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Mel Ayton’s review of “A Farewell to Justice"

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Initially published on the History Network website:

Among myriad ironies in Mel Ayton’s review of “A Farewell to Justice,” perhaps the greatest is Mel Ayton’s offering author Max Holland’s CIA-published work as an answer to Joan Mellen’s exhaustive elucidation of the myriad CIA ties to the Kennedy case.

For example, Ayton trots out Holland’s remarkable discovery that the sole reason Jim Garrison had for suspecting the CIA in the events in Dallas was because he’d been duped by fiendishly clever KGB dezinformatsiya planted in a Rome daily, Il Paese Sera. Ayton apparently has more faith in the theory than even its supposed author does. For Holland refused to defend it in a public debate with me last September in Washington, D.C. before a live audience and rolling C-SPAN cameras. [1] On why he might have chosen not to, one scarcely knows where to begin.

But perhaps it’s worth starting with the fact that Holland’s famous breakthrough isn’t Holland’s, something he has never disclosed (apparently even to Ayton), but was forced to admit when I confronted him during our debate. Steve Dorril was the first one to make “Holland’s” argument in an article published by Lobster Magazine in 1983, something Ayton could have easily found in a simple search of the web. [2] “Holland’s” discovery apparently next surfaced when Warren Commission defender, John McAdams, ran it in a 1999 newsgroup post, [3] two years before Holland presented it for the first time.

The “proof” Dorril, McAdams and Holland offered that Il Paese Sera was a communist conduit consisted mostly of testimony the CIA’s Richard Helms delivered during a 1961 Senate appearance. [3] As this author has shown, Helms’s sworn assertions during this 1961 Senate appearance are no more credible than the testimony he gave during another Senate hearing that led to his conviction and the page 1 New York Times headline, “Helms Is Fined $2,000 and Given Two-Year Suspended Prison Term--U.S. Judge Rebukes Ex-C.I.A. Head for Misleading (Senate) Panel.” [4]

Without offering a shred of proof, Ayton recycles Holland’s dubious claim that, “the (Il Paese Sera) articles were NOT (sic) already in the works long before Shaw’s arrest, as Mellen claims … It was Shaw’s arrest that prompted [il Paese Sera to write] those stories.” How Ayton knows that the articles “were NOT already in the works long before Shaw’s arrest,” he does not say. But had Ayton (or Holland) bothered to contact Il Paese Sera’s editors, they would probably have told him what they have told others: that the six-part series had nothing to do with (and said nothing about) the KGB or the JFK assassination; that they had never heard of Jim Garrison when they assigned the story six months before [which was also six months before Garrison had charged Shaw]; and that they were astonished to see that Shaw might have any connection to the assassination.

Finally, echoing Holland, Ayton claims that the Italian articles were Garrison’s sole reason for suspecting the Agency. If they really were the sole source of his seduction, one would have expected some contemporaneous evidence of it. But there is none.

As Edward Epstein has pointed out, during his twenty-six-page interview in Playboy Magazine’s October 1967 issue, Garrison’s most comprehensive review of his case that year, the D.A. ticked off eight reasons to suspect the CIA. None of them included Il Paese Sera or the subject of the articles, the still-mysterious Rome World Trade Center, Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC). [5] Nor did he even mention Clay Shaw, although perhaps because of the pending legal wrangle. [6] Moreover, Garrison wrote the foreword to Harold Weisberg’s 1967-published book, entitled “Oswald in New Orleans--Case of Conspiracy with the CIA.” (my emphasis) Despite the perfect opportunity, as with Playboy, Garrison again uttered not a word about Il Paese Sera, Shaw or the CMC. [7]

Finally, it is unhelpful for the central role Holland and Ayton have the Rome daily playing that Garrison never once cited or referred to those reports during the Shaw trial. Nor did he even use them as a basis for questioning Shaw. He never asked Shaw, for example, whether he had worked for CMC or for the CIA, both of which were the focus of all six stories. [8]

Ayton next rallied to the defense of a former Miami Herald reporter, Donald Bohning, who Mellen had described as “CIA linked.” In response, Ayton quoted from a complaining email from the man: “(I) never took a cent from the CIA,” Bohning apparently wrote, “and was outraged by the implication – along with the terms ‘writer asset’ and ‘utilized’ … Top editors at the [Miami] Herald were well aware – and approved – of my contacts with the CIA during the 1960s.”

Tellingly, Ayton omits the most damning portion of Mellen’s account. Even if money never changed hands, and Mellen nowhere suggests it did, Bohning’s relationship with The Agency was far from the routine and casual relationship reporters have with government insiders. As Mellen points out, Bohning was apparently so useful to The Agency it gave him his own, unique cryptonym, “AMCARBON-3.” Bohning “had received his Provisional Covert Security Approval as a CIA confidential informant on 8/21/67,” Mellen wrote, “then Covert Security Approval itself on 11/14/67.” And no less than the CIA’s Deputy Director of Plans himself “approved the use of Bohning in the CIA’s Cuban operations.” [9]

For those who have forgotten Carl Bernstein’s cautionary tale about the corrosive effect such relationships can have on credible and honest journalism [10], or the New York Times’s Christmas week 1977 mea culpa for having compromised itself and its readers by engaging in similar unhealthy relationships with the CIA, a recent scandal is worth mention.

Judy Miller, the recently disgraced New York Times reporter, was such a darling of the Bush Administration and the military that she was granted a security clearance not unlike Bohning’s. [11] Her bogus, prewar scare stories about the imminence of the Iraqi threat that the “leftist” New York Times published on the front page were a boon to the Neocons in the Bush Administration bent on manufacturing consent for war.

That Bohning’s higher-ups at the Miami Herald knew and approved of his cozy relationship only compounds the impropriety. At least The New York Times’ “top editors” publicly donned hair shirts and apologized to readers for betraying their trust. And not without reason. Bernstein documented that the problem wasn’t the occasional tainting tie between the rare, lowly stringer and the CIA. It was the myriad, compromising arrangements between The Agency and the higher-ups in outfits such as CBS, NBC, ABC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The L. A. Times, etc. that really took the bark out of our press watchdogs. This is not to say Bohning was corrupt, but that Mellen’s concern is well founded.

Ayton puts Holland in service of downplaying the links Mellen details between Clay Shaw and The Agency. “In reality, Clay Shaw had simply been one of thousands of businessmen who had once been a source for the CIA through its Domestic Contact Service … Shaw was a Kennedy supporter (and a) decorated war veteran.”

Here, flag-waving is substituted for dealing with Mellen’s great spadework on this interesting question. Ayton does not dispute that, as Mellen reported, Shaw had been cleared by the Agency for project “QKENCHAT (which) authorized trusted CIA personnel for clearance to recruit or enlist ‘civilians,’ people not officially with the Agency, to discuss ‘projects, activities and possible relationships.’” [p. 133]

If Ayton is right that Shaw’s arrangement was unexceptional, and that “thousands” of other American businessmen had similarly been empowered by the CIA to “recruit or enlist ‘civilians,’” there is no record of it. Moreover, the CIA called QKENCHANT an “operational project,” not an intelligence-gathering project. And Shaw’s records were kept in The Agency’s “operational files,” not with the “innocent” Domestic Contact files that housed the routine debriefings of ‘simple’ returning American businessmen.

Ironically, Ayton ignores what even Max Holland has acknowledged: Shaw lied under oath in denying his association with the CIA. “Have you ever worked for the Central Intelligence Agency?” Shaw’s own defense attorney F. Irvin Dymond asked him. “No, I have not,” replied Shaw.” [11] Against the interests of his own Agency, CIA director, Richard Helms, put the lie to that. Holland relates that Shaw had had an [at least] eight-year relationship with the CIA, sending The Agency information on 33 separate occasions that the CIA invariably graded as “of value” and “reliable.” [12]

One might have expected that, if only for political reasons, a Warren Commission loyalist bent on diverting suspicion from the CIA and focusing it instead on Garrison would have avoided citing Holland’s essay, “The Lie That Linked the CIA to the Kennedy Assassination.” For that poorly conceived, anti-Garrison tirade was published by the CIA itself after his fellows at The Nation Magazine, where Holland works as a contributing editor, rejected the paper from their magazine. [13]

To undermine the important revelations of Thomas Edward Beckham, a House Select Committee witness Mellen features, Ayton describes him as a “semi-literate,” implying that the memory of a poor reader could be safely ignored. During a visit to New Orleans, Mellen interviewed former House Select Committee investigator, L. J. Delsa, a murder investigator with more than 30 years experience working variously as a federal, state or local official. In an interview on December 7, 2005, Delsa opined that, on the basis of his personal knowledge, he believed that Beckham was a credible witness.

Similar problems mar the rest of Ayton’s review. But at the end of the day, still standing are Mellen’s demolitions of the myths that the CIA played no part in JFK’s demise and that Oswald was a loner. And she has established quite convincingly that Clay Shaw’s International Trade Mart in New Orleans was a hornet’s nest of activity undoubtedly related to The Agency in ways known only to those with access to still-sealed files.

With what we’ve already learned from declassified files, it’s no mystery why the government has remained so passionate about maintaining secrecy concerning JFK’s demise. For it is information that has been painfully extracted from once-secret files over the past 41 years that has steadily eroded the fables upon which the Warren Commission built its case. Mellen’s book has completed a demolition that Ayton’s valiant efforts can’t hope to stave off.

It’s past time he understood that. For when keepers of the flickering flame have to resort to Agency-abetted disquisitions to defend The Agency’s innocence, the gig is up and it’s time to sent up a white flag.

1] The proposition, “Was Garrison Duped by the KGB?” was the subject of our debate held during a conference hosted by the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 18, 2004 at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel. Holland was to have defended that proposition but did not. He chose instead to argue that Jim Garrison had “lied” when he said in his book, “On the Trail of the Assassins,” that he’d not heard of the Il Paese Sera articles until after the Clay Shaw trial. While Holland established that Garrison had indeed seen the Il Paese Sera articles before trial, he was less convincing that Garrison’s inaccurate statement was really a lie rather than a mistake. As noted in the text, Garrison never used any of the material in the articles during the trial, and his book was published 21 years after he’d seen them.

[2] Steve Dorril, Permindex: The International Trade in Disinformation. Lobster: the journal of parapolitics, intelligence and State Research, #3, 1983. On-line at: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/lobster.htm [Had Ayton but google-searched the obvious words, “Il Paese Sera, CMC,” the second “hit” would have taken him directly to this article.]

[3] See: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/siss.txt

In its entirety, John McAdams’s newsgroup post read as follows:

From - Fri Oct 15 12:22:19 1999

From: 6489mcadamsj@vms.csd.mu.edu (John McAdams)

Newsgroups: alt.assassination.jfk

Approved: jmcadams@execpc.com

Subject: IL PAESE SERA and Communist disinformation

Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 17:19:56 GMT

Message-ID: <38075e84.4563189@mcadams.posc.mu.edu>

X-Newsreader: Forte Free Agent 1.11/32.235


Lines: 79

Path: mcadams.posc.mu.edu!

From "Communist Forgeries," a Senate Internal Security

Sub-Committee hearing on 2 June 61, testimony of Richard Helms, pp.


<Quote on>

In recent days we have seen an excellent example of how the

Communists use the false news story. In late April rumors began to

circulate in Europe, rumors charging that the Algerian-based generals

who had plotted the overthrow of President De Gaulle had enjoyed

support from NATO, the Pentagon, or CIA. Although this fable could

have been started by supporters of General Challe, it bears all the

earmarks of having been invented within the bloc.

In Western Europe this lie was first printed on the 23rd of

April by a Rome daily called Il Paese.

Senator KEATING: Is Il Paese a Communist paper?

Mr. HELMS: It is not a Communist paper, as such. We believe

it to be a crypto-Communist paper but it is not like Unita, the large

Communist daily in Rome. It purports to be an independent newspaper,

but obviously it serves Communist ends.

The story charged --

"It is not by chance that some people in Paris are accusing

the American secret service headed by Allen Dulles of having

participated in the plot of the four 'ultra' generals * * * Franco,

Salazar, Allen Dulles are the figures who hide themselves behind the

pronunciamentos of the 'ultras'; they are the pillars of an

international conspiracy that, basing itself on the Iberian

dictatorships, on the residue of the most fierce and blind

colonialism, on the intrigues of the C.I.A. * * * reacts furiously to

the advance of progress and democracy * * *."

We found it interesting that Il Paese was the starting point

for a lie that the Soviets spread around the world. This paper and

its evening edition, Paese Sera, belong to a small group of journals

published in the free world but used as outlets for disguised Soviet

propaganda. These newspapers consistently release and replay

anti-American, anti-Western, pro-Soviet bloc stories, distorted or

wholly false. Mario Malloni, director of both Il Paese and Paese

Sera, has been a member of the World Peace Council since 1958. The

World Peace Council is a bloc-directed Communist front.

On the next day Pravda published in Moscow a long article

about the generals' revolt.

Senator KEATING: May I interrupt there? Did Pravda pick it

up as purportedly from Il Paese? Did they quote the other paper, the

Italian paper, as the source of that information?

Mr. HELMS: Pravda did not cite Il Paese. But instead of

having this originate in Moscow, where everybody would pinpoint it,

they planted the story first in Italy and picked it up from Italy and

this is the way it actually went out in point of time [sic].

<Quote off>

This is important context for understanding the PAESE SERA articles

that linked Clay Shaw (correctly) to CMC/Permindex, and connected

CMC/Permindex (falsely) to support for the OAS attempts against De

Gaulle, various fascist and Nazi forces, etc. The PAESE SERA stories

were quickly picked up and repeated by leftist journals in France,

Moscow, and Canada.

This by no means proves that the CMC/PERMINDEX stuff was a KGB

disinformation operation. The left-wing journalists at the paper

would have been happy to smear what they considered to be the "forces

of capitalist imperialism" without any direct orders from Moscow.

Indeed, Helms is only *inferring* that the earlier story about anti-De

Gaulle generals was a KGB operation.

But this episode does put the 1967 articles on Shaw/Permindex into

context. The articles were, in one way or another, motivated by a

communist ideological agenda.


[4] * Anthony Marro. Helms Is Fined $2,000 and Given Two-Year Suspended Prison Term--U.S. Judge Rebukes Ex-C.I.A. Head for Misleading Panel. New York Times, 11/5/77, p.1.

* See also: Gary Aguilar. Max Holland Rescues the Warren Commission and The Nation. Probe Magazine, Sept-Oct. 2000 (vol. 7 No.6)

On-line at: http://www.webcom.com/ctka/pr900-holland.html#_edn151

* See also Richard Helms’ obituary, on-line at: www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/10/23/national/main526654.shtml+Helms+Is+Fined+">,000+and+Given+Two-Year+Suspended+Prison+Term&hl=en&client=firefox-a

[5] In: The Assassination Chronicles--Inquest, Counterplot, and Legend by Edward J. Epstein. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992, p. 250--263.

[6] Playboy interview of Jim Garrison is on-line at: http://www.jfklancer.com/Garrison2.html, ff

[7] Harold Weisberg. Oswald in New Orleans--Case of Conspiracy with the C.I.A. New York: Canyon Books, 1967, p. 7--14.]

[8] See the text supported by footnotes 138 to 146 in the essay, “Max Holland Rescues the Warren Commission and the Nation” by Gary L. Aguilar. Probe Magazine, Sept-Oct. 2000 (vol. 7 No.6)

On-line at: http://www.webcom.com/ctka/pr900-holland.html#_edn151

[9] Joan Mellen. A Farewell to Justice. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005, p. 253.

[10] Carl Bernstein. The CIA and the Media. Rolling Stone Magazine, 10/20/77. Excerpts available on line at: http://www.webcom.com/~lpease/media/ciamedia.htm

[11] William E. Jackson, Jr.. The Mystery of Judy Miller's 'Security Clearance' Deepens. Editor & Publisher, 10/26/05.

On-line at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/co...t_id=1001390654

[12] Max Holland. The Lie that Linked the CIA to the Kennedy Assassination. On-line at the CIA’s website at: http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/fall_winter.../article02.html

[13] On condition I not disclose his identity, a former editor at The Nation told me that Holland’s CIA-published article had been rejected by Holland’s fellow editors. I asked Holland about the rejection in person at a Washington, D.C. JFK conference on November 19 2005. “Politics,” he said, explained the rejection.

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Welcome to the forum, Gary...but please use your return key

when composing. To read your message, I had to scroll for

every line, since it was twice the width of my 19-inch screen.

Few will bother to read when the message is so wide. Apparently

the default setting when hard returns are not used is about 24".


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