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Published: Friday, November 24, 2006

JFK killing: A conspiracy, asserts Notre Dame professor

IN DALLAS --- President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, arrive at Love Field in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963. Barely an hour later, he was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through the city.

Most people of the Baby Boomer generation, or older, can remember precisely where they were on November 22, 1963.

Many can also recall the name of the quickly established body charged with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy --- the Warren Commission, named after then-Chief Justice Earl Warren, who headed the seven-member group which concluded that accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone.

But what a lot of Americans don't know today is how in the late 1970s a congressional committee reexamined the evidence and concluded that Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

As chief counsel and staff director to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979, G. Robert Blakey --- who had worked in the Justice Department in the JFK White House years --- led the later investigation into JFK's death.

This week --- 43 years after the assassination --- the professor and O'Neill Chair in Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School, and author of "Fatal Hour: The Assassination of President Kennedy by Organized Crime," gave a lecture on the Kennedy assassination Nov. 20 at Mount St. Mary's College as well as an earlier phone interview to The Tidings from South Bend, Indiana.

'No reason to question'

"I went into the Select Committee with an open mind because I knew some of the principal staff people in the Warren Commission and assumed what they did was workmanlike and the best under the circumstances," the 70-year-old law professor said. "And I had no particular reason to question it. I had not been part of that enormous wave of critical commentary of the Warren Commission. That was not on my radar."

What he found, however, was that while the prestigious commission had done an excellent "shooter investigation," focusing on Oswald, it had done an "abysmal" conspiracy investigation. The reason, Blakey maintained, was the CIA and FBI withheld crucial information that might have changed the entire course of their study.

The Central Intelligence Agency kept back reports about a Mafia plot pointing directly at a possible Fidel Castro involvement, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation withheld domestic electronic surveillance that was both of questionable legality and not comprehensive, said Blakey.

"Ironically, I thought I could show that the mob or La Cosa Nostra didn't do it because my previous work in the Department of Justice led me to believe that they were just too conservative to go out and kill a president," he said. "They wouldn't want the publicity and they wouldn't want to get caught at it. Because if they were unsuccessful and had just wounded President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy was still attorney general.

"And, in fact, the evidence didn't show that they did do it. But it did show that they certainly thought about it and discussed it. And the evidence sort of turned me around to think that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone. Then, of course, the important question is 'Well, who did he act with?'"

Kennedy vendetta

Blakey, who worked under Robert Kennedy in the Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section from 1960 to 1964, said the mob or, more specifically, certain members "stood out." The attorney general was waging an aggressive investigation against organized crime figures, particularly going after Carlos Marcello, godfather of Louisiana, and his counterpart in Florida, Santo Trafficante.

"There's sufficient circumstantial evidence to think that there's a possibility, a strong possibility, that the mob did it because of the actions of Bobby Kennedy," he noted. "And those two individuals, Marcello and Trafficante, in particular, he really went after."

This causal connection, of course, was not lost on the younger brother.

"He had a haunting, and I'd say it was more than a suspicious, feeling that his activities --- either against Castro or against organized crime --- might well have led to his brother's death," said Blakey. "It bothered him. Robert Kennedy before the assassination was aggressive, hard-charging and not very reflective. After the assassination, he became a much more reflective person.

"When he ran for the Senate and especially the presidency, he had lots of contact with a range of people in the nation that he didn't before: the poor, disadvantaged, blacks, Hispanics, rural people. And that's a different Bobby. He was introspective and indeed melancholy, and sort of accepting of the fact that if he got in the political fray again, it might cost him his life. But he did it anyway."

Fourth shot?

Arguably the most controversial finding of the House Select Committee was the much debated fourth shot from the grassy knoll near the Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Blakey doesn't dispute the fact that the acoustical evidence from two tapes is compromised by "crosstalk" from the motorcycle officer's and police chief's recordings.

But he points out that "ear-witness" accounts from five different individuals - including Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the assassination with his 8 mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic movie camera - testified under oath that at least one of the four shots came from the direction of the grassy knoll. The law professor calls this independently corroborated evidence "overwhelming" that there were two shooters.

Blakey also believes evidence showed Jack Ruby stalked Oswald after his arrest, and that it wasn't a "serendipitous" encounter that led to the Dallas nightclub owner shooting that killed Oswald two days after Kennedy's death. He says the Warren Commission glossed over that, saying it was purely a chance meeting as the prisoner was being transferred to a more secure jail.

When asked why, after 43 years, the Kennedy assassination is still a hot topic for internet bloggers, media commentators and political pundits, the law professor sighed.

"Well, the whole assassination investigation suffers from too much evidence," he said. "There's an awful lot of detail in it. So it means when people look at it, they can find evidence to suit any theory they want. And the task is really to make a balanced judgment, which is what we tried to do.

"Plus there are a lot of people for whom the assassination is a Rorschach test. It's not what's there, it's what they see. And you have people using it to advance particular agendas: antigovernment agendas, the CIA did it, the FBI did it. And then there are people who do books and movies. And the way you sell them is to come up with a new theory."

In his own book, Blakey says he's not being a prosecutor, because he doesn't think he could prove his conspiracy case beyond a reasonable doubt against mob bosses Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante. But as a historian who has poured over all the available evidence, he can surely offer a theory that holds most of that evidence together.

The budding historian, however, has no illusions about how future generations will judge the major conclusion of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

"History will probably say that the Warren Commission found a single assassin, and that the controversy continues," he mused. "And there may, if they do their homework, be a footnote saying a congressional committee disagreed with the Warren Commission.

"But the tendency is to take the official explanation," Blakey added. "And the official explanation is really the Warren Commission. It's not us. We just disagreed."

Edited by William Kelly
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Ah good ol' Blakey. Once the CIA got rid of Sprague the investigation was over. They just had to replace the discredited LN story with the new quasi-official mob dunnit story and Blakey did the rest. Good ol' Blakey. He's always right on message.

Funny how any theory of CIA culpability is an "agenda." All the language is so manipulative. Ugh.

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Ah good ol' Blakey. Once the CIA got rid of Sprague the investigation was over. They just had to replace the discredited LN story with the new quasi-official mob dunnit story and Blakey did the rest. Good ol' Blakey. He's always right on message.

Funny how any theory of CIA culpability is an "agenda." All the language is so manipulative. Ugh.


I've always found the "Mafia Done It" scenario to be one that is fairly "safe" - at least in terms of playing the proverbial game of "survival."

Fingering the mafia is a bit like the old saying, "if you steal from a thief, you can be certain he won't call the police." It stands apart from politics - neither "side" gets terribly offended. The mob is despicable, so lumping another reason to loath them is an easy pill for most to swallow. It certainly isn't a stretch to imagine them committing illegal activities... :P They don't offer any particular nationality, so blaming the mob won't start a diplomatic emergency (or worse)... Perhaps first and foremost, they're not the CIA or any other government agency.

To go along with the ease of blame, there is credibility and believability to the various arguments that provide the mob means, motive, and opportunity.

Thus, there is a way for someone like Mr. Blakey to "confront the new evidence of conspiracy" and not rock any boats... Blame the mob and call it a day... So you CAN have your cake and eat it, too...

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