“How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute and Convict President Kennedy’s Assassins Has Led to Today’s Crisis of Democracy” with author Joan Mellen speaking about her most recent book, “A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination and the Case That Should Have Changed History” on January 24, 2006 at the Ethical Culture Society in New York City.
This talk by Joan Mellen was originally broadcast on the March 15, 2006 episode of Guns & Butter on KPFA Radio, 94.1 FM.
You can listen to or download this show here.
“How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute and Convict President Kennedy’s Assassins Has Led to Today’s Crisis of Democracy” with author Joan Mellen speaking about her most recent book, “A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination and the Case That Should Have Changed History” on January 24, 2006 at the Ethical Culture Society in New York City.
This talk by Joan Mellen was originally broadcast on the March 15, 2006 episode of Guns & Butter on KPFA Radio, 94.1 FM.
You can listen to or download this show here.
BONNIE FAULKNER: This is Guns & Butter. I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns & Butter – Joan Mellen. Joan Mellen is an author and professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia. Her most recent book “A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison’s Investigation, JFK’s Assassination, And the Case That Should Have Changed History” began as a biography of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, turned into the story of Jim Garrison’s investigation, and then into an investigation of the assassination itself. Eight years in the writing, including 1,000 interviews, “A Farewell to Justice” is the subject of her presentation given on January 24, 2006 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute, and Convict President Kennedy’s Assassins has led to Today’s Crisis of Democracy. Joan Mellen.
JOAN MELLEN: My book is about the Kennedy Assassination. It began as a biography of Jim Garrison. For those who don’t remember and who don’t even remember Oliver Stone’s movie, he was District Attorney of Orleans Parrish, a place that no long exists. And he remains the only public official ever to have brought anyone before the Bar of Justice for participation in the conspiracy to murder President Kennedy. Garrison assumed that role because he discovered that the person framed for the crime, a low level intelligence agent named Lee Harvey Oswald, resided in his jurisdiction between April and September of 1963. The biblical metaphor is inevitable. That great harlot city New Orleans, destroyed by flood. Among its many sins, incubating the Kennedy assassination. After his suspect Clay Shaw was acquitted…Clay Shaw was the man whom the new evidence reveals was a CIA operative, guilty of participating in the implementation of the murder of President Kennedy. Garrison was asked how he imagined he could convict someone of conspiracy in the murder of President Kennedy in a Louisiana State Court. Garrison said, “I guess I thought I was living in the country I was born in.” He wasn’t, and we aren’t. I’d like to suggest that the truth about the Kennedy assassination, far from being a matter of interest only to historians and not even to most of them, will help us understand how we arrived at a point where people as respectable as New York attorney Martin Garbus are comparing the current U.S. government with the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century. It’s my belief that the present state of our political culture is a direct result of the fact that those responsible for the murder of President Kennedy have never been brought to justice. To sum up, “A Farewell to Justice” suggests that the clandestine service of the CIA not only covered up the truth about the Kennedy assassination, that’s easy to demonstrate from the four million documents now residing at the National Archives, but organized the event itself. That the CIA escaped without penalty. This extraordinary fact has been integrated over these 42 years into the body politic. It has produced a political culture where the unthinkable has become accepted practice. Meaningful freedom of the press has fallen into serious jeopardy. For a flagrant example of what we have come to, we might revisit the scantily reported change on December 1st between Notre Dame professor Doug Castle and John Yu, a former Deputy Assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft, a participant in the writing of the Patriot Act and now a Berkeley law professor. The subject of the debate was the illegal expansion of Presidential powers. Professor Castle asks “If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?” And Yu answers “No treaty”. Castle follows up, “Also no law by Congress?” That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.” And Yu replies “I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that”. If Professor Castle’s hypothetical question seems melodramatic, we have Martin Garbus. Alarmed by the twin expansion of Presidential and police powers, writing in the New York Observer, “This country is approaching a dangerous turning point. And suggesting that the United States today, bears some similarities to Weimar, Germany where liberal democracy was not able to contend with the fascist onslaught. In Miami a few weeks ago, I was struck by the omnipresence on the streets and restaurants, of police officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies. Famously, Benjamin Franklin replied to a question of whether this new land should be a monarchy or a republic with the line, “A republic, if you can keep it.” What begins as surveillance moves to wiretapping, then COINTELPRO tricks, and finally to murder. A diagram of what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why the illegal NSA surveillance is so alarming. We have not been aided in understanding the meaning of the Kennedy assassination by the continued public silence of those closest to President Kennedy. One day I requested of one of Jim Garrisons law school classmates Tulane School of Law class of 1949. Is Wilmer Thomas here tonight he called me this morning and I.. There he is. ‘Wilmer, hi.’ I asked Wilmer to ask his acquaintance, Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., whom he believed was behind the assassination of President Kennedy. Professor Schlesinger observed, quietly, “We were at war with the National Security people.” That the CIA at its highest levels exacted its revenge on President Kennedy has been an open secret since 1963. A Gallup poll on the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in 2003 found that twice as many people believed that the CIA was implicated in the assassination as there were who accepted the official fiction that Oswald had acted alone. In 1963, people were already worried abut the CIA’s extraordinary use of its powers. In the New York Times, Arthur Krock wrote in October 1963 that if ever there would be a coup in the United States, it would “come from the CIA and not the Pentagon.” The CIA, Krock wrote, was a “malignancy on the body politic.” It is difficult to imagine such words being printed in the Times today, so profoundly has our freedom of the press eroded since the time of the Kennedy assassination. After the death of President Kennedy, ex-President Harry S. Truman, under whose watch the CIA was created in 1947, wrote on the front page of the Washington Post, that the CIA had been running a shadow government becoming “operational.” Truman declared that the CIA was in urgent need of correction. Brazenly, Allen Dulles at one point even told a reporter, Allen Dulles of course was Director of Central Intelligence, even told a reporter to think of the CIA as “the State Department for unfriendly countries.” The CIA’s policy-making also involved interference in the electoral process in France and Italy, funneling money to certain political parties – in Italy it was the Christian Democrats whom the CIA funded in an effort to prevent a coalition of Socialists and Communists from taking power. The assassination of Prime Minister Aldo Moro was connected to that CIA campaign. At the time of the assassination, Charles de Gaulle remarked that John F. Kennedy, whom he admired, had died as a result of an intra-government conflict, a situation not uncommon in many countries. The documentation available since the passage of the JFK Act in 1992 overwhelmingly supports de Gaulle’s view. The rubber-stamping of the Warren Report by the press in 1964 seems to mark the moment when the mainstream press became “embedded” in official versions of events. Traces of that process have surfaced. In April 1967 the CIA issued a memo available now at the National Archives, I wish the New York Times would read it, instructing friendly reporters on how to reply to challenges to the Warren Report, recommendations that have resurfaced in the past few years in a renewed set of attacks on Jim Garrison, a decade after his death. So it should come as no surprise that the New York Times for a year covered up the National Security Agency domestic surveillance of citizens with rubber-stamped search warrants issued under a “Foreign Intelligence Services Act” (FISA) run by the Pentagon, or with no warrants at all. Only when their own reporter was about to publish a book detailing the evidence did the Times run that story. It should be horrifying that the Congressional debate about the Patriot Act has been not whether there should be a government capability, but how long it should be extended. Ponder the Times treatment of Jim Garrison, and later of Oliver Stone, who dared to make a film with Jim Garrison as its central character. When Garrison’s first book, “A Heritage of Stone,” appeared in 1969, John Leonard gave it a positive review in the daily Times. In his final paragraph, Leonard recounted a few of Garrison’s challenges to the Warren Report. “Something stinks about this whole affair,” Leonard writes. “Why were Kennedy’s neck organs not examined at Bethesda for evidence of a frontal shot? Why was his body whisked away to Washington before the legally required Texas inquest? Why?”
By the next edition Leonard’s final paragraph had vanished, a third of a column slid down the memory hole. One of the people Jim Garrison liked to invoke often was George Orwell, and in fact, he nicknamed one of his investigators Winston Smith. Of course most people didn’t recognize where the reference came from. Leonard’s review now closed with these words: “Frankly I prefer to believe that the Warren Commission did a poor job rather than a dishonest one. I like to think that Garrison invents monster’s to explain incompetence. It was an extraordinary example of management censorship of a book review. To this date, as I said, The Times tolerates no factual challenges to the Warren Report. They appear to be the only people who still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible for the death of President Kennedy. I spoke in Clinton, Louisiana last month at the oldest working courthouse in the United States. The judge who introduced me asked the audience how many people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty. Not a single hand went up. The audience knew the Warren report was not sensical because it was an East Feliciana Parish and the little hamlets of Clinton and Jackson that Oswald appeared in the company of Clay Shaw and a CIA contract pilot named David Ferrie, played by Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone’s movie in the late summer of 1963, three months before the assassination. In the audience were actual witnesses, including the barber who cut Lee Harvey Oswald’s hair. That the Warren Report could so fragrantly lie and present itself as a homicide investigation, while doing virtually no investigation at all, neither Clay Shaw nor David Ferrie were interviewed for the Warren Commission, inspiring Jim Garrison’s quip, “they didn’t call anyone who was involved” has resulted in other presidential commissions taking similar liberties with the truth. I wrote an Op-Ed piece comparing the deliberate ignoring of crucial information by the 9/11 Commission with a similar failure to investigate a key lead by the Warren Commission. It begin with the information released by a Lieutenant Colonel in Army Intelligence, Tony Shaffer, that the Able Danger Intelligence Unit had identified Muhammad Atta, I’m sure people know about this story by now, and other accused hijackers as part of the cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States at least a year before 9/11. Colonel Shaffer had wanted this information to go immediately to the FBI, only for Defense Department lawyers to forbid Able Danger from contacting the Bureau. The New York Times buried this extraordinary information two thirds of the way into the paper. The Washington Post ran a Pentagon denial. Information has to get out and I think we have to account for why some of these things weren’t looked at as part of the overall report, Colonel Shaffer said on NPR. Shaffer then revealed something else; he had presented the findings of the Able Danger Team to Philip Zelikow, that same Executive Staff Director of the 9/11 Commission who has defended the recent attacks on Jim Garrison as a dupe of the KGB. Zelikow saw to it that the Able Danger information never appeared in the 9/11 Commission Report and went on to deny that he was given the information. He now works on the staff of Condoleezza Rice. One might ask; could Zelikow and company have gotten away with denying the reality of a cover up of vital information about 9/11 if we had demanded the truth from the Warren Commission? I sent my Op-Ed piece to 34 newspapers. Only one would print it, the Key West Citizen. What has all this to do with the Kennedy Assassination per se? I’m suggesting that demanding the truth about the Kennedy Assassination, even at this late date, is a step toward restoring our basic freedoms. The discourse needs to go even further than pointing to who planned and who implemented the crime. Was the CIA acting alone, on its own behalf? Whose interests did the Agency serve in 1963? Because the CIA eviscerated by George W. Bush was a very different institution from the agency that waged war against President Kennedy. The discussion of who rules America must begin with President Eisenhower, and you’ll forgive me for repeating this, warning against a Military Industrial and we need of course to add National Security Complex. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes, President Eisenhower said. Eisenhower cut the military budget as soon as he took office. The CIA, the research reveals, sabotaged President Kennedy’s effort to achieve Détente with the Soviets in the final year of his Presidency. Through the downing of Francis Gary Powers, U-2 over-flew into the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower had a good definition of National Security, he said; National Security meant that the country was proceeding in peace and without a deficit.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You’re listening to author Joan Mellen, the Failure to Identify, Prosecute, and Convict President Kennedy’s Assassins has led to Today’s Crisis of Democracy. I’m Bonnie Faulkner. This is Guns & Butter.
JOAN MELLEN: Jim Garrison often asked during his investigation: Cui Bono? Who benefits? A lawyer friend of mine living near Langley Forks in Virginia pointed out to me some interesting connections. The Texas School Book Depository, from which some, but not all, of the shots were fired on November 22, 1963, was owned by one D. H. Byrd. B-Y-R-D. Byrd also founded and was the commander of the Southwest Post of the Civil Air Patrol, which included Louisiana and the Troop led by David Ferrie, among whose cadets was Lee Harvey Oswald. In November, 1963, one of Byrd’s companies, I think he had fifty, LTV, a major defense contractor, was almost bankrupt. Defense contracts flowing from the Vietnam War changed that, and by 1968 the stock had increased geometrically in value. Meanwhile we know that President Kennedy opposed vehemently a protracted ground war, and that as soon as he was dead, Lyndon Johnson dispatched thousands of troops to Vietnam. Among D.H. Byrd’s associates was a man named Neil Mallon, the Skull and Bones classmate of Prescott Bush. Mallon headed a company called Dresser Industries, and it was Dresser which sent George H. W. Bush, his friend’s son, west to Texas in 1949. It was for Mallon that the first President Bush named one of his sons. Mallon built Byrd’s barite plant in Mexico, barite a product involved in oil drilling. By the way I got an e-mail today talking about the Mexico holdings of two companies Halliburton and Schlumberger, both of which figure in this story. Dresser Industries was bought by Halliburton in 1998, and at that time the Kellogg subsidiary of Dresser became part of Brown and Root. Brown and Root itself had been bought by Halliburton in 1962, the year before President Kennedy’s death. It is less well known that Brown and Root profited not only from the war in Iraq, but first from Vietnam. Having recognized the role of Brown and Root, and discovering that George Brown was a CIA asset, as the CIA’s own released documents confirm, Jim Garrison hoped to investigate Brown’s role. Was the CIA acting on behalf of President Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial Complex? As a matter for further research, the intelligence connections of the Bushes date from before the very founding of the CIA: the Agency’s mandate was outlined in 1946 by Robert A. Lovett, who was a partner of Prescott Bush at Brown Brothers Harriman. Not least, as readers of The Nation Magazine know, and many I hope are here, after the Kennedy assassination, the FBI was enlisted to brief CIA asset George Bush, and by the way the first President Bush always denied when he was appointed Director of Central Intelligence that he ever before had a role in the CIA. CIA was briefing THE George Bush, and not a low-level man in the Agency by the same name, as was at first claimed, on the reaction – the topic was the reaction of the Miami anti-Castro community to the Kennedy Assassination. To the general observation that the CIA represented the interests of the oil-defense industries, and the Pentagon, must be added another motive for the involvement of the CIA in the assassination. Almost from the moment Kennedy took office, a conflict raged between the President and the CIA. Once Kennedy refused to be blackmailed by the CIA into a full-scale invasion of Cuba at the time of the Bay of Pigs, de Gaulle’s “intra-administration war” erupted. The clandestine service of the CIA pushed for an invasion of Cuba. President Kennedy declined, and went on to fire the Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles, who re-emerges as the central figure in the Warren Commission. We all know that. Throughout Kennedy’s brief presidency, the CIA treated him as an enemy. They withheld information, which included details about the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Also concealed from President Kennedy were the CIA’s continuing assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders. John F. Kennedy, in turn, sought to reign in the CIA, and to limit the scope of its activities, including reducing the powers of the Director of Central Intelligence. He intended to transfer the overflight U-2 program from the CIA to the Strategic Air Command. He intended to cut the CIA budget. He sent, I discovered, Richard Goodwin down to No-Name Key to ask the Soldiers of Fortune training there to take over Radio Swan, the CIA station, on behalf of the President. They declined. And one of the Soldiers of Fortune down there, his name was Gerald Patrick Hemming, said to me that John F Kennedy was the last president who thought he could take power. Kennedy threatened the existence of the Agency as they knew themselves. Richard Reeves, in his very honest biography of John F. Kennedy, quotes the President repeating over and over again: “I’ve got to do something about those CIA bastards,” and “Those CIA bastards. I’m going to get those bastards if it’s the last thing I ever do.” It was the persistent refrain of the Kennedy presidency. The current President has also had his conflicts with the CIA. He, however, has espoused the very policy favored by the CIA under Kennedy – the relentless pursuit of foreign wars. To achieve his end, that war in Iraq, no matter what lie he had to tell to implement it, George W. Bush had to do what Kennedy knew he had to do as well – eviscerate the CIA. So the disinformation was spread that the CIA had fallen down on the job. In fact, the CIA had reported accurately about the situation in Iraq, and this before the Iraq war. The CIA noted that the invasion of Iraq was likely to lead to civil war. The CIA reported that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rather than give up his war, the President undercut the CIA. Then Bush attempted to subvert the CIA further by claiming that the CIA had endorsed what it had not, but which fit his projected policy. He claimed that the CIA had told him first that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then he said [the] CIA had been wrong. Neither claim was true. The outcome was the subordination of the clandestine services and of the agency itself, so that the CIA director no longer enjoys the daily briefing with the President, and is subordinate to a new director of national intelligence, whom the President can control. We should not be surprised that the National Security Agency, empowered only to spy on foreign agents abroad, is spying on us instead. A research into the Kennedy Assassination reveals that although the CIA was supposedly created to deal with foreign threats, the CIA operated together with the FBI in the coverup of the Kennedy Assassination. Documents reveal that this mutual cooperation dates from the moment of the founding of the CIA. In Louisiana, the sabotage of Garrison’s investigation was led by the CIA, operating beyond its mandate, domestically. Let me return to some details of what Jim Garrison accomplished. As Garrison once quipped about the supposed lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, Oswald was virtually never alone. Nomoreover, he was not involved with anyone who was not connected to the CIA. Oswald was an FBI informant, Garrison learned from Louisiana Representative Hale Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission. And Garrison always said that the person who turned him on to the investigation of President Kennedy’s death was Senator Russell Long. People often criticized Garrison of talking to the press too much, and, in fact, Garrison kept his secret until the day of his death. The person who involved him in the Kennedy investigation was not Senator Russell Long. In fact, I talked to Senator Russell Long’s family, and Garrison always talked about a plane ride that he took with Long, in which they discussed the Kennedy Assassination and Russell Long convinced him to investigate. Well, what Russell Long’s family told me was that when Russell Long got off the airplane, he said Garrison “chewed his ear off” about the Kennedy assassination. So the truth was the reverse. And one of those Soldiers of Fortune, whom I just mentioned, told me in Miami, “The one true thing you said was that nothing is as it seems.” It was Hale Boggs, obviously. Hale Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission, who had been at secret meetings – closed sessions of the Warren Commission, which talked about Lee Harvey Oswald’s status as an FBI informant. Allen Dulles told him, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” And Hale Boggs, of course, told Jim Garrison and that was what really persuaded him to begin. I discovered a conversation Garrison did not know about. At the first district police station, where Oswald was taken after he was arrested for a disturbance when he was handing out his pro-Castro leaflets – and by the way, the documents reveal that the Fair Play for Cuba, which Oswald supposedly represented, was heavily infiltrated by CIA; those documents are all available at the Archives – Oswald requested of Lt. Francis Martello of the New Orleans Police that Martello call the FBI field office. “Call the FBI,” Oswald ordered Martello imperiously, “tell them you have Lee Oswald in custody.” Oswald asked that special agent Warren De Brueys come down to see him. Obviously, Oswald was someone the New Orleans field office of the FBI knew well. The agent on duty that night, John Quigley, then asked a young clerk named William Walter – the person who took Martello’s call to check all the files, locked and unlocked – for what they had on Oswald. On one file jacket, in the locked filing cabinet of the special agent in charge where security files were kept, were two names: Lee Oswald and Warren De Brueys. To this day, Mr. De Brueys denies that he ever knew Oswald, and he’s testified as such to many committees. So just before my book came out, I called him up on the pretext of how to spell his name correctly. “Do you spell “De” with a capital “d” or with a small “d”?” And I was waiting, would De Bruyes say anything after all these years? And what he said to me was this: “After forty years, you wouldn’t be a very intelligent person if you didn’t change your mind about things.” Now, that wouldn’t hold up as a confession in court, but I take it as one. Oswald has also been part of the CIA counter intelligence false defector program. Oswald, I found new evidence to show, also worked for U.S. Customs in New Orleans as many CIA people worked for Customs and some of those Custom Officers or one of them, told the Church Committee “I’ve been waiting 10 years for someone to ask me what happened.” And then he told about Oswald’s role with Customs. Now those boxes, only 25% of the Church Committee records are open to the public, so far. So I had the summary of that but not the actual deposition. Garrison began by exploring Oswald’s government connections. He indicted Clay Shaw for participating in the conspiracy without having our government records released under the JFK Act and by the way I want to say again about the JFK Act, an extraordinary development, we’re not likely to witness any time soon again. And these records show that Shaw was a CIA Operative and we have to thank Oliver Stone because as a result of his film, people wrote to Congress and said if this isn’t true, if what Oliver Stone said in this film isn’t true – open the records and at that moment in 1992 they did, wouldn’t today. By shepherding Oswald around Louisiana, Shaw was repaying the CIA for considerable favors rendered. Because Shaw was acquitted, Garrison chose as the title of his third book, “A Farewell to Justice.” He never used that title and so I appropriated it and I think I had a right to do so. I did a book about Lillian Hellman once and Lillian Hellman gave a course at Harvard to creative writing students which she titled, “Stealing.” And she said, “Never imitate, it’s not okay to imitate other writers, but stealing is perfectly okay.” You steal and you make it your own and so I took Garrison’s title. You can see that Garrison was a literary man. He liked Graham Greene in particular, he loved Shakespeare and obviously Hemingway. Part of my book includes how Federal agencies worked actively to thwart Garrison’s investigation. Garrison was astonished that the FBI refused to cooperate with New Orleans law enforcement in an investigation of the Kennedy assassination. In fact, J. Edgar Hoover, we know who that is, subverted Garrison’s effort. Witnesses came forward to the FBI believing that in providing the FBI with their information, they were simultaneously reaching the District Attorney. And the document reads as follows, “Give Garrison nothing.” Hoover wrote to all Special Agents in Charge adding in “In reference to the Special Agent in Charge in New Orleans, Robert Rightmeyer,” quote, “Tell Rightmeyer that I want him and all personnel in New Orleans to keep their mouths shut.” This was February 1967, a week after Jim Garrison’s investigation became public. Bobby Kennedy’s right hand man, Walter Sheridan, had spearheaded the blackmail, bribery and wiretapping that accomplished the conviction of Jimmy Hoffa. The evidence of Walter Sheridan’s illegalities in the railroading of Jimmy Hoffa is chronicled in Fred Cook’s brilliant three parts series in The Nation Magazine. A further irony is that Chief Justice Earl Warren enlisted by Lyndon Johnson to rubber-stamp the preordained conclusion that Oswald murdered President Kennedy, wrote what seems to me a brilliant dissent when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Hoffa conviction. I asked a friend of mine without saying this, I asked Richard A. Posner, “Well, do you agree with me about Earl Warren’s dissent there?” I have to tell you he did not, he did not. Bobby Kennedy then sent Sheridan to New Orleans as Sheridan freely admitted to destroy Jim Garrison. That same National Security Agency spying on American citizens today spawned Walter Sheridan, who was also cleared for service with FBI and CIA. Sheridan personally telephoned the Governors of several states to ensure that Garrison’s subpoenaed witnesses not be extradited back to the state of Louisiana, not a single witness was returned to New Orleans.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You are listening to author, Joan Mellen, “How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute and Convict President Kennedy’s Assassins Has Led to Today’s Crisis of Democracy.” I’m Bonnie Faulkner, this is “Guns and Butter.”
JOAN MELLEN: In the recent attacks on Jim Garrison may be found the preposterous notion that the only reason Garrison focused on the CIA was that he was the victim of KGB propaganda flowing from an Italian newspaper, Paese Sera. This total falsehood, and I mentioned this earlier, has been defended by Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission. One of the half-dozen anti-Garrison articles appeared, not surprisingly, on the CIA’s own web site, “Studies in Intelligence.” As a biographer, among the questions I asked was: did Jim Garrison take bribes from executives profiting from pinball machine gambling, then illegal in Orleans Parish. You could play pinball but you couldn’t gamble with a pinball machine, for which he was charged by the Federal Government? Was Jim Garrison dishonest? The new documents reveal that after Shaw’s acquittal, after he perjured himself, and suborned perjury, Garrison was ready to continue his investigation, only for that same operative, Walter Sheridan, to return to New Orleans and blackmail Garrison’s friend and former chief investigator, Pershing Gervais. This is from the documents, not from interviews, I did a thousand by the way. Would Gervais not help them to nail Garrison for taking bribes from pinball gambling interests, Gervais would go to jail for eight years – the document is that specific – for income tax fraud. So we see in this story, the mutual cooperation of agencies: the FBI helping the CIA, the IRS enlisted by the National Security Agency and the CIA. Years later, on the occasion of Oliver Stone’s film, “JFK,” Anthony Lewis wrote in the New York Times that Garrison had taken bribes. In fact, Garrison was acquitted. The bribes were indeed going to a “big man at Tulane and Broad,” but it was not six foot six inch Jim Garrison, but Chief of Police, Joseph Giarrusso. The police headquarters was also at Tulane and Broad. Addressing a frequent attempt to discredit Jim Garrison, I also had to ask: was Garrison tied to the Mafia? Did he blame the CIA for the assassination as a way of protecting the Mafia? I learned that Carlos Marcello, the Mafia chieftain of Louisiana and Texas, despised Garrison and wanted him out of office. Garrison was “unreliable,” Marcello complained to Governor John J. McKeithen, whose assistant, John Tarver, relayed this to me. McKeithen himself did take bribes and a person who ran against him in 1968 named John Rarick, told me this story where John Rarick’s campaign manager was visited by Carlos Marcello’s person and offered $50,000 and John Rarick’s man refused and Carlos Marcello’s representatives said “Well Big John took his.” So in other words Marcello was giving $50,000 to each side. The final chapter of my book, entitled “Rabbi,” reflects my interviews with a person who was involved in setting up the assassination, a man named Thomas Edward Beckham. It describes his CIA training at a facility in Virginia. Beckham presented me with a government document which describes him as a man who would feel no guilt about killing. This phrase matches in language documents released by the Church Committee describing the assassins hired by the CIA in their assassination attempts against foreign leaders: Lumumba, Trujillo, Diem, and, of course, Fidel Castro. Beckham had been subjected to a polygraph by the New Orleans Police in the late 1970s: when Robert Blakey and Gary Cornwell, who headed the House Select Committee on Assassinations, discovered this, the Louisiana investigators were suspended for conducting a polygraph without authorization. The CIA controlled that investigation as it did the Warren Commission. My favorite anecdote concerns the moment when former Justice Arthur Goldberg was asked to head the Committee after Philadelphia prosecutor Richard A. Sprague was fired. Knowing that the CIA held the truth about the assassination, Goldberg telephoned the Director of Central Intelligence, Stansfield Turner, and asked whether, should he take the job, he would be given full CIA cooperation. He asked his question again, there was silence. He asked his question again, only then did Turner reply, “I thought my silence was my answer.” Goldberg did not take the job. My final question came at my last interview, in Miami in June of 2005. It was one that also perplexed Jim Garrison: Why did Bobby Kennedy try to sabotage his investigation through Walter Sheridan? I interviewed a Cuban close to Robert Kennedy, who revealed that Robert Kennedy had Oswald under surveillance in New Orleans during the summer of 1963. Like Professor Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy looked first to the CIA for responsibility in the murder of his brother. On the day of the assassination, Bobby confronted John McCone, the Director of Central Intelligence, with this question: “Did the CIA kill my brother?” He told Harry Ruiz Williams, one of the Cubans working for him, confirming his prior awareness of Oswald, “One of your guys did it!” and it was not a question, but a statement. Wanting to be certain, Bobby sent that same Walter Sheridan to Dallas to find out if the Mafia had planned the crime. They had not. Bobby also asked a Mafia-connected Chicago lawyer, Julius Draznin, who worked for the NLRB, the same question. The answer, as Draznin reported to Walter Sheridan, was that the assassination was not a Mafia hit. Years later, Sheridan would testify under oath that the Mafia was behind the assassination! He knew better. It was in the circles of the anti-Castro movement that Bobby Kennedy moved his aim to protect the life of his brother from some Cuban still furious about the Bay of Pigs. His other aim was to “neutralize” Fidel Castro. Since the Church Committee hearings, newspapers have reported on Operation Mongoose, the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro. Bobby Kennedy’s separate efforts have been less widely publicized but I have it confirmed from many people, including Ramsey Clark. It was in this Miami research that I discovered my parallel between the cover-up by the 9/11 Commission of the Able Danger information and a similar set of facts that faced the Warren Commission in its closing days. It reveals information that bears upon why Robert F. Kennedy was so nervous about Jim Garrison’s investigation. And about any investigation of his brother’s death. This began at the Bethesda autopsy. Nothing to do with Jim Garrison. One of the doctors, Pierre Fink, testified for the defense in New Orleans at State of Louisiana vs. Clay Shaw, that the Kennedy family had asked that the trajectory of the President’s wounds not be examined. “If my brother were killed,” Garrison said, “I would be interested in getting the individuals involved, no matter who they were.” Garrison made this statement on national television exasperated by the persistent question by news people, “If you’re on the right track why isn’t Bobby Kennedy helping you?” Late in its deliberations, the Warren Commission discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited a Cuban exile and former law student named Sylvia Odeo in Dallas in late September 1963. During the weekend of the assassination Mrs. Odeo and her sister Annie, both at once identified Oswald as the man who had visited them in the presence of two Cubans whom Sylvia Odeo would never identify. Mrs. Odeo testified before the Warren Commission. She said that the day after that visit one of the Cubans had telephoned her and in the course of the conversation remarked that Leon Oswald had said, “President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs. And some Cuban should have done that. It’s so easy to do it.” Indicating both foreknowledge of the assassination and that Oswald was being set up. The Warren Commission never adequately investigated this information. They certainly didn’t call Leopoldo, the man who phoned Sylvia Odeo just as the 9/11 Commission didn’t feel obliged to investigate the Able Danger documents. The Warren Commission’s Chief Counsel, J. Lee Rankin, expressed irritation at the very suggestion that Sylvia Odeo’s story should be fully investigated, murmuring, “We were supposed to be closing doors, not opening them.” Years later Rankin was bitter that the FBI and CIA had concealed vital information from the Warren Commission. Deposed in the late 1970’s by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Rankin admitted that he regretted that he had taken the CIA’s word that Oswald was never a CIA agent. Invited to ask if he had anything further to say – this was after the questioning – Rankin had a question for the lawyers and committee members in the room. “Was the HSCA investigating whether the people involved in the CIA cover up were involved in the assassination as well?” He received the same response Arthur Goldberg had. Silence. The Warren Commission lacked a context in which to evaluate the incident of Oswald visiting Sylvia Odeo because the FBI and CIA both, on the instruction of Chief of Counter Intelligence James Angleton, concealed the CIA’s history of attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, now a matter of public record. In my pursuit of the question of why Bobby Kennedy tried to sabotage Jim Garrison’s investigation, Garrison used the word “torpedo”, I studied the minutes of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board – I recommend that to all researchers – and the Church Committee papers. I tried to interview Cubans who worked closely with the Attorney General and this is some of what I discovered. And then I’ll close. Bobby Kennedy had assembled a team of anti-Castro Cubans. One, Manolo Rebozo is now living in Nicaragua, having married into the wealthy Samoza family. Another, Manuel Arteme is dead. But I did find a man named Angelo Murgado. A man so devoted to the Kennedys that at his citizenship hearing he changed his name from Murgado to Kennedy in homage to a person whom he admired. That is Bobby. If you look in the — well, you won’t find him in the Miami telephone book. Angelo told me that Bobby’s instructions to his special team were twofold. One aim was to find a means of getting rid of Fidel Castro. Bobby’s other aim was to protect his brother. He sent these Cubans to New Orleans. Moving among, as Angelo puts it, “Castro’s agents, double agents and Cubans working for the CIA” they hoped to “neutralize” a future assassin. In New Orleans Angelo Murgado ran into Lee Harvey Oswald who was moving among the anti-Castro community. He put Oswald under surveillance. When I mentioned that I had discovered Oswald’s acquaintance with an anti-Castro Cuban named Juan Valdez – and of course, he laughed. That couldn’t possibly be anybody’s real name – who worked at Clay Shaw’s International Trade Mart, Angelo was dubious. How could that be? He knew everyone Oswald was acquainted with and he didn’t know this man. That’s how close to Oswald they drew. Scrutinizing Oswald and reporting back to Bobby, his team discovered that Oswald was an informant for the FBI. Learning this, Bobby reasoned, if the FBI is controlling him, he’s no problem. Bobby underestimated the role Oswald had been induced to play in the murder of his brother and ceased to make him a major target of his concern. Bobby knew “something was cooking in New Orleans,” Angelo Murgado told me but Bobby urged caution, he was out of his depth. In September it was Angelo, and a fellow veteran of the Bay of Pigs who traveled from New Orleans to Dallas to visit Sylvia Odio. Angelo believed they were there to marshal help for the anti-Castro efforts and talked about buying arms to support anti-Castro efforts within Cuba. Mrs. Odio’s father, in jail in Cuba, headed a liberal organization called Jure J U R E, it’s position, “Fidelismo sin Fidel.” Angelo believed that he could trust his companion, referred to in the Warren Report as “Leopoldo,” because not only was he a fellow veteran of the Bay of Pigs, but his brother was running for Mayor of Miami. He was respectable. The next day, out of Angelo’s hearing, and that’s very important, out of Angelo’s hearing, Leopoldo phoned Mrs. Odio to tell her how how Leon Oswald had talked about the need to murder President Kennedy. “Leon is kind of nuts,” Leopoldo stated, setting up Oswald as the patsy. Oswald’s mental imbalance forms the conclusion of the Warren Report; Oswald was called Leon a number of times, not least at a gathering at David Ferrie’s apartment where Clay Shaw and Ferrie, Garrison’s chief suspects, discussed what their alibis would be for November 22nd. At Sylvia Odio’s, Angelo used his true given name, Angelo Murgado. “Leopoldo” was an alias. Placing Oswald in the company of so close an associate of Bobby Kennedy, in an incident that points to foreknowledge of the assassination as well as the framing of Oswald, created the trap that would silence Bobby forever. Bobby asked his aide, Frank Mankiewicz whether “any of our people were involved,” and, Mankiewicz told me, he had asked himself, did you think there might be? Angelo, meanwhile, had been betrayed by a companion he believed he could trust, a man not so much assigned to the overthrow of Fidel Castro, as Angelo believed, as he was to arrange for Oswald to be blamed for the murder of the President. “Leopoldo” was a Cuban named Bernardo de Torres. A virtual flood of documents reveals that he was an asset of both the CIA and military intelligence. When he was subpoenaed before the House Select Committee, CIA arrived on the day de Torres was deposed to insist that he be granted immunity. The CIA so totally controlled that Committee that they agreed to the CIA demand that de Torres would not be questioned about the period of time leading up to the Kennedy assassination. Both the Warren Commission and the HSCA buried what they knew about Oswald’s participation in ANTI-Castro activities, information that would have led directly to the role of the CIA in the assassination. I believe that we are now suffering the consequences of allowing lies about what happened to President Kennedy to remain unchallenged. The consequence of the public not demanding that the murder of the head of state be properly investigated has led directly to the current undermining of the integrity of our democratic institutions, not least the press. An obvious consequence of the obfuscations of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee has been the ease with which the 9/11 Commission was able to conceal important truths. I wrote my book to make a small contribution to the need for government accountability and openness because what is at stake, if I can be grandiose for a second, is Democracy itself. And now I’ll close with one line, it’s a line from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a sermon of 1967 the year before his death: “No lie can live forever.” Thank you.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You’re listening to author Joan Mellen, “How the failure to identify, prosecute and convict President Kennedy’s assassins had led to today’s crisis of democracy.” I’m Bonnie Faulkner, this is “Guns and Butter.”
QUESTIONER: Let me ask you a question about Lee Harvey Oswald himself. Did he know that he was being put into this role at this particular point? Was he was just a dupe at that particular point?
JOAN MELLEN: I think that Oswald didn’t know what was happening until he was arrested in Dallas and then I think he wanted to show his CIA handlers that he was still with the program, that they really ought to rescue him because what Oswald did when he was arrested in Dallas was ask for John Abt to represent him. And John Abt as we know was the lawyer who represented the Communist Party. So here’s Oswald signaling to his CIA handler, “Something has gone terribly wrong, I didn’t do this, and get me out of it, look I’m still with the program, I’m still maintaining my disguise, my cover – which was – that I was pro-Castro.” David Atlee Phillips, a name familiar to researchers of the Kennedy assassination, was the CIA propaganda specialist who managed the CIA infiltration of Fair Play for Cuba.
QUESTIONER: Can you explain further why Bobby Kennedy stymied the investigation? Bobby Kennedy is a hero to many of us, and this was obviously sad information when we read it. Can you give us some more insight into that?
JOAN MELLEN: I want to say something in defense of Bobby Kennedy. And that is that he must really have posed a threat to those who murdered his brother, or he himself would not have been assassinated, just as he was about to really run for the presidency with a good chance of winning. There’s no question that Bobby Kennedy tried to stop not only, as I said, Jim Garrison, but any investigation. When Jim Garrison went into Federal Court to ask for the records of the autopsy, the X-rays and photographs, the Kennedy family fought very hard and defeated the Orleans Jurisdiction and they didn’t get those materials. I think that Bobby Kennedy didn’t want it to come out that he was running his own team, that was attempting to “neutralize Fidel Castro.” I think it was part of the times. I think that the Kennedys had contradictory policies. John McCone said it, many Kennedy family friends said it. They were pursuing contradictory policies. Which I suppose many political leaders do and it’s kind of difficult for us to accept. John F. Kennedy was attempting rapprochement with Fidel Castro. He sent an emissary, William Atwood, to Cuba. Arthur Schlesinger told me, go read Carlos Lechuga’s memoirs because Carlos Lechuga was the Cuban ambassador to the UN. And they were making advances on normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba. And yet, at the same time, the Kennedys were involved in sabotaging Fidel Castro. A person is incredulous that this could be, but I think that the situation isn’t so easy to understand. John F. Kennedy is the person, after all, who sent the Green Berets, Phoenix Program and Special Forces into Vietnam. These were death squads. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese died in the early 1960s under these programs. It’s true that John F. Kennedy did not want to send ground troops into Vietnam, but he was not the Prince of Peace either, as some people have said. And I think we shouldn’t be afraid of the truth, wherever it leads.
QUESTIONER: When Garrison told the truth, he was attacked in the press. When the movie “JFK” came out, Oliver Stone was attacked in the press. Can you described the mechanism that makes these attacks possible. And has your book been attacked in a similar fashion? What can we do about the corruption of the media by the CIA and more recently by Bush? Can we hope that the CIA will now try to bring down Bush?
JOAN MELLEN: It’s too late. I think Bush feared it, because that’s why he eviscerated the CIA, and that’s why we have a Director of National Intelligence now, and the CIA, the people in the clandestine service resigned right and left. The CIA is no longer the power that it was. So the current administration has accomplished that end. The CIA was someone to be feared, not to be trusted. And the Bush Administration took no chances. What can we do about it? Standing here today, I hope I’m doing something about it. Writing the book, I hope I’m doing something. It seems such a small thing. It seems – it’s a pity – if I really were doing something that was a threat, I would be shot. I must not be doing something right. People who write books must not be doing enough. Jim Garrison himself survived, because they had other ways of discrediting him. So, we do what we can.
QUESTIONER: How could a conspiracy that had to involve so many people be kept so secret for over 40 years?
JOAN MELLEN: It has not been secret. I think people know. Richard Goodwin certainly knew that these soldiers of fortune down there who were training to invade Cuba were refusing the order of the Executive, of the President of the United States. The people who were responsible for this crime did not come forward. Even I think it was the New York Times or the Washington Post, titled the obituary of Richard Helms, “He Died With His Secrets.” I don’t think that we’re going to bring the people to justice. I think what’s important for history is to understand what has happened in our country in an effort to try and stop what’s happening now. Which is shocking, just shocking.
QUESTIONER: The CIA agent in charge of the Bay of Pigs, fired by Kennedy, and the Mayor of Dallas were brothers. Was that connection used to facilitate the assassination? If so, does that bolster the case for CIA involvement?
JOAN MELLEN: Well, that was Jim Garrison’s contention. Whoever wrote that knows Jim Garrison well. Jim Garrison was preoccupied all his life, by the fact…well, let me just go back a little bit. Remember John F. Kennedy fired Allen Dulles who was the Director of Intelligence. And his second in command, Dulles’ second in command, was General Charles Cabel. And when Dulles was fired, General Charles Cabel had to resign. Who should be mayor of Dallas at the time of the Kennedy assassination but Earl Cabel, brother of General Charles Cabel. So Garrison was really struck by this. And of course, the parade route was changed. And for students of the Kennedy Assassination who know better than I do the details of this, it appears that the Mayor had something to do with the changing of the parade route. Certainly, that parade route was outrageous, taking that slow ride and passing the Texas Schoolbook Depository. And so Garrison was persuaded that there was definitely a connection and that connection linked Dallas to the CIA.
QUESTIONER: What do you think of McClelland’s book that implicates LBJ in the assassination?
JOAN MELLEN: I don’t know what to say about that. Now the fact that there were many murders involved as Lyndon Johnson came to power – nothing connected with the Kennedy assassination, but just many murders – is very interesting. And I recommend the book not for what it says about the Kennedy assassination but for the discussion of the politics of Lyndon Johnson and his ascent to the Presidency.
QUESTIONER: I would have liked to have heard more in the book about Jack Ruby. What were the connections between Jack Ruby and Oswald prior to the assassination? I know you place them together at various times. Can you tell us a little bit more about Jack Ruby as a person?
JOAN MELLEN: There’s so much to tell about Jack Ruby. Just about two days ago, someone in Louisiana who was working on Jim Garrison’s investigation sent me a Xerox of a photograph of Jack Ruby as a young man. And he’s with another young man who seems to be in drag. It’s Rose Sheramee [sp] who was one of the witnesses in this case who was murdered in 1965, often spoke, and I have this in my book, of a sexual relationship between Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald. And I don’t know all about it. But there’s a lot to be said about Jack Ruby. In fact, Angelo Murgado said to me, “Here’s what your next project should be. You should write a book about Jack Ruby.” And the same thing was said to me by one of the Louisiana investigators for the House Select Committee: Jack Ruby. What I have in my book are many examples which reveal that contrary to what Jack Ruby said, that he knew Lee Harvey Oswald very well. And in particular, my witness Thomas Edward Beckham, said to me that on the day of the assassination he talked to someone and he said, “How could Jack do that to Lee?” So the fact that these people were very well acquainted certainly is important and needs to be in the mainstream press just to get the discussion going. There’s a lot to be said. Jim Garrison said that Jack Ruby – and I hope I get it right this time – Jack Ruby was a member of the Mafia branch of the CIA. Garrison by the way never denied that the Mafia was involved in the assassination. The issue was who planned the crime and whose idea was it and who was in control of it.
QUESTIONER: In your research, did the name “William Harvey” come up in any significant way? Also, how did it go with Doug Brinkley and can you talk about C.V. Jackson?
JOAN MELLEN: Doug Brinkley, the Presidential historian, asked me to address his class, which is a class in the history of the Cold War at Tulane. Now of course, you know that there was no class at Tulane and it was quite shocking, of course, to see what was left of New Orleans. But Tulane was not what was left. William Harvey was the CIA executioner. He was the person who created executive action programs for the, which meant their murder capability. And the irony of that is that at one point John F. Kennedy asked the CIA to create an “executive action capability.” And of course, they had already done so. William Harvey is a very interesting figure. I had a lot of trouble finding a publisher. And finally, I found Potomac Books Inc., this little publisher in Dulles, Virginia. Well, when I first heard that it was Dulles Virginia I thought, “Oh, these people are…they’re into the hand of the CIA. This is impossible.” And this publisher, I think was very courageous in publishing a book which said that the CIA killed President Kennedy. Involved in it. Especially since they mostly publish memoirs of CIA officers. And at the moment, they have under contract what? A biography of William Harvey. So that’s what makes me think of… William Harvey is a figure in Robert Littel’s wonderful novel, The Company. For literary fiction on the subject of the Kennedy assassination, I don’t think we could do without Don DeLillo. He’s my favorite author. I tell him there’s no student of mine in this room that hasn’t read Don DeLillo. And I urge you to read Libra, which is his fictional version of Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans, written before the release of any of the documents. And also, Underworld, which describes the conspiracies in government, including the Kennedy Assassination.
QUESTIONER: In November 2004, the New York Times printed a significant article about the modern acoustical analysis of the police belt to determine whether three or four shots were fired. Do you know any outcome of this acoustical analysis?
JOAN MELLEN: Well I’ll tell you one thing about the acoustic analysis. The House Select Committee on Assassinations to which I referred in my talk, Robert Blakey, the professor at Notre Dame, who’s been the proponent of “the Mafia did it.” You’ve seen him on the History Channel often. He was warning, really, according to Richard Billings, who’s the co-author of his book. He wanted, really, to rubber-stamp the Warren Report and to blame Lee Harvey Oswald. At the last minute, what comes, but that Dictabelt. And the Dictabelt shows that at least four shots were fired at Daly Plaza, making it impossible for Oswald to have been the lone assassin. And it was only that Dictabelt which said that there had to be a conspiracy, which, it seems so open and shut now. But at that time, in the late Nineteen-Seventies, that was an important step. Despite everything negative that I’ve said about the House Select Committee, they did say that there was a conspiracy. And it was the acoustic evidence, and I believe that acoustic evidence and I’ve talked to Don Thomas and I’ve heard him speak on a number of occasions and I urge you to go on the Internet and find Don Thomas’ articles because they’re very persuasive about the acoustic evidence. Naturally, there’s been disinformation, attempting to discredit the acoustic evidence, what else. But I would really urge you [to] read Don Thomas because, he’s a scientist, he lives in Texas, and he’s done very good work on the subject.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You’ve been listening to the January 24th, 2006 presentation: How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute, and Convict President Kennedy’s Assassins has led to Today’s Crisis of Democracy, with author Joan Mellen. This presentation is based on Joan Mellen’s most recent book, A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History. Joan Mellen is author of 17 books on subjects ranging from film criticism, fiction, and Latin American Studies, to crime, sports and biography. She is professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia. Visit her web site at http://www.joanmellen.net for more information. A Farewell to Justice is available from the publisher, Potomac Books, from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and selected independent booksellers. Guns & Butter is edited and produced by Yarrow Mahko and me, Bonnie Faulkner. To leave comments or order copies of this show, call 510-848-6767 extension 628. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Jim Garrison Story,” a documentary about the Distric Attorney of New Orleans and his investigation into the Kennedy Assassination.