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Richard Billings and the JFK Assassination

John Simkin

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John, why do you think the CIA "pushed" the HSCA's "mafia probably did it" conclusion on Blakey?
If you believe the CIA were involved in a disinformation campaign, why do you still believe the story they pushed to Blakey and the HSCA?

Gary Mack: “The CIA pushed a story to Blakey and the HSCA? That’s a theory, not a fact. For your information, Blakey has publicly and privately supported the HSCA conclusion of two shooters since 1979 when science proved to him that two gunmen were firing that day. Whether the acoustics ultimately stands or falls is an entirely separate matter. It is difficult for me to comprehend how his supporting a conspiracy finding plays into the CIA’s hands, as your theory posits.”

The Warren Commission attempted to convince the world that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. All the available evidence suggested this was impossible. Therefore Arlen Spector and Gerald Ford had to come up with the single-bullet theory. As revealed by the ARRB in 1997, Ford had to alter details of JFK’s wounds in the WC report in order to fool the public.


Despite the propaganda campaign of the American media, the world did not believe this story. The WC had a credibility problem. This became a serious matter when Jim Garrison began his investigation into Oswald’s activities in New Orleans. This is of course what John Whitten wanted to do in his initial CIA investigation. That is the reason Richard Helms took him off the case and handed it over to the trusted James Jesus Angleton.

It was therefore decided to change the story. Oswald did have fellow conspirators. Oswald was not the only gunman. The assassination of JFK was now to be blamed on the Mafia. This is a story that the American public would want to believe. This would enable them to have faith in the American political system.

Richard Billings, who worked for Henry Luce, had played an active role in the CIA’s Operation Tilt, an attempt to get JFK removed from office in 1962, was sent to infiltrate Garrison’s investigation (as was Bernardo De Torres and Gerry Hemming).

In January 1967, Billings arranged a meeting with Garrison. Billings told Garrison that the top management at Life Magazine had concluded that Kennedy's assassination had been a conspiracy and that "his investigation was moving in the right direction". Billings suggested that he worked closely with Garrison. According to Garrison "The magazine would be able to provide me with technical assistance, and we could develop a mutual exchange of information".

Garrison agreed to this deal and Billings was introduced to staff member, Tom Bethal. In his diary Bethal reported: "In general, I feel that Billings and I share a similar position about the Warren Report. He does not believe that there was a conspiracy on the part of the government, the Warren Commission or the FBI to conceal the truth, but that a probability exists that they simply did not uncover the whole truth." Billings managed to persuade Bethal that Clay Shaw was innocent. Later it was revealed by W. Penn Jones that "Bethal made the entire trial plan, a complete list of State's witnesses and their expected testimony and other materials available to the Shaw defense team."

Billings attempted to persuade Garrison that Carlos Marcello and the Mafia were behind the assassination of JFK. Garrison did not believe the story. His investigation suggested that it was the CIA who had been responsible.

In September, 1967, Billings told Jim Garrison that Life Magazine was no longer willing to work with him in the investigation. Billings claimed that this was because he had come to the conclusion that he had links to organized crime. Soon afterwards, Life began a smear campaign against Garrison. It was reported that Garrison had been given money by an unnamed "New Orleans mobster".

This smear campaign helped to destroy Garrison’s credibility (in the long term it destroyed his career).


Despite the destruction of Garrison, the American people refused to believe the lone-gunman theory. The problem became worse in 1975 when Frank Church became the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. This committee investigated alleged abuses of power by the CIA and the FBI. His report revealed that the intelligence agencies had been involved in assassination attempts of radicals such as members of the Black Panthers. It also revealed for the first time, details of Operation Mockingbird. The CIA not only had a history of carrying out assassinations, they also had an operation that enabled them to cover-up these activities.

The result of this information being made public some politicians began calling for a fresh investigation into the assassination of JFK. In 1976, a Detroit News poll indicated that 87% of the American population did not believe that Oswald was the lone gunman who killed Kennedy.

In 1976 Thomas N. Downing began campaigning for a new investigation into the assassination of JFK. Downing said he was certain that JFK had been killed as a result of a conspiracy. He also believed that the CIA and the FBI had withheld important information from the Warren Commission.

Coretta Scott King was also calling for her husband's murder to be looked at by a Senate Committee. It was suggested that there was more chance of success if these two investigations could be combined. Henry Gonzalez and Walter E. Fauntroy joined Downing in his campaign and in 1976 Congress voted to create a 12-member committee to investigate the deaths of Kennedy and King.

Thomas N. Downing named Richard Sprague as chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Gaeton Fonzi was to later say: "Sprague was known as tough, tenacious and independent. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind when I heard of Sprague's appointment that the Kennedy assassination would finally get what it needed: a no-holds-barred, honest investigation. Which just goes to show how ignorant of the ways of Washington both Sprague and I were".

Sprague quickly assembled a staff of 170 lawyers, investigators and researchers. On 8th December, 1976, Sprague submitted a 1977 budget of $6.5 million. Frank Thompson, Chairman of the House Administration Committee made it clear he opposed the idea of so much money being spent on the investigation.

Smear stories against Sprague began appearing in the press. David B. Burnham of The New York Times reported that Sprague had mishandled a homicide case involving the son of a friend. Members of Congress joined in the attacks and Robert E. Bauman of Maryland claimed that Sprague had a "checkered career" and was not to be trusted. Richard Kelly of Florida called the House Select Committee on Assassinations a "multimillion-dollar fishing expedition for the benefit of a bunch of publicity seekers."

It was clear that Sprague was going to be someone who would be difficult to control. He was therefore removed and replaced by G. Robert Blakey. This was a wise choice as he had already developed a career out of investigating the Mafia. It would not be too difficult to persuade him that it was Carlos Marcello who was behind the assassination. However, just to make sure, Richard Billings was appointed to help Blakey carry out his investigation.


As Gaeton Fonzi (staff investigator) and Gary Cornwell (deputy chief counsel) have pointed out in their books on the HSCA investigation (The Last Investigation and Real Answers), Blakey was determined to blame the Mafia for the assassination and was very unwilling to explore the possibility of CIA involvement.

Blakey (and his masters) had a problem. How could he blame the Mafia for the assassination without revealing the LBJ/CIA/FBI cover-up? This is why the HSCA report did not include information on how Ford changed details of JFK’s wounds in the original report. This vital information was not disclosed until 1997 by the ARRB. Yet Blakey was aware of it during his investigation. The only way that Blakey could cover for LBJ/CIA/FBI was to claim that new evidence had emerged to show there was a conspiracy: the acoustic evidence. This enables Blakey to peddle the Mafia did it theory without any involvement of the intelligence agencies in the assassination or the cover-up.

It is therefore no surprise that this is the theory supported by Gary Mack and other disinformation agents. But it is not true. In reality, JFK was assassinated by a group of men made up of anti-Castro Cubans and CIA agents.


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