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David Atlee Phillips: The Mastermind?


John Simkin
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GRANDMOTHER’S ON THE ROOF

From “The Carlos Contract – A Novel of International Terrorism” (Macmillan, 1978)

by David Atlee Phillips:

“In addition to questioning the wisdom of involving friends, Mack questioned his own actual ability to outwit Carlos. Had his professional talents and determination atrophied? Would he be a fool to enter the arena again?”

“And, more importantly, did he still have the gift of perceiving when grandmother was on the roof?”

“Mack had once been given a memorable bit of advice by a senior CIA officer and veteran Latin American hand: ‘An important part of intelligence work is sensing, before you have hard proof, that a critical development will occur. Call it professional intuition; the conviction that a number of pieces, when eventually assembled into enough of the entire puzzle, will constitute a revelation that is vital. I always try to think of it in terms of knowing when grandmother is on the roof.’”

As a way of explanation, “the older officer then launched into a story which he identified as Brazilian folklore, a ‘Portuguese story’ somewhat on the order of yesterday’s Irish and today’s Polish jokes.”

“A Portuguese man living in Brazil, Mack’s mentor had said, received a cable from his cousin in Portugal, announcing the death of the family cat, a pet the immigrant had been especially fond of. ‘Our beloved cat,’ the message said, ‘fell from our roof to her death in the street below.’”

“The immigrant wrote to his cousin in Lisbon: ‘Do not send such a message again. I am a sensitive person; I can’t stand shocks. Should such a thing happened again consider my temperament and let me know gently, in stages. For example, you should have sent a message saying, ‘The cat went up on the roof.’ Then, a few days later another, saying, ‘The cat went to the edge of the roof.’ Then, finally, a letter with the bad news: ‘The cat fell off the roof and died.’”

“Some months later the immigrant in Brazil received another cable from his cousin. This time it read: ‘Grandmother just went up on the roof.’”

“`So that’s what you must look for,’ Mack’s friend had told him. ‘That one new piece of information, perhaps a single line in a report, some awareness which gives you a funny feeling at the back of the neck – the suspicion which suddenly becomes a conviction that something important is in motion, that grandmother is on the roof.’”

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  • 1 month later...
Is it just funny or did you want to make a point with that?

Wim

Wim, The point is as DAP explains,

“`So that’s what you must look for,’ Mack’s friend had told him. ‘That one new piece of information, perhaps a single line in a report, some awareness which gives you a funny feeling at the back of the neck – the suspicion which suddenly becomes a conviction that something important is in motion, that grandmother is on the roof.’”

"Grandmother's on the roof," is the recognition and warning that something big is in the works and about to happen.

A hundred people can read the same news or magazine story or fact in a book but only one might recognize it's significance in the scheme of things.

And happy birthday David Atlee Phillips - born on October 31, what a great birthday for a Spook.

BK

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  • 6 months later...
In a case choking on "coincidences", what are the odds of David Atlee Phillips

and Lee Harvey Oswald attending the same high school?

Jack

two buds, both former SF, later career agency operators, knew Phillips and said while he was capable of such behavior, he would have reported to some one else and gave me a name-a name associated with DIA not CIA.

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In a case choking on "coincidences", what are the odds of David Atlee Phillips

and Lee Harvey Oswald attending the same high school?

Jack

two buds, both former SF, later career agency operators, knew Phillips and said while he was capable of such behavior, he would have reported to some one else and gave me a name-a name associated with DIA not CIA.

EM,

DAPhillips, like David Morales, as David Talbot and Jeff Morley discovered in their search of the Great Southwest, were both company men, who were given missions and orders and carried them out. Friends and associates of Morales they talked to said Morales followed orders but didn't initiate action.

While Phillips career does not suggest a military background, he certainly worked with the military in the Chilie coup, and at one point, after the Bay of Pigs, many of the CIA paramilitary ops were reassigned to the DIA.

Brad E. Ayers was DIA, not CIA, and therefore did not sign CIA secrecy oath.

Of the DOD/DIA sub-agencies, I often suspected the ONI, but am now leaning more toward Air Force as a major domestic intelligence network, but I don't see many or any such obvious connectons (like Lansdale was USAF) between Phillips and either ONI or AFIA.

Of course the DOD file on LHO was "routinely" destroyed.

BK

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Jack,

I don't find it surprising that two guys from the same old 'Hood went to the same school and worked together on ops.

I think Phillips impressed LHO tremendously and while Phillips probably didn't recruit him personally, they certainly traveled together in the same covert circles.

Phillips wrote a book encouraging students to consider careers in the field of intelligence, and lists the necessary qualificaitons of a good intelligence officer, including being fluent in more than one language, military training, specialized training like electronics, and the ability to go places and blend in with the enviroment, obtain the necessary information or pass alone the necessary information and return home with the goods.

At the end of the book Phillips reveals that he never graduated from college, a factor that didn't keep him from progressing to the third highest position in the CIA, chief of the Western Hemisphere Division.

Kevin Walsh, a DC investigator, knew Phillips pretty well.

I never met Phillilps, but after he instituted a libel suit against Gaeton Fonzi and Washingtonian Magazine, I learned that he lived near Bathesda, Maryland and picked up the phone and got his home number from the phone directory. I was surprised he answered when I called the first time and had a nice hour long conversation with him.

Breaking the first rule of research, I failed to note the exact date on my notes, but I am confident it was sometime before he died.

I identified myself as a freelance writer and journalist from Atlantic City, living in Ocean City, N.J. at the time, and was knowledgeable about the Kennedy assassination. I told him I did my history thesis on the Bay of Pigs and had read his books Nightwatch and the Carlos Contract.

Since it was news at the time I asked him about his libel suit.

David Atlee Phillips: "My suit with Washingtonian (Magazine) is still going on. It will take a long time, I think. It is in the state of Maryland where it is in court. Laywers have told me I am limited in what I can say. One is that I deny the allegations completly. It's all fiction. Two, I have filed suit against Washingtonian, the publisher, the editor and writer. And beyond that, Bill, I can't talk to you, except kind of off-the-record, because you understand these things are. If there is any way I can point you somewhere I'd be glad to."

I asked Phillips about his attempt to produce a CIA TV series on CBS with Gordon McLendon that was suppose to be like the FBI show.

"I never completed the TV seris on the CIA," he said. It just got bogged down in the network beauracracy.

I then asked about the movie options on "The Carlos Contract," a novel in which a team of counter-intelligence operatives set out to catch Carlos the Jackle.

"Carlos, the book would be a good script," he said. "A couple have mentioned interest in it, some people have called and said we're going to do it, and so forth, but nothing's happened."

Phillips said he was unaware of other, similar libel suits with JFK connections, such as Hunt vs. A.J. Weberman (Coup d'etat), Oswald/Porter vs. National Enquirer or E. Howard Hunt vs. Liberty Mag?

He did say his attorney in the libel case was Mark Bierbower, of Washington D.C. (202-775-8905?) and then went into a rant against Fonzi.

DAP: "Are you aware that the feller who wrote that story in Washingtonian - Gaeton Fonzi, are you familiar with him?

Yes, I knew him from Philadelphia Magazine, and its editor Morton Halpern, who also assisted in the editing of the Washingtonian article.

DAP: Are you familiar with the Esquire Magazine article which talks about a piece he wrote for Philadelphia Magazine years ago in which he accused another person of being involved in this? Do you know Vincent Salandria, in which someone threatened to sue him for libel?"

Yes, I was familiar with Vince too, but not personally.

DAP: "Another thing that might be interesting to someone who is working on a story on that suit is that I was not contacted by the editor or by the writer of the Washingtonian before they wrote that piece. And generally, in journalism, you know, if you're going to kick someone in the stomach, you give them a chance to hear them out."

"Do you know what I was doing at the time it was published? I was workling for Washingtonian Magazine. I was writing for them. Two of my articles had been published. I was working on a third one, and they published that little thing of 85,000 words without even giving me a chance to comment."

"Challenge, which is a national organization, is an organization of intelligence officers, government employees' legal action fund. It is just plantiffs, no defendents, but plantiffs who file for libel because they think they've been defamed as a result of the government."

[Phillips gave the address of Challenge as P.O. Box 34320, Washington D.C.]

He also gave me background on his Association of Former Intelligence Officers, based in McLean, Virginia, Whittier Ave., Suite #30, McLean, Va., 22101.

Phillips gave me his address and invited me to visit him: 8224 Stone Trail Drive, Bathesda, Md., 20817, which I never did, to my regret.

Getting back to the TV show Phillips was pitching to CBS with Gordon McLendon, I asked him more about McLendon.

DAP: "I met Gordon McLendon in Washington D.C. about 1940. He was a college student, and I met him at a college prom here in Washington in 1940. We both then went back to Texas, and I didn't see him again, although he was quite well known in Texas. He became what someone called the Old Dutchman. He was really only about 25 years old when he came up with the concept of recreating baseball games, pretending they were live, but they weren't. And he made so much money doing that he bought 100 radio stations, and so forth, became very wealthy."

"I saw him, I really didn't see him during all that period until about 1977 or something like that, when he joined the AFIO."

At the end of our conversation he said to call him anytime and come visit for a real interview after the court case was over.

Of course the libel case never played out in court and he died of cancer before I could talk with him again.

I later learned however, that he most likely lied to me when he said he didn't know Gordon McLendon from Texas, rather than DC, and didn't see or work with McLendon from 1940-1977.

Just maintaining operational security.

I hope somebody gets something out of this.

BK

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McLendon called himself the OLD SCOTSMAN, not the OLD DUTCHMAN.

Thanks for the transcript, Bill...interesting stuff.

I feel that Phillips was connected to LBJ and masterminded the JFK operation

through his Texas connections.

The college that DAP failed to graduate from was my alma mater TCU, where

he was a student years before I got there.

Jack

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Bill,

Didn't DAP also get involved in a lawsuit with Anthony Summers after Summers accused him of being Bishop when they were both on the same television program? I think it may have been Good Morning America on ABC.As a result of the lawsuit,DAP's fictional memoir,The AMLASH Legacy,was read by Summers' attorney as a part of discovery.Do you know anything about a Lobster magazine article that was published in the 1980s that connected Phillips to all of the Mexico City post-assassination sources of disinformation linking LHO to the Cubans.It was supposedly never published in the US because of fears of a libel lawsuit.

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Bill,

Didn't DAP also get involved in a lawsuit with Anthony Summers after Summers accused him of being Bishop when they were both on the same television program? I think it may have been Good Morning America on ABC.As a result of the lawsuit,DAP's fictional memoir,The AMLASH Legacy,was read by Summers' attorney as a part of discovery.Do you know anything about a Lobster magazine article that was published in the 1980s that connected Phillips to all of the Mexico City post-assassination sources of disinformation linking LHO to the Cubans.It was supposedly never published in the US because of fears of a libel lawsuit.

Jack, thanks for the Old Dutchman correction. I'm pretty sure my notes are correct and Phillips said "Scottsman."

And Robin, indeed, Tony Summers did locate Veciana's former bank secretary and confirmed the existence of "Maurice Bishop," and interviewed Virginia Prewett of NANA, who acknowledge knowing both Veciana and "Bishop."

Summers did write about it and was sued by Phillips, but I don't know what became of the suit, though I will check it out when I have the chance.

Maybe somebody else has more info on it?

Hey, I wish we had a libel trial going on right now, as that would provide the needed venue for producing new witness testimony under oath.

BK

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  • 3 weeks later...

post-2590-1182019046_thumb.jpg

Has anyone seen another document in which Phillips used the Don Barton pseudonym? What's interesting about the name is that a 1962 cable from JMWAVE has another CIA officer,Charles Ford,using the same "Don Barton" name to meet with an anti-Castro Cuban at the request of GPFOCUS,the cryptonym for RFK.The Church Committee seems to have had the idea that Ford was a link bewteen CIA and the Mafia in the assassination plots against Castro.

Edited by Robin Finn
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post-2590-1182019046_thumb.jpg

Has anyone seen another document in which Phillips used the Don Barton pseudonym? What's interesting about the name is that a 1962 cable from JMWAVE has another CIA officer,Charles Ford,using the same "Don Barton" name to meet with an anti-Castro Cuban at the request of GPFOCUS,the cryptonym for RFK.The Church Committee seems to have had the idea that Ford was a link bewteen CIA and the Mafia in the assassination plots against Castro.

Perhaps to someone this has some meaning:

(image MSC files ford01.jpg)

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  • 8 months later...
Do you know if George Joannides knew Winston Scott? In your investigations, have you been able to further address or prove if Joannides knew Dave Phillips?

Joannides didn't know Scott, as far as I know. I'm pretty sure Joannides knew Phillips though we don't yet have a piece of paper that says so.

Think about it. Phillips was running anti-Castro covert operations out of the Embassy in Mexico City. Joannides was brought in, an up and comer from Athens, for his first front-line position, actually managing agents on the "outside." He was the chief of the Psychological Warfare branch in Miami. He had a staff of 24 and a budget of $1.2 million. Phillips visited Miami frequently while pursuing his own psychological warfare operations. Phillips had helped nurture the DRE from the start. Joannides was handling them. Joannides was probably--don't quote me on this--Phillips' field man.

Is it your conclusion that Oswald was part of an authorized CIA operation in Mexico City? How about in New Orleans with the DRE? If yes to either, what type of operation(s)?

I would put it like this. Three counterintelligence operations overseen by David Phillips picked up on Oswald as he made his was from New Orleans to Mexico City to Dallas.

* Philip's allies in the DRE ran into Oswald in New Orleans.

* His cameras watched the entrance to the Cuban consulate where Oswald came and went.

* After Kennedy was killed, he vouched for his reliable informant from Nicaragua who had an Oswald story.

Each of these operations was authorized by Philips and his superiors. Obviously, they culminated in disaster whether or not there were two gunmen in Dealey Plaza.

Phillips's performance was an intelligence failure that had to be hid.

There was either a cosmic intelligence failure. ("This guy Oswald walked through our most sensitive and effective surveillance schemes, we lost track of him and he whacked Jack") or a counterintelligence operation. I lean toward the latter. The October 10, 1963 cable is clear evidence that Oswald was getting sustained, coordinated attention at the top of the CIA. The commentary of Jane Roman and Bill Hood, quoted in "Our Man in Mexico," indicates to me that there was a closely held operation around Oswald, though neither of them cared to admit it.

Edited by Jefferson Morley
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