anyone following that did learn of Oswald's arrest, of his Russian connections and anything else coming from the media. So it seems what we are talking about is some information provided from Bundy to Johnson which would have assured him there was no concern about the Russians and absolutely nothing suggesting any sort of conspiracy, Oswald was a lone nut and that was all there was to it - no need for anything but to make sure that people didn't jump to the wrong conclusions. Do I understand correctly that is what you would expect us to find in the original tapes or is there more....and I'm not saying it was not on the original tape either.

Edited by Larry Hancock
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Larry Hancock: Johnson's incredible failures to assume his role as Commander in Chief during a National Security crisis are far from unique.

If we're going to look at it in that light - and we should - then, rhetorically at least, Johnson's failure is comparable to Kennedy's in his refusal to contemplate nuclear war with the Soviets over the Bay of Pigs.

Which means that the JCS' attitudes and communication with the President and Cabinet on that Friday, and over the weekend (to reduce the issue to its minimum compass), are important and should be examined.

Was it only Johnson that was reticent to confront the Soviet conspiracy angle? What did the Chiefs contribute? What did they want that weekend? What, if anything, did they recommend to Johnson, McNamara, Bundy, and what did they urge upon them?

Did the Joint Chiefs see failure in Johnson's response, as they did in Kennedy's? Or was the game intended to move on, out of our hemisphere, as the Pentagon Papers imply?

Edited by David Andrews
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David, it was just that question that caused me to spend an extra two years to learn more about the national command protocols, communications practices and ultimately to compare the crisis response of not only the Chiefs but the National Command Authority and major military commands during major security events from 1941 to 2014. Although that was quite a slog, it was certainly was educational and it will all be contained in a new book (tentatively titled Surprise Attack) that should be out in the Fall of 2015. Its another 400 plus page effort on the order of Shadow Warfare so it won't be a light read by any standard.

As you know, I do explore the areas you mentioned in chapter 15 of SWHT - to the extent that the frustratingly lacking military record allows. I've also spent time working with Larry Haapenan who has studied the military response for some 30 years - he did the earliest work on Silver Dollar and the mystery of its communications to a base outside Fort Worth on November 22. I think by now its safe to say that we know what should have happened in terms of communication and command, not only at the National Military Command Center, with Johnson and McNamara, with the Chiefs (although by that point the Chiefs had been moved into a relatively secondary role in strategic command authority, based on JFK's concerns about what had gone down during the Cuban missile crisis). Actually the individual commands had more authority to respond in the event of a true attack on the US than the Chiefs - who were expected to simply pass orders from the National Command Authority i.e. President and SecDef.

One of the reasons that the holes in AF1 communications are so important is that based on the official record nobody did what should have been standard protocol and neither McNamara, the Chiefs, nor Johnson's military aides performed as would have been expected....and there was no subsequent staff study of the failures comparable to the study done on the Secret Service. We can say at this point that the elevation of the Defense Condition alert was relatively slow; but then again no incoming threats were identified and tracked and there were no reports of attacks overseas or at other points that would have been leading indicators of a Soviet preemptive strike. It is also true certain commands and command levels were authorized to independently elevate their readiness beyond the DefCon condition orders - and several did so, including SAC, Commander in Chief Pacific and the Army commander in Germany.

Given that the elimination of the President and Vice President was assumed as basic to a surprise first strike, in retrospect it appears that the Chiefs and especially McNamara were very slow to respond and that communication with Johnson was very lacking. Whether it was better than it seems and has been covered up by tape edits and lies about the lack of security voice circuits is an open question. Whether it reveals an immense personal failure on Johnson's part is another. I will say that for perspective my forth coming book digs into that specific question in regard to all the presidents who have faced national security emergencies.

All of which is a long winded answer to say the subject of your questions has been very much on my mind for some time now.

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It does not state how that happened, it just says people learned. It says nothing specific about a Bundy call to Johnson or vice versa for that matter. There has been speculation that either “people” in general or Johnson specifically got that news from a radio call from Bundy in the situation room, does White specifically state that and say it came from Bundy?

From Vincent Salandria's 1998 COPA speech (emphasis added):

Theodore H. White, in his book The Making of the President, 1964, told us that on the

afternoon of November 22, 1963, the Presidential party on Air Force One "...learned that

there was no conspiracy, learned of the identity of Oswald and his arrest..."

Air Force One had landed at Andrews Air Force Base, at 5:59 P.M. on November 22, 1963.

In correspondence with me, Mr. White stated that this message was sent to the Presidential

party from the Situation Room of the White House. This same message was confirmed by

Pierre Salinger in his book With Kennedy. Mr. Salinger received that same message while on

the Cabinet Plane which was flying over the Pacific Ocean.

Bill Kelly, "What's Missing from AF1 Radio Tapes?" (emphasis added)

http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/2012/03/off-tapes-whats-missing-from-af1-radio.html

The oddest thing about all of this is White, Manchester and Salinger have the highest,

almost impeccable credentials as respected journalists, but none of the most significant

things they say are actually on the existing radio tapes.

White – “They learned the identity of Oswald, there was no conspiracy, ,”

Manchester – Bundy to Clifton – ‘the military were taking their own steps.’”

Patterson – “I told them to check the code book in the safe on the plane.”

Salinger also says that it was while they were in the air enroute to Washington they

learned Oswald was a suspect and there was no conspiracy.

Salinger:

The messages kept coming off the wire service machine and finally one started grinding out

the story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his previous life in Russia and his membership in the

Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This went against all the preconceived theories we had established.

“If this is true,” Secretary Rusk said, “this is going to have repercussions around the world

for years to come.” His words were prophetic because even today, only in the United States is

the report of the Warren Commission, fixing the sole responsibility on Oswald, widely believed.

But there was nothing coming across the wires about "no conspiracy."

That bit came from the Situation Room.

Charles Roberts (emphasis added):

"I remember looking at (McGeorge) Bundy because I was wondering if he had any word of what had

happened in the world while we were in transit, whether this assassination was part of a plot.

And he told me later that what he reported to the president during that flight back was that the

whole world was stunned, but there was no evidence of a conspiracy at all."

Edited by Cliff Varnell
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Well, any set of policy makers might be excused for temporizing during hours when the government is scattered (and the military, with Curtis LeMay off in Canada), communications are insecure, and safety is uncertain. Bush and Cheney were certainly excused for this on 9/11. But what happened when the new Johnson administration convened in Washington? What records of the JCS' input do we have? These are questions for all to be concerned with, not just Larry.

Edited by David Andrews
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I could provide a list of the places that should have held meeting records, what we have for the Chiefs and SecDef are nothing more than their calendars for that day which primarily focused on an extended meeting with German Military staff over the just ending major deployment exercise in Western Europe. Officially the Chiefs actually remained in that meeting after the assassination other than for a couple of brief sessions with McNamara, one of which led to the issuance of the DefCon elevation. Other than that I'm told by all the service historians that there were no studies and that the only true record would have been the logs maintained in the various command centers and headquarters, all of which are routinely destroyed after a set period. That leaves you with oral history and Manchester did a bit of that with the head of the Joint Chiefs and McNamara....but actually very light on their activities as compared to his detailed work on the Secret Service, White House staff etc. All of which leaves room to look for biographies, autobiographies etc for the Chiefs and other staff officers.

A short note on LeMay, although we are all interested in him, he was not in a command position that day, but rather strictly staff. If the actual SAC commander or any one of some half a dozen other major commanders had declared an attack on US forces to be in progress they could have elevated their condition and done everything except launch a full nuclear retaliation - Officially the only two people who could have given that order were Johnson and McNamara. But with what we have learned about predelegated release authority in recent years, (predesignated) major force commanders could have done that as well. We know that both SAC and CINCPAC did "surge" ready forces including ships and planes and SAC apparently moved their missile forces up to launch condition. And on another side note, we know that Johnson had no idea of the release codes or how to use them, the officer who had them was separated from him for some time and there is no discussion of whether McNamara even took the time to call for his set of codes. We also know that the Joint Chief's chairman alerted local Army forces in DC and raised their alert level and we have an oral history which suggests an Army unit at Fort Bliss was alerted and organized units to move to Dallas, although that was cancelled by early evening.

Edited by Larry Hancock
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The Joint Chiefs only real authority and role as of 1963 was to offer advice to the President and SecDef. The Chiefs did have their own organization to perform staff studies such as strategic balance assessment and they also had support groups that were formed to do logistics - but in later decades crossed way over that line into operations (Oliver North only being one example). The Chiefs also had resources for quick intelligence studies....some were done real time during the missile crisis.

LeMay certainly pushed for an immediate military response to the missile crisis, but he did so in meetings with the President. He pushed so hard JFK considered him insubordinate. But technically, on Nov. 22, other than offering advice the Chiefs only functional role was to communicate (through the National Military Command Center) alerts, warnings, and defense condition messages to the actual military commands. In the case of strategic nuclear action they were only to relay commands from National Command Authority ie. the SecDef or President. However, Eisenhower had set certain practices in place, continued for decades, allowing major commanders to initiate first nuclear defensive response if the chain of command was broken and Natl Command Authority could not be contacted - and a nuclear attack was obviously in progress.

So, any of the Chiefs or the Chiefs as a body, could recommend and push for any level of military action but they could not command it themselves. They also held command authority with the actual service commands, they held no release codes and more importantly no NCA identification codes which only the President and SecDef held. Now of course all that is simply the protocol and anyone can think of ways the system could have been bypassed in the event of a true military coup, occurring during a security crisis. Probably the quickest and easiest way that could have happened in 1963 was for them to contact Johnson in the air, convince him the nation was under attack (with McNamara tied up in another room) and scare Johnson into issuing the orders they wanted. His military record gives plenty of evidence that Johnson himself was a coward under fire, as does his behavior in 1963. However, there is no evidence that anyone tried to push McNamara into a heavier military response or even tried to contact Johnson at all. Manchester writes of the Chairman wondering of Johnson even had the bomb bag...but doing nothing to find out. Also, based on what we have in the tapes, SAC and SAC command were not in direct communication with Johnson or he with they...a major oversight.

Now whether all that is as inept as it sounds - without answering the outstanding questions about AF1 communications traffic, we just don't know. I wills ay that based on the rest of my studies, if it was as bad as it sounds it surely was not the last time...

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Absence of the complete AF 1 recordings, absence of proof positive of what communications transpired regarding Oswald. Perhaps as Varnell seems to be pointing out, the writings of historians like Salinger White and Manchester probably reveal more truth than any research into military records or protocols, or edited AF 1 tapes are likely to reveal. Historians like Hancock, who have spent so much time digging for proof, find themselves agnostic when the proof isn't there. If it was only one presidential historian who claimed that Bundy relayed to AF 1 the info that Oswald was guilty and had no accomplices I would be skeptical. But in this case I find myself convinced that Bundy did what the three of them independantly say he did, and have no trouble seeing that as evidence that he was prepared before the fact, or else immediately afterwards, to steer the ship of state in the direction it took.

As for LeMay, he sure got his ass back to DC in a hurry, and I still don't know whether it was his adjutant that was on AF 1 calling him mid flight. Someone here explained this to me last year, so if anyone knows for sure how that went down please share that info again.

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Paul, the call about LeMay that you refer to was a call from his aide to SAM control, advising them that LeMay was in transit and trying to get in touch with him. His aide was in DC, not on any aircraft. SAM control (where the tape's were recorded) handled all the VIP aircraft flights and was in communications with Air Force One, the Cabinet plane and would routinely been in communication with other aircraft - but as you can see from the transcript, the SAM communications staff had little time to spare for anything else. The confusion about LeMay's travel primarily relates to what aircraft he was on when - there appears to have been a small jet dispatched by SAM - and of course which airfield he actually landed out and where he went at that point. Personally I think he likely that he might have gone to Bethesda. Of course he should have gone to the Pentagon where McNamara should have been as well but nobody very much was doing what their actual duties should have required at that point.

As I recall the matter is further muddied up by his biographers who relate his being on vacation but only arriving back in DC in time for the funeral.

Edited by Larry Hancock
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Thanks for refreshing my memory. I suspect that the change in autopsy location (we do agree that this change was made while AF1 was en route, and that there was disagreement about the change both in the situation room and aboard the aircraft?) was communicated to LeMay so that he could land at the right airport and get to the autopsy in a timely fashion. That's just my take - no actual proof. It's interesting that his biographers would be mistaken about his whereabouts during the autopsy, whether he was actually there or not, and claim he didn't return from vacation until the funeral. Kind of makes you wonder why they would do that, whether they knowingly lied or were lied to.

Edited by Paul Brancato
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