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Gus Russo and Tim Gratz


John Simkin
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Tim Gratz often quotes Gus Russo when attempting to defend his Fidel Castro did it theories. Is Russo a reliable researcher? I have been doing some research into his background and it is an interesting story.

Gus Russo comes from Baltimore. As a student he was opposed to the Vietnam War and worked for Robert Kennedy during his 1968 presidential campaign. He also began taking an interest in the assassination of JFK. He soon discovered that media organizations were not interested in publishing material criticising the Warren Report. He therefore decided to produce a screenplay on the assassination. He heard that there was only one man who was interested in making a movie on the subject: Oliver Stone. Russo sent Stone his screenplay but it was rejected.

It must have been at this time that Russo decided that he was unlikely to have much of a career as a "conspiracy theorists". He therefore decided to change sides. This was indeed a good career move. He found that the fact he was a former conspiracy theorist, made him an attractive employee.

In 1991 Russo was recruited as a researcher on a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? was finally shown on television in 1993. It argued that Osward was indeed the lone gunman who killed JFK.

Russo went on the work on the 1993 television special, Who Shot JFK? Russo was also employed as an investigative reporter for ABC News and worked with Peter Jennings on the television production of Dangerous World, The Kennedy Years. Both these documentaries supported the lone gunman theory.

In 1998 Russo published Live By The Sword: The Secret War against Castro and the Death of JFK. In the book Russo argues that Lee Harvey Oswald was probably a lone gunman and that the secret war against Fidel Castro "precipitated both President Kennedy's assassination and its cover-up." Russo suggests that Oswald was the lone gunman and that Lyndon B. Johnson, the Central Intelligence Agency and Robert Kennedy took part in the cover-up in order to prevent a nuclear war against Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Gus Russo also argues that Oswald did it at the urging of Fidel Castro's agents and that Cuban intelligence may have paid Oswald in advance to carry out the deed.

The book was well received by the anti-conspiracy media and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The leading supporter of the lone-gunman theory, Gerald Posner, wrote: "Russo's Live by the Sword unequivocally places the guilt on Lee Harvey Oswald. He convincingly demonstrates that the cover up that followed the assassination was prompted in part by the fear of top government officials, including Bobby Kennedy, that Castro, or the climate fostered by his regime, might have played a role in the murder and that the United States' own plots to kill Castro would be exposed."

James P. Hosty was also impressed with the book and wrote: "The reason most people have not accepted the conclusions of the Warren Report is its failure to ascribe a motive to Oswald. Live By the Sword finally discloses the most likely motivation for Oswald as well as the reason that motive had to be kept secret."

James DiEugenio worked with Russo before he made his successful career move. This is what he had to say about him for Probe Magazine:

In late 1991, when Oliver Stone released JFK, Mark Lane decided to write his third book about the Kennedy assassination. Anyone who has read Plausible Denial, knows the significance of Marita Lorenz to that book. When the book became a bestseller, the media was eager to attack it. So in Newsweek, a man was quoted deriding Lorenz in quite strong terms as telling wild and bizarre stories and being generally unreliable. The source was, at that time, a little known Kennedy researcher. He was so obscure that Lane replied to the reporter, "So who is Gus Russo? Has he ever written a book? Has he ever written an article?" At that time, to my knowledge, he had done neither. But now Russo has written a book. It is so dreadful in every aspect that Lane’s question carries more weight now than then. In retrospect, it seems quite prescient.

I can speak about this rather bracing phenomenon from firsthand experience. To my everlasting embarrassment, Gus Russo is listed in the acknowledgments to my book, Destiny Betrayed. In my defense, I can only argue that my association with Russo at that time was from a distance. We had communicated over the phone a few times because I had heard he was interested in the New Orleans scene and had done some work on Permindex, the murky right wing front group that Clay Shaw had worked for in Italy in the late fifties and early sixties. Later, after my book came out in the summer of 1992, he called me and asked me for some supporting documents that I had used in writing it. My first impressions of Russo were that he was amiable, interested, and that, since he lived in Baltimore, he was quite familiar with what was available for viewing at the National Archives and at the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Washington D. C.

I encountered Russo in person a couple of times at the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993. I attended the ‘92 ASK Conference in Dallas where I exchanged some materials with him and at which he did an ad hoc talk with John Newman. I did not actually attend that dual presentation but I heard that Russo’s part centered on some aspects of military intelligence dealing with the assassination. Specifically it concerned Air Force Colonel Delk Simpson, an acquaintance of both LBJ military aide Howard Burris and CIA officer David Atlee Phillips, about whom some significant questions had been raised. And since he was coupled with Newman, I assumed that Russo was investigating the possibility of some form of foreknowledge of the assassination in some high military circles. My other encounter with Russo in this time period was even more direct. Toward the end of 1992, I had reason to visit Washington to see a research associate and examine a new CIA database of documents that was probably the best index of assassination-related materials available at the time. We decided to call up Russo and we arranged to spend a Saturday night at his home.

When we got there, Russo was his usual amiable self and his surroundings revealed that he was indeed immersed in the Kennedy assassination. There were photos of a man who was a dead ringer for Oswald in combat fatigues in Florida, where Oswald was never supposed to have been. Russo had obtained letters showing that George de Mohrenschildt had been in contact with George Bush at a much earlier date than anyone had ever suspected. Russo had a library of books on the Kennedy assassination that was abundant and expansive. He had secured a letter written by Jim Garrison to Jonathan Blackmer of the House Select Committee on Assassinations that examined the significance of two seemingly obscure suspects in his investigation, Fred Lee Crisman and Thomas Beckham. Russo had a letter from Beckham to a major magazine that was extraordinarily interesting. It discussed the young man’s relationship with Jack Martin, the CIA, the Bay of Pigs, a man who fit the description of Guy Banister, and a personal acquaintance of his, "this double agent, Lee Harvey Oswald." (Significantly, none of the above material appears in Russo’s book.)

A very good article on Russo by Michael T. Griffith , Errors and Ommissions in Live by the Sword, can be found here:

http://ourworld-top.cs.com/mikegriffith1/id157.htm

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Two interesting articles. At least we know where Gus Russo and Dale Myers stand on the issue of the JFK assassination. What are your views on Russo? Or maybe you would like to give us an article written by Gerald Posner or John McAdams to explain your position.

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Two interesting articles. At least we know where Gus Russo and Dale Myers stand on the issue of the JFK assassination. What are your views on Russo? Or maybe you would like to give us an article written by Gerald Posner or John McAdams to explain your position.

Ha ha. (Sad but likely true).

Dawn

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Now, come on, Dawn and John, if I think two DGI agents shot JFK, is that consistent with the Posner/MacAdams view that Lee Harvey Oswald was a "lone nut"? Where is your reasoning here?

I am as convinced that there was a conspiracy as anyone on this Forum. That should be obvious to everyone. We just do not agree who the conspirators were.

Your logic here is bewildering. What is the point you are trying to make bringing up MacAdams and Posner?

With respect to John's perhaps more serious question on what I think of Gus Russo, I obviously think he was wrong in asserting that Oswald was a lone gunman. I also think he was probably wrong in believing that Oswald was indeed a leftist Castro sympathizer. That he got those two admittedly important points wrong does not mean he got everything wrong. His book needs to be read by anyone who is TRULY interested in solving the assassination, since it raises points worthy of consideration that are conveniently omitted by those who start with the premise that the assassination was an internal coup.

I agree with the point made by Mr. Griffith in the article cited in John's post: "Russo provides a great deal of valuable, interesting information." And he concludes his review of Russo's book thusly: "I would like to stress that, in spite of the problems discussed above, I believe Russo's LIVE BY THE SWORD is an important, worthwhile book. It contains a great deal of new information on key aspects of the JFK assassination. Russo does a superb job on the possible involvement of Cuban intelligence in Kennedy's death, on the reports that Oswald had contacts with Cuban intelligence in Mexico City, on the possibility that some intelligence elements had foreknowledge that Kennedy was going to be killed, on the flaws in the Warren Commission's investigation, on the conflicts among the Warren Commission's staff and members, on Lyndon Johnson's political standing with John Kennedy at the time of the shooting, on the suspicious activities at Red Bird Airport, and on several other subjects."

An assassination researcher will miss a lot of important information if he or she a priori rejects books because he or she disagrees with the author's central premise. "Triangle of Death" is another book that has interesting information not published elsewhere, and I am glad I read it even though I knew I would disagree with its premise that the Diem family participated in or sponsored the assassination.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Don't know where this belongs, but has anyone taken interest in what is known as "The Antulio Ramirez Ortiz Manuscript?" This man was a Castro supporter when everyone was then not and was later the first hijacker to Cuba. Imprisoned several times finally in Leavenworth, for the hijacking. He wrote a pretty lucid manuscript about his life. He claims to have seen in Cuba (1962)a file "Osvaldo-Kennedy" "with information indicating KGB involvement in the Kennedy assassination." (from a doc released in 1997)

Fonzi covers this lightly and it appears to have been of interest to investigators but handed off and not entered as any evidence. What happened to the investigation which seemed to end with Blakey and Lopez? Theories aside, I wonder why this investigation ended?

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Now, come on, Dawn and John, if I think two DGI agents shot JFK, is that consistent with the Posner/MacAdams view that Lee Harvey Oswald was a "lone nut"? Where is your reasoning here?

It is clear from their work that neither Posner nor MacAdams are sincere seekers of the truth. They exist to manipulate the so-called "evidence" they present in a way that will dissuade others from ever realizing the truth of the matter. Like them, you peddle a fiction that does the same thing. Your frock may have a different design, but it's cut from the same cloth. Perhaps that is the reasoning being employed, though only Dawn and John can tell you this for certain.

I am as convinced that there was a conspiracy as anyone on this Forum. That should be obvious to everyone. We just do not agree who the conspirators were.

Perhaps. Or, perhaps like a number of others who have in the past masqueraded as seekers of that conspiratorial truth, only to later disclose themselves as something else entirely, it's only a matter of time before you, too, claim to have suddenly seen the light. At which point, you will officially join the ranks of Reitzes, Russo, et al, who began circulating in the research community with one posture, before outing themselves as the polar opposite. In so doing, they claim to have undergone a conversion like Saul on the road to Damascus, and come to their senses. Whereas, others suspect their initial posture wasn't genuine, but merely their calling card to freely mingle among, and keep tabs upon, others in the research community. Since you revel in the fact that others have made the same accusation about you, I doubt very much that you'll object to me reminding you and others of this similarity between you and they who have disowned their "convinced of conspiracy" posture.

Your logic here is bewildering. What is the point you are trying to make bringing up MacAdams and Posner?

With respect to John's perhaps more serious question on what I think of Gus Russo, I obviously think he was wrong in asserting that Oswald was a lone gunman. I also think he was probably wrong in believing that Oswald was indeed a leftist Castro sympathizer. That he got those two admittedly important points wrong does not mean he got everything wrong. His book needs to be read by anyone who is TRULY interested in solving the assassination, since it raises points worthy of consideration that are conveniently omitted by those who start with the premise that the assassination was an internal coup.

Here you make a grossly skewed and unsubstantiated assumption. Please acknowledge that many people who accept that the "assassination was an internal coup" didn't "start with the premise," but reached that conclusion only after decades of diligent research. Russo's book, whatever one may feel about it, does nothing to alter or re-arrange the facts that led to that conclusion. In point of fact, one wonders why you so highly recommend a book written by someone who you hold completely wrong on two key facts. Oh yes, of course: he blames Castro too. Little wonder you will forgive him these "minor" flaws, so long as he cleaves to your own bias.

Personally, I have little time for those who undergo such conversions. If their first position was based on so flimsy a footing, why would I accord their subsequent views any credence? If they were fooled in the first instance, why should I pay any further attention to them? Clearly, they are either dabblers or worse.

I agree with the point made by Mr. Griffith in the article cited in John's post: "Russo provides a great deal of valuable, interesting information." And he concludes his review of Russo's book thusly: "I would like to stress that, in spite of the problems discussed above, I believe Russo's LIVE BY THE SWORD is an important, worthwhile book. It contains a great deal of new information on key aspects of the JFK assassination. Russo does a superb job on the possible involvement of Cuban intelligence in Kennedy's death, on the reports that Oswald had contacts with Cuban intelligence in Mexico City, on the possibility that some intelligence elements had foreknowledge that Kennedy was going to be killed, on the flaws in the Warren Commission's investigation, on the conflicts among the Warren Commission's staff and members, on Lyndon Johnson's political standing with John Kennedy at the time of the shooting, on the suspicious activities at Red Bird Airport, and on several other subjects."

An assassination researcher will miss a lot of important information if he or she a priori rejects books because he or she disagrees with the author's central premise. "Triangle of Death" is another book that has interesting information not published elsewhere, and I am glad I read it even though I knew I would disagree with its premise that the Diem family participated in or sponsored the assassination.

All books on this topic should be, and will be, read by those with a sincere interest. Where discrepancies in the various books emerge, they will ultimately be resolved by the readers, not the writers.

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Robert is right in part and wrong in part. First let me cover where I would part company with him. He wrote:

Personally, I have little time for those who undergo such conversions. If their first position was based on so flimsy a footing, why would I accord their subsequent views any credence? If they were fooled in the first instance, why should I pay any further attention to them? Clearly, they are either dabblers or worse.

Robert and I disagree on this. One can change one's position for many reasons, including the discovery of new information. I believe credit must be accorded to individuals with the courage to admit that their initial views on a question were wrong. Earlier this year I posted an essay from the "New York Times" indicating that Albert Einstein had to change his position on one of his first theorems. Certainly Robert would not argue that Einstein was only a "dabbler" in science, or that his first position was based on "flimsy" reasoning. (I suspect both Robert and I would have difficulty grappling with either of Einstein's views on the subject.)

Show me a person who has never changed his or her viewpoint on an issue and I will show you a fool. So my position is exactly contrary to Robert's. Rather than discrediting someone who has changed his or her view on an issue, I would revere him or her as a seeker of truth.

Robert's own post demonstrates the fallacy of his argument. He states that many who posit that the assassination was an internal coup came to that position only after decades of research. By his argument above, their conclusions must be disregarded because they first held a contrary belief.

Their are conspiratorialists (if I can call them (us?) such who once believed the Warren Commission Report. On the other hand, there are those who once saw a conspiracy who now believe that there may have indeed been a lone guman (and some who think that was Oswald). If they are intelligent people who make cogent arguments, I for one am reluctant to attack their sincerity. I think it interesting that so many people who subscribe to the "internal coup" theory so readily attack (without any basis that I can see) the sincerity of others, calling them intellectually dishonest or worse. I think the intellectual intolerance of opposing viewpoints is indicative of someone whose priority is not the truth but an ideologically driven agenda.

* * * * * * * *

Robert also wrote:

All books on this topic should be, and will be, read by those with a sincere interest. Where discrepancies in the various books emerge, they will ultimately be resolved by the readers, not the writers.

Here Robert is right, and Dawn, of course, wrong. Anyone with a sincere interest in solving the assassination will want to devour the literature rather than refusing to read a book if he or she disagrees with its ultimate premise. Anyone who refuses to read a book that does not conform to his or her bias is not, as Robert points out, sincerely interest in finding the truth.

An example: Russo's book offers many facts that are not covered in other assassination literature. One must either disprove the facts he asserts (if possible) or evaluate how those facts fit into what was going on in the early sixties. For instance, Russo argues quite convincingly (based both on interviews and government documents) that the Kennedy Administration was planning a second invasion of Cuba, and that Castro was aware of it. If Russo is correct, and it appears he is, that fact in itself does not prove that Castro "did it". But it does, I submit, completely eviscerate the argument that Castro would not have struck at Kennedy for fear of risking an invasion of Cuba. He knew that unless he did take out Kennedy, a second invasion was certain. Again, the fact alone is insufficient to prove Castro did it but when an argument against Cuban involvement can be conclusively dismissed, that is indeed an important development.

The fact that Russo, in my opinion, has wrongly concluded that a single gunman could have caused all of Kennedy's wounds does not make him wrong on the second invasion issue. In the first case, we are examining his opinion on facts. In the second case, it is not his opinion that is in question but only the facts he marshals. His conclusion therefore stands unless it can be proven that he misquoted the people he interviewed or that the official government documents he uncovered were fakes. So I can accept the facts set forth in Russo's book without having to agree with every one of his opinions.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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[quote name='Tim Gratz' date='Oct 16 2005, 05:39 AM' post='42120']

Robert is right in part and wrong in part. First let me cover where I would part company with him. He wrote:

* * * * * *

Here Robert is right, and Dawn, of course, wrong. Anyone with a sincere interest in solving the assassination will want to devour the literature rather than refusing to read a book if he or she disagrees with its ultimate premise. Anyone who refuses to read a book that does not conform to his or her bias is not, as Robert points out, sincerely interest in finding the truth.

The fact that Russo, in my opinion, has wrongly concluded that a single gunman could have caused all of Kennedy's wounds does not make him wrong on the second invasion issue. In the first case, we are examining his opinion on facts.

Gratz:

I have read literally hundreds of books on this case. Because I am not interested in your little phony darling Russo, because I have LONG known he's disinfo is proof to you that I don't sincerely care who killed the president? PLEASE!!!

I will admit I don't read all the books. I am selective. I do avoid the disinfo crowd, so well described by Robert above. I also don't have the kind of time you seem to have.

I am a real lawyer with real clients and real trials...and also a musician...whenever I have asked you what YOU do for a living you've responded that you have an office at Langley. Oh your sense of humor is just unfailing.

Your posts just so irk me....you're so intellectually dishonest. (And must have been dishonest in other ways to get disbarred, I would think).

You do not sincerely care about the truth: you have an agenda, that of pushing yet one more totally transparent cover story, that of a foreign conspiracy. In a wonderful letter to me in 1986 Jim Garrison had a term for these authors: "prostitutes". (WIm has this letter posted on his site when you click on the name Jim Garrison)

Dawn

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Don't know where this belongs, but has anyone taken interest in what is known as "The Antulio Ramirez Ortiz Manuscript?"

First, it may be said that your post “belongs here” in that it can certainly be related to the subject of Russo. Autilio (sp) Ramirez Ortiz was a Cuban who alleged that he found a KGB file labeled “Oswaldo/Kennedy” while working for G-2 in Cuba. So I thought that this might be dealt with in Russo’s book, given the book's basic premise. Russo indeed tells the story briefly on pages 226-227. Then he tells how John Martino claimed that Oswald was working for the Cubans. Russo then says, “Curiously, when asked how he knew this, (Martino) said he learned it from a Cuban named ‘Ortiz.’”

Russo’s cited source for Martino’s statement is Summers’s Conspiracy. But if you go to that source, you will find that Russo’s indirect quote is not entirely accurate. What Summers wrote is: “Pressed by the FBI to reveal his source, Martino named him as Oscar Ortiz.” Russo, apparently wanting to suggest to his readers that the Ortiz named by Martino may have been Autulio Ramirez Ortiz, fails to inform his readers that Martino’s Ortiz was named Oscar. Martino did not just call him “Ortiz,” as Russo would have his readers believe.

Secondly, I have an idea about Ramirez Ortiz’s story, although it’s only a guess. I base this on Spanish usage with regard to names. A person named Autilio (Fonzi calls him Antullo) Ramirez Ortiz would be referred to by surname as Ramirez (his father’s surname) or Ramirez Ortiz, not simply as Ortiz (his mother’s family name). Similarly, Herminio Diaz Garcia would be referred to as Diaz or Diaz Garcia, not as Garcia. (To refer to someone in Spanish only by their mother’s family name is an insult, suggesting that the person is a bastard with an unknown father.) But interestingly Fonzi in his book says that Ramirez Ortiz “called himself” Ortiz. Hence Fonzi and everyone has referred to this person as Ortiz.

So why would Ramirez Ortiz “call himself” Ortiz? Well, there is an obvious possible reason in the story he told. He said that he went into the G-2 file room to find the file on himself. He looked under “Ortiz,” and that’s how he discovered the “Oswaldo/Kennedy” file, right behind his. But the fact is, a person named Ramirez Ortiz would look under “Ramirez,” as that’s where his file would logically be. But of course, if he had looked under “Ramirez,” he would not have discovered an “Oswaldo/Kennedy” file right behind it. So he had to claim instead that he looked under “Ortiz.”

This is why I find it little wonder that Fonzi was told by a Spanish-speaking reader of Ortiz’s manuscript that the story was “bullxxxx.”

Edited by Ron Ecker
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Mark, I submit anyone who only reads books that support a particular theory of the assassination has an agenda. Robert Charles-Dunne made the point well: anyone who is seriously interested in solving the assassination will read ALL the books, even those that disagree with his or her premise. That is why Robert is an effective debater and Dawn is not.

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Mark, I submit anyone who only reads books that support a particular theory of the assassination has an agenda. Robert Charles-Dunne made the point well: anyone who is seriously interested in solving the assassination will read ALL the books, even those that disagree with his or her premise. That is why Robert is an effective debater and Dawn is not.

"debate"? Who said this investigation is a DEBATE?

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