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Book Reviewers' Conflicts of Interest


Tim Gratz
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Robert:

It surprises me that you would not know that I read "What Jane Roman Said" years ago. You are correct that it was another great contribution by Mr. Morley.

Be surprised all you like, Tim; it's what you're best at. You said that the Joannides episode indicates "it would certainly appear the CIA is attempting to hide something," as though this were a new revelation of some kind. Yet this has been the hallmark of CIA behaviour in the Kennedy case from 1963 onward, making your feigned "surprise" either entirely disingenuous, or marking you as the latest of late-comers to this subject.

Had you read and understood "What Jane Roman Said" when you read it "years ago," you would have already known that "it would certainly appear the CIA is attempting to hide something."

Obviously the CIA was up to something and is hiding something. On that I think we can all agree. Yes?

Finally, an admission that marks some small progress....

But let us get back to a journalist's conflict of interest on which you claim expertise. Given this sentence, I now doubt your understanding of the rule:

So, in other words, you are admitting that Morley had no predispostion against, or prejudice toward, the topic in the book you nevertheless claim he was disqualified from reviewing by some vaporous "conflict of interest?" Say, you are "tricky," arguing against your own postiion, and all.

A conflict of interest exists in any field (journalism, judicial ethics, etc) whether or not the journalist or judge has a "predisposition" or "prejudice". The test is not whether an actual prejudice exists, it is whether a conflict exists that could lead to a prejudice. When a major law firm determines whether to accept a case, it first does a conflict of interest check to determine whether it has ever represented the adverse party. If it has, it is duty bound (in most cases anyway) to reject the case. A judge cannot fail to recuse himself in a case in which he has a financial interest in one of the corporate parties and that is the case even if every party in the case would agree the judge was so fair he would never be influenced by the conflict.

There is no analog here to the Morley and Talbot cases. Neither man has a vested interest in the sales [successful or not] of "Ultimate Sacrifice." Neither man has an axe to grind against the authors. What they both possess is a fairly sharp understanding of the facts in the case, which is what seems to disqualify them in the minds of the petty and agenda-driven. One notes that you've yet to mention the rather odd symbiosis that led both the book's publisher and CIA apparatchik Dolan to write virtually the same letter at the same time. Just another of them darned co-inky-dinks, apparently, since we all know there's no such thing as "conspiracies."

Next point: the thesis of "Rendezvous With Death" is totally different from the premise of "Ultimate Sacrifice". I do not understand why Mr. Morley's statement that the allegations in "Rendezvous With Death" deserve careful study impact why he might have a conflict in reviewing "Ultimate Sacrifice".

It is indicative of just how open-minded and impartial Mr. Morley is, which undercuts any and all presumptions that he is so obsessed with going after the CIA that it somehow blinds him to other possible scenarios. As it should be.

Finally, I note you did not get around to responding to my major point: Jefferson Morley, who saw "Rendezvous With Death" states that its allegations merit careful scrutiny. Is Morley wrong? I find it curious how readily you reject "Rendezvous With Death" without ever seeing it.

I've already said that I'll withhold judgement until seeing it. However, noting the advance publicity indicates it merely re-treads hoary old cliches, based on "facts" long since debunked, doesn't constitute "rejection." It means that we really ought not to get our hopes up for any significant new details. What's more, unlike Morley and Talbot, Huismann seems to have come to this topic with no acknowledged prior understanding of the case. It may be a great and provocative piece of TV. That doesn't make it right.

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On reading about Truman I came across a letter he wrote to a magazine, shortly after the Bay of Pigs. He said that, to his mind, the CIA was created as an intelligence-gathering organization ONLY. He said that the words used to justify the CIA's covert acts had been misinterpreted from their original intent, and disavowed any responsibility for its actions. He said he never would have created the CIA if he knew what it would become.

You might be thinking of this letter, written by Harry S. Truman to the Washington Post, a month after the assassination of JFK (21st December, 1963)

For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government... I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment that I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.

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On reading about Truman I came across a letter he wrote to a magazine, shortly after the Bay of Pigs. He said that, to his mind, the CIA was created as an intelligence-gathering organization ONLY. He said that the words used to justify the CIA's covert acts had been misinterpreted from their original intent, and disavowed any responsibility for its actions. He said he never would have created the CIA if he knew what it would become.

You might be thinking of this letter, written by Harry S. Truman to the Washington Post, a month after the assassination of JFK (21st December, 1963)

For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government... I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment that I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.

That was probably it.

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