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Joan Mellen: A Farewell to Justice


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Gerry, I don't really care if you think I'm your arch-nemesis Weberman, Mellen's research assistant, or even (as Lynne Foster suggested) Nation Review hack Jonah Goldberg. None of it bothers me as I know, from personal knowledge, that my biography is correct. If you or anyone else wants to think otherwise, be my guest.

Edited by Owen Parsons
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Owen wrote to me:

"Before the group could make any determinations, they were visited by a representative identifying himself as representing the CIA. He warned them that under no circumstances must they reveal to anyone what they had viewed in those documents. His visit was perceived as a threat by them all. No one talked." [Quoting Mellen's book.] This passage makes it quite clear that the warning was given before any declassifying work had started. It is not about the ARRB, and it is not a request to ARRB members to keep quiet about documents they had not declassified. "No one talked" means that this abortive National Archives declassification effort was not made public, obviously. Try paying closer attention to what you are reading.

Owen, tell you what, let us stake our dispute whether Mellen's book is credible or not on your defense in the above post.

You claim that Mellen was refering to some "declassification effort" undertaken under the auspices of the National Archives [in the year 2000 as Mellen writes]. You state that this effort was "not made public, obviously" so by your analysis Professor Mellen was refering to a top-secret effort by the National Archives, so secret that not a soul in the assassination research community has yet heard of it. That claim is preposterous on its face. Moreover, the National Archives does not have any statutory authority to declassify documents. The only reason the AARB had such authority is that they were given it by Act of Congress.

I suggest you try paying closer attention to your brain! I know you are too intelligent to really believe what you just posted had you taken the time to think about it!

To everyone else: Is anyone aware of as highly secret effort by the National Archives to declassify documents?

Edited by Tim Gratz
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I do not have the book with me but I understand it states on page 34:

Among the CIA's schemes to kill Castro under OPERATION MONGOOSE was

a plan concocted by Desmond Fitzgeald, chief of the Cuban Task Force, who

was encouraged by Robert Kennedy to affect the assassination o Castro,

already a CIA project.

Can someone who has the book verify this passage and what Professor Mellen cites in support of the proposition that RFK encouraged Fitzgerald's efforts to assassinate Castro?

Thanks!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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The Philadelphia Inquirer review of "A Farewell to Justice":

Did U.S. help assassinate JFK?

A Temple professor's new book says the evidence that it did is "conclusive."

By Patrick Kerkstra

Inquirer Staff Writer

There are some subjects - and the web of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy is certainly among them - that most members of the academic establishment avoid as much as

possible.

And then there is Temple University's Joan Mellen, whose new book, A Farewell to Justice, pins the murder on the U.S. government itself.

"Long live tenure," said Mellen, an English professor who has written an eclectic collection of 17 books.

Her latest, which was published last week, started out as a biography of Jim Garrison, the New Orleans district attorney whose investigation of the assassination was dramatized in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK.

But in her research on Garrison, Mellen soon became fascinated by the assassination itself. After eight years of work, in which she says she conducted 1,200 interviews, Mellen concluded that Garrison had it

right, and that the CIA - with the help of other government agencies -orchestrated the assassination and worked to thwart the district attorney's investigation.

"Intra-government warfare caused the death of President Kennedy," she said. "The evidence is conclusive."

Mellen presents her evidence in a dense and highly detailed 386 pages, with 140 additional pages of careful citations and sourcing.

In a review of the book, Publishers Weekly praised it for bringing "an astonishing amount of information to light," but complained that the narrative "confuses an already bewildering case by shifting timelines,

authorial voices and locations with seemingly little cause."

For her part, Mellen considers the book a work of serious academic scholarship - even though she is a creative-writing professor and not a trained historian.

"If it weren't scholarship, it'd be worthless," she said.

Mellen, who was tenured in the early 1970s, said she was "not ambitious" and was unconcerned about any damage the book might do to her scholarly reputation.

Thus far, at least, Temple has been highly supportive of her work, Mellen said. The university public relations department has promoted her book, and university president David Adamany wrote her a letter

commending her work as a "public intellectual," Mellen said.

"The serious historians have run away from this case," she said. "They don't want the taint; they want to be in the mainstream."

But poll after poll has demonstrated that a large majority of Americans do not believe the Warren Commission's findings that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Despite that, the subject is "taboo" in most academic circles, Mellen said. It would also seem, if the reaction of publishers is any gauge, that the popularity of JFK assassination books is on the wane.

Mellen found no takers for her full 1,500-page manuscript, and only one - a specialist Virginia press called Potomac Books - for the whittled down version.

A Farewell to Justice will have to sell well if Mellen is to recoup the $150,000 of her own money she estimates she spent researching the book.

"It consumed my life, but I'd do it again," Mellen said. "It's my contribution to history."

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Owen wrote to me:

"Before the group could make any determinations, they were visited by a representative identifying himself as representing the CIA. He warned them that under no circumstances must they reveal to anyone what they had viewed in those documents. His visit was perceived as a threat by them all. No one talked." [Quoting Mellen's book.] This passage makes it quite clear that the warning was given before any declassifying work had started. It is not about the ARRB, and it is not a request to ARRB members to keep quiet about documents they had not declassified. "No one talked" means that this abortive National Archives declassification effort was not made public, obviously. Try paying closer attention to what you are reading.

Owen, tell you what, let us stake our dispute whether Mellen's book is credible or not on your defense in the above post.

Why are we staking our dispute on the credibility of an entire book on this one point?

You claim that Mellen was refering to some "declassification effort" undertaken under the auspices of the National Archives [in the year 2000 as Mellen writes]. You state that this effort was "not made public, obviously" so by your analysis Professor Mellen was refering to a top-secret effort by the National Archives, so secret that not a soul in the assassination research community has yet heard of it. That claim is preposterous on its face. Moreover, the National Archives does not have any statutory authority to declassify documents. The only reason the AARB had such authority is that they were given it by Act of Congress.

This isn't what I claim. Its obvious that this is what she is referring to just by reading the text. I did not say it was "top-secret," this is a straw man you have built. I said it was "abortive." An internal NARA effort that never went anywhere. I suppose the reason the research community has not yet heard of it (until now) is because most researchers haven't bothered to interview NARA employees like Mellen did. Add to that the alleged veiled threats of the CIA man and I think you've got your answer. I don't know a lot about how the National Archives operates, having never been there, but they do unseal document. See Gerry's post [Gerry makes a point about how only the NARA director can declassify the documents, which is all fine and good, but this team's purpose was to make a recommendation, not to declassify], or, better yet, check out this example. In 1999, after the closure of the ARRB, NARA released this series of documents pertaining to the disposal of JFK's ceremonial casket off the coast of Maryland. You sure like making loud declarations about how "preposterous" things are.

I suggest you try paying closer attention to your brain! I know you are too intelligent to really believe what you just posted had you taken the time to think about it!

To everyone else: Is anyone aware of as highly secret effort by the National Archives to declassify documents?

Use your own brain, Tim. You're the one who spent your initial post implying that Mellen was spinning a tale about the ARRB, when she clearly wasn't. I pointed out to you what she was actually saying and suddenly I'm not utilizing my mental faculties.

Edited by Owen Parsons
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I do not have the book with me but I understand it states on page 34:

Among the CIA's schemes to kill Castro under OPERATION MONGOOSE was a plan concocted by Desmond Fitzgeald, chief of the Cuban Task Force, who was encouraged by Robert Kennedy to affect the assassination of Castro, already a CIA project.

Can someone who has the book verify this passage and what Professor Mellen cites in support of the proposition that RFK encouraged Fitzgerald's efforts to assassinate Castro?

Mellen generally cites the "CIA Inspector General's Report on Attempts to Kill Castro. May 1967. p. 77." I believe she stretched that section of the report that described a "booby-trapped sea shell" and other similar wild schemes, and made an assertion about RFK that is not at all contained in that 1967 report.

T.C.

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There are other problems with the loan story as well. According to discussion on another JFK site, Ferrie had quite a bit of cash on hand given to him by Gill for his work on the Marcello case ($7,000) so he hardly needed a loan.

Even more problematical the book says that a few days before the assassination Ferrie produced Clay Shaw to co-sign the loan. Yet according to the opening statement of Garrison at the trial, Shaw had left for the west coast (allegedly to establish an alibi) on Friday, November 15, 1963!!

http://www.jfk-online.com/state2.html

Garrison: "The evidence will further show that the defendant in accordance with the plan and in furtherance of it, did in fact head for the West Coast of the United States -- ostensibly to make a speech -- on November 15, 1963. He remained there until after PRESIDENT KENNEDY's assassination on November 22, 1963, thereby establishing an alibi for himself for the day of the shooting."

I anxiously await Owen's response! Who was telling the truth, Garrison, or Professor Mellen's witness?

Edited by Tim Gratz
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The following sentence appears in my copy of "AF2J":

William Harvey would testify under oath before the Church Committee that on at least two occasions there was White House approval and "initiative" of the "specific Rosselli operation" to murder Castro. (In Ch. 11: John F. Kennedy, Jim Garrison and the CIA.)

Wow! This must be amazing news to every assassination researcher.

Well, I have news for you.

William Harvey never testified before the Church Committee.

He gave a tape-recorded interview to David Belin. Belin sent a transcribed copy to Harvey for his review.

No where in the interview does he ever state that the White House approved any plot to murder Castro.

How in the world did Professor Mellen get this wrong?

It is the most serious error I have encountered so far.

I knew the book had to be wrong in claiming Harvey so testified because, of course, the Church Committee could not decide if there was White House knowledge of the CIA/Mafia plots.

Owen, I am waiting to hear from you on this issue!

Harvey's interview can be found here:

http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/...mony&docId=1390

Edited by Tim Gratz
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In the same chapter, she writes:

Bobby instructed his "hero", General Edward Lansdale, to send a memo to CIA's William Harvey to come up with "assassination contingency plans" . . .

This again is rather amazing news. Professor Mellen cites as proof of this Helms' testimony before the Church Committee.

I am reviewing Helms' testimony but I sure do not remember any previous reports that RFK asked Lansdale to get a written memo from Harvey re assassination plans. If true, it would be incredible.

Did Professor Mellen get this wrong as well?

Edited by Tim Gratz
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No where in the interview does he ever state that the White House approved any plot to murder Castro. How in the world did Professor Mellen get this wrong? It is the most serious error I have encountered so far.

That's a whopper!. It's a wild claim to say that Harvey testified under oath that there was "White House approval and 'initiative' of the 'specific Rosselli operation' to murder Castro." I didn't want to beat a dead horse with more negativity about the Mellen book, but I can't help but wonder why or how Prof. Mellen would assert that Oswald "would even appear at Francis Gary Powers' trial" in Moscow. (p. 165). The notes generally reference some other books about the U-2 incident with which I'm familiar, but I don't know of anything more than baseless speculation that Oswald was anywhere near Powers, let alone definitively appearing at his extremely public "show" trial.

T.C.

Edited by Tim Carroll
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I had noticed her claim about Oswald attending Powers' trial.

I respect Tim as a researcher and accept his word that there appears to be no documentation of this rather amazing story either. (I do remember that a fictional book put Oswald at the trial.)

I hate to put it this bluntly but it appears there may be some "creative writing" in this book!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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I hate to put it this bluntly but it appears there may be some "creative writing" in this book!

I have never before even heard it rumored that Guy Banister was shot. According to the book, "Allen Campbell says a single round shot came in through the window, and that Delphine Roberts was present.... Mary Banister called her friend Ruth Lichtblau in terror. 'Guy's been shot!' she said.... Allen Campbell says he knows who shot Guy Banister."

T.C.

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