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Nixon and Helms' stuff on the Kennedy assassination

Pat Speer

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Professor Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University has maintained a website (see link above) for several years devoted specifically to the Nixon-Helms conversations that is complete except for a few after Nixon appointed Helms to be Ambassador to Iran.

Here is his recent book:


Thanks, Doug. The Nixon tapes link provided the answer to my questions. When one listens to the 10-8-71 tape, which is way way cleaner than the tape on the Miller Center website of the previous conversation, it becomes clear that when Nixon says Kennedy assassination, he is referring to the Kennedy assassination (of Diem). He has sent Ehrlichman over to Helms to demand all the dirt linking Kennedy to the Diem assassination, which Helms is refusing to provide, for fear it should be leaked to the press. Helms told Ehrlichman that he thinks Nixon would want future DCIs to protect his interests, so, in that spirit, he is protecting Kennedy's interests. Ehrlichman and Nixon won't stand by this, of course, and can be heard on the tape cooking up angles whereby they will force Helms to relinquish the information, which they readily admit they may leak to the press. They also discuss Hunt, and how Helms is scared of him because he knows too much.

This is revelatory, not so much about the Kennedy assassination, but about Ehrlichman. In his books, Ehrlichman claimed Helms had held back info on the Bay of Pigs, but here on these tapes, it is revealed that Helms gave him everything on the Bay of Pigs, and that what Ehrlichman (and Nixon) were really looking for, is dirt linking Kennedy to the Diem assassination. It should be pointed out, moreover, that Nixon, through Colson, subsequently asked Hunt to fabricate documents which would provide this link, and that these fabricated documents were shown to Life Magazine and later retrieved by John Dean from Hunt's White House safe and given over to acting FBI chief L. Pat Gray, who promptly destroyed them.

This helps make sense, then, of a particular angle to Ehrlichman's novel, The Company. In the novel, a president modeled on Kennedy has a priest murdered to prevent a CIA-backed coup from succeeding. This is Ehrlichman's twisted merger of the Bay of Pigs and Diem assassination, with Diem ( a catholic) being the priest.

In this light, then, it's easy to see how (and why) Ehrlichman always pretended that Helms held back on the Bay of Pigs. Helms holding back on the Bay of Pigs makes Helms look bad; while Helms holding back on the Diem assassination--when it had already been unveiled that Nixon had planned on using this material for political advantage--makes Helms look good, and Nixon (and Ehrlichman) look bad.

Edited by Pat Speer
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Why would Nixon be trying so hard to get dirt on jfk assassinating Diem?

Nixon, as Johnson, was a bit nuts when it came to Kennedy, and was obsessed with this idea that people loved Kennedy, but they don't love me, wha wha wha. He was annoyed, perhaps even disturbed, that people came to suspect Kennedy had been killed by a right-wing conspiracy. He was also scared to death Teddy would rise up and reclaim the throne. As a result, he hired Hunt to, among other things: 1, go to Chappaquiddick to dig up dirt on the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, in hopes of burying Kennedy's career; 2, go to the apartment of Wallace's assailant Arthur Bremer to plant propaganda linking the shooting of Wallace to the left; and 3, forge cables indicating JFK was personally responsible for Diem's death, and then show them to Life Magazine. In the run-up to the 72 election, moreover, he had his people convince Teddy he needed Secret Service protection, and then had them spy on Kennedy and report back to him.

There's a reason Nixon resigned and it wasn't because his people bugged an office and he tried to make it go away. It was that further investigation into his activities would further uncover a vast series of crimes committed by him and for him, and that some of these were as sleazy as can be. As Nixon tells Helms on the 10-8-71 tape, "I support dirty tricks." (While these might not be his exact words, it was something quite similar.)

In any event, the man was paranoid, and dangerous, and totally unqualified to be President.

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FWIW, many on the Right excoriate Nixon for having established EPA, OSHA, and wage and price controls. And for having taken the U.S. off the Bretton Woods gold standard.

Nixon is loved by neither the Right nor the Left.

Nixon was an old-style politician. He played hard ball. And was concerned about his enemies. He was perhaps paranoid; I don't know. I do know this: He was lesser evil than LBJ. Nixon fought his battles without ordering anyone to be killed.

I voted for Nixon in 1972. I had come back from a moderately troubling experience in Viet Nam. I respected McGovern but felt Nixon would be a better president. Nixon proved not to be able to deal with a CIA burglary.

Some here loath Nixon. I did too at the time. Even though I voted for him. Time has given me a perspective on the man.

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Perspective? Yes.

Nixon is directly or indirectly responsible for the death or capture of thousands of anti-Castro Cubans from Brigade 2506 due to his postponing the invasion upon his having lost the election to John F. Kennedy. The original plan, approved by Eisenhower, was scheduled to take place in late 1960 under Nixon's management. However, once Nixon digested the bitter truth--that he had lost the election to JFK who was then to be the next president--he refused to launch the invasion plan as approved by Ike. Instead, during the lame duck period, he encouraged the CIA to grow the rather modest Eisenhower approved plan into a full blown amphibious assault operation of military proportions. This was a plan that was never even presented to Eisenhower for approval, but was instead presented to Kennedy as an Eisenhower Plan after JFK took office.

It was an act of spite that cost many hundreds of lives, which at the same time allowed Nixon to smear Kennedy's name in blood.

See Jake Esterline's Oral History of the Bay of Pigs Invasion on my website for more.

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Without arguing with Jon Tidd's feelings and experiences, remember that for a while it was the in thing to allow Richard Nixon reassessment - based on longevity and distance from the presidency, on David Frost and a film about Nixon and Frost, and on Oliver Stone's Watergate-chic film Nixon. And I liked all that material and gave Nixon his shot at redemption. But when you research Kennedy-era history, every year brings another few reasons to loathe Nixon.

Eisenhower, who had enemies of American enterprise such as Patrice Lumumba killed, famously refused to stamp Nixon fit for the Executive, though Nixon ran covert programs for Ike. Nixon learned from Ike and approved the Pinochet coup in Chile and the murder of Allende. With Kissinger, he brought the world death squad politics in Argentina. He was a monster on at least three continents, no matter how nostalgic we may become for his media personality.

Even a book such as Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, which is gentle on Nixon as a covert warrior, provides a wealth of reasons for hating him for a Southeast Asia policy that relied on destruction partly to counter domestic conflict over Vietnam and the US economy, and partly in sheer ignorance of tactics or morality. He sought a reputation as international peacemaker in contrast to his established reputation as a destroyer.

Edited by David Andrews
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Greg Burnham,

You write:

"However, once Nixon digested the bitter truth--that he had lost the election to JFK who was then to be the next president--he refused to launch the invasion plan as approved by Ike."

What power did Nixon have to do anything?

I agree Nixon was tough and smart. Ruthless. You assert he had power to cause something to happen. What was the source of that power?

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As Vice President he had the power, if not the responsibility, to implement the Eisenhower "Operation" for dealing with Castro (for which he [Nixon] had been assigned the task of oversight from its inception) as planned. That plan called for the operation to be launched between November 1960 and January 1961 at the latest. The plan was not contingent on who would be POTUS. Before continuing further with this I suggest you do some Bay of Pigs homework. It will save a lot of time.

Edited by Greg Burnham
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I defer to your knowledge of BOP matters. It's important, however, I believe for all here to recognize that the U.S. vice President has only one job under the Constitution: to serve as President of the Senate (and cast tie-breaking votes). Any other tasks the V.P. undertakes he or she undertakes at the direction of or with the blessing on the President.

Thus Nixon as V.P. had no stand-alone power to do anything except serve as President of the Senate. Any order Nixon would have given to invade Cuba he would have given, necessarily, as a spokesman for Ike.

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The sin of inappropriate commission, i.e., acting outside the mandates tasked by Higher Authority, and the sin of deliberate omission i.e., failing to act on the mandates tasked by Higher Authority, are sins of equal value particularly when they result in the loss of human life.

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