CREATIVE WRITING AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY
POLITICS AND FILM
Downward: America In “Days Of Heaven,” “In
The Valley Of Elah,” And “No Country For Old
WHO RULES AMERICA?: HOW
DID WE GET HERE?
Stewart Mott House, Washington, D.C., September
Otto Otepka, Robert Kennedy,
Walter Sheridan and Lee Oswald
From the Talk
New York, January 28, 2007 THE
KENNEDY ASSASSINATION AND THE CURRENT POLITICAL MOMENT
HOW THE FAILURE TO IDENTIFY, PROSECUTE AND CONVICT
PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S ASSASSINS HAS LED TO TODAY'S CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY
"9/11 and 11/22"
by Joan Mellen
From the "Education Forum"
Mott House, Washington, D.C., September 14, 2007.
WHO RULES AMERICA? HOW DID WE GET HERE?
I like to begin my talks with a mantra. It goes like this. Jim
Garrison, district attorney of Orleans Parish, whose investigation
into the Kennedy assassination is the subject of my book, “A Farewell
To Justice,” after it was all over and Clay Shaw was acquitted,
was asked: how could you ever have believed that you could convict
CIA operative Clay Shaw for participation in the conspiracy to kill
President Kennedy in a state court in Louisiana?
“I guess I thought I was living in the country I was born in,” Garrison
This line has particular resonance today. Many of us were not
born in a country where martial law was legitimized; where the President
could countermand any law he wanted to with promiscuous signing
statements; where there was illegal government surveillance of citizens
accompanied by neither warrants nor probable cause; where what library
books you took out could become known to the government; where America,
having legalized the use of torture, was defined as a country inevitably
pursuing preemptive foreign wars, and where, as in George Orwell's “1984,” war
was a permanent part of the country's identity. You all know the
It also has become clear even to those in deepest denial that
the Democrats are not about to reverse these assaults on the U.S.
Constitution. In policy, in principle and in action, the Democrats
are revealing themselves as offering no substantive difference from
the party in power. Howard Zinn made the point that there was little
difference between the two parties in “A People's History of the
United States,” first published in 1980. Zinn's observation is more
true than ever today as some people, albeit half-heartedly, continue
to be tempted to place their faith in a change of administrations
in the hope of reversing the damage to the democratic fabric we
have witnessed in the past eight years.
In our continuing attempt to understand when this assault on the
Constitution began in earnest, so that in the administration of
George W. Bush it accelerated at so astonishing a pace, I would
like first to raise the question of whether it is in to fact true
that with Bush and Cheney we have seen an inflation of the power
of the Executive. Or has the power of the president in fact shrunk
so drastically that it is entirely inappropriate to blame Bush for
the war, or for the assault on the Constitution? Let me suggest
that it is the organ grinder with whom we have to be concerned,
rather than the monkey.
Sometimes there is a historical moment where a society suffers
a dramatic reversal in political direction.
I would place that moment at the assassination of President Kennedy.
At that instant, the Bushes and the Cheneys, serving so diligently
the Bechtels and Halliburtons and their multifarious cohort, mostly
in the western part of the country, seized the political control
of this country. This is why discussion of the murder of President
Kennedy is as relevant today as it was in 1963 and 1964, and why
there has never been nor will there ever be an honest investigation
of this crime so long as that investigation is government-sponsored.
That the Kennedy family, in particular Robert Kennedy, opposed any
open investigation of President Kennedy's death is one dimension
of the story that has led me to the conclusion that we must not
look today to the Democratic Party for redress.
I spent seven years on my investigation of the Kennedy assassination.
I went beyond Jim Garrison's work to include the thousands of documents
released after his death to the National Archives under the JFK
Act passed by a Congress with some interest in transparency. We
are not likely to see similar legislation to open the records of
the 9/11 Commission. That is not speculation. Philip Zelikow, the
executive director of the 9/11 Commission, admitted on NPR that
he was not about to make the same mistake the Warren Commission
did; he was not about to release for public and scholarly scrutiny
the documents his commission collected. When Lieutenant Colonel
Tony Shaffer came forward with information about the “Able Danger” unit
of military intelligence, he was swiftly discredited. The “New York
Times” buried his astonishing revelations in its back pages. Col.
Shaffer told me when I met him at the office of his attorney, Mark
Zaid, that he had lost his job.
I interviewed more than a thousand people in my effort to contribute
to the question of who planned the murder of President Kennedy.
Among them was a former mercenary and soldier-of-fortune named Gerald
Patrick Hemming, a shrewd former CIA asset, who remarked to me in
passing, that “John F. Kennedy was the last president who thought
he could take power.” In his youth, inexperience and sense of entitlement,
Kennedy could not imagine that his CIA enemies would eliminate him.
President Kennedy knew that the CIA's clandestine service was
undermining him at every turn. He knew that Richard Helms and his
underlings were his blood enemies (you know the line, “I'll splinter
the CIA into a thousand pieces and cast them to the winds”), but
he and we were astonished that the CIA and its military confreres
would have so little respect for the office that represented the
identity of the country that they would murder the head of state
on the streets of an American city in broad daylight.
At that moment the America whose Constitution could be trashed
with impunity by elected officials was born. That impunity in no
small measure proceeds from the willful refusal of virtually the
entire mainstream press to investigate what happened to President
Kennedy. As far as I know, no one gave reporters the order not to
inquire into the sources and methods of the Warren Commission: it
was their own decision. We should not minimize the extent to which
those who want to maintain their relationship with power, whatever
that power does, will censor themselves.
Today's “New York Times” has an editorial about how the University
of California at Irvine rescinded its offer to Duke law professor
Erwin Chemerinsky to be Dean of its law school because he was “too
politically controversial.” What had Chemerinsky done? He had argued
in the U.S. Supreme Court against the constitutionality of California's “Three
strikes and you're out” law and agreed to represent Valerie Plame
Wilson in her suit against the CIA. Chemerinsky had already recruited “prominent
conservatives” to serve on the Irvine law school advisory board,
but that wasn't good enough.
What Kennedy's assassination meant was that no president after
him would dare challenge would President Eisenhower called with
such prescience the “military-industrial complex.” What Kennedy's
assassination permitted was not what seems to be the seizure of
greater executive power by George W. Bush, obliterating the separation
of powers, and dwarfing the authority of Congress, but that by 2007
the president would have virtually no independent power at all.
And because the President enjoyed only the power to further the
interests of the Halliburtons and the Bechtels, because his policies
were dictated by their ambitions and needs, Congress would have
no independent power either. The courts would be subverted to endorse
the set of policies that the executive, a President in name only,
was enacting on behalf of those who really run this country.
The Republic, as Gore Vidal comments at every opportunity, had
been severely wounded, and an oligarchy had been established in
its place. Rudy Giuliani, who, not surprisingly, surfaced at a Texas
law firm serving the needs of the Texas oligarchy, oil and gas and
who knows what else, has promised that should he be elected, he
would find his own versions of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, good
When did this transference of power take place, when did the Republic
begin to die? Let us re-examine the travail of Lyndon Johnson, the
Texan who succeeded to the Presidency upon the murder of John F.
Kennedy. I remember how in the sixties, politically naïve as
we were, we blamed Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam War. I may myself
have been guilty of chanting that slogan that began, “Hey, hey,
LBJ….” If you listen to the Johnson Presidential tapes which have
been made available on the Internet by the Miller Center for Public
Affairs, what you discover is a paradox: Johnson, who had lusted
for power for decades, and had gained office by fair means and foul,
now in his role as “Mr. President,” discovers that he has very little
control over his presidency. Johnson hopes that his years in the
White House will be defined by his poverty programs and by his civil
rights legislation. To enact that legislation, Johnson utilizes
the techniques he developed when he was, as his biographer Robert
Caro put it, “Master of the Senate.”
Yet, as time passes, Johnson discovers that it is Vietnam that
will determine how history judges him, a war in which he has no
interest whatsoever, a war that he is obliged to pursue. In all
those tapes, there is never any question about that; Johnson never
considers deviating from the plan. The “New York Times” may demur,
but both Johnson and Richard Nixon, who followed him, never lost
sight of the fact that John F. Kennedy had been shot down by forces
within the government. The Johnson tapes reveal an increasingly
saddened, powerless figure, trapped in having been offered his heart's
My belief is that the more we know about who was behind the murder
of President Kennedy, the more empowered we are to combat the present
assault on the Constitution. The more cogently we can analyze who
profited by the death of President Kennedy, and by that I don't
mean the beleaguered Lyndon Johnson, a pawn in the hands of those
who put him into office, long-time CIA assets Herman and George
Brown, but not only the Browns, but D. H. Byrd, the Klebergs and
others, the better able we will be to determine what is to be done.
The more we uncover the similarities between the three Texas Presidents,
the better equipped we are to reverse the authoritarian direction
the government of this country has taken, if it isn't already too
In “A Farewell To Justice,” I concluded that the CIA, from the
highest level, the clandestine service, then called the DD/P, implemented
the murder of President Kennedy. I showed how it was a CIA operative
named Clay Shaw, whose file as a CIA operative is available from
the National Archives, who aided in the framing of Lee Harvey Oswald
in Louisiana during the summer of 1963. Jim Garrison surmounted
considerable odds, which included the infiltration of his office
by CIA operatives, and the FBI's tapping of his telephones. His
investigators were harassed, as the CIA demanded of its operatives
that they lie to Garrison, distract him and dissipate his resources.
To this day, Jim Garrison is the subject of press attacks, most
recently in a book that, reliable reports suggest, enjoyed a million
dollar advance, or close to it, from a publisher, W. W. Norton,
famous for chintzy advances, and which, moreover, is owned by its
Yet Garrison managed to put on trial a man whom the CIA had enlisted
in its conspiracy. [Allow me a small digression: If I had one wish,
it would be that the term “conspiracy theory” be banished from civilized
discourse: history all too often proceeds by the mutual illegal
efforts of two or more people: from the founding of the U.S., which
was illegal, to Watergate, to who knows what else: these are actual
conspiracies, not theories. Is there a police investigation that
does not, on a daily basis, seek, penetrate and expose conspiracies?]
The obstacles to uncovering the truth about the Kennedy assassination
were not only formidable, but continue, and they need to be understood
by those studying the events of 9/11. Those who would work in this
area of history are forced to spend a great deal of time determining
which witnesses are credible, and to sift through disinformation.
The mainstream media and publishers remain, in effect, embedded
in the government. Scott Ritter, the former U.N. Arms Inspector,
who served in U.S. Marine intelligence, had to publish his recent
book with Nation books - he couldn't have gotten much of an advance
- and Frederick A. O. Schwartz, who served as chief counsel for
the Church committee, published his recent book about the evisceration
of the U.S. Constitution under Bush with the small left-wing New
Even when the polls suggest widespread citizen disaffection, newspapers
and publishers refuse to sponsor inquiries into the political process.
I call your attention to a survey conducted by the Economist magazine
last month, August 2007, rating the Democracies. Among countries
where democratic institutions are alive and well, the United States
placed – seventeenth! Below Spain and Malta. Among the questions
in the survey, the Economist asked whether government is free of
undue influence by the military or the security services, and whether
citizens are free to form political and civic organizations free
of state interference and surveillance. A whole section of the questionnaire
explores whether there is a free print media, freedom of expression,
robust media coverage, and so forth. The U.S. did not score well.
Over years, I interviewed Jim Garrison's witnesses, and I developed
new witnesses to establish that Clay Shaw, the managing director
of the CIA-sponsored International Trade Mart in New Orleans, in
the company of another CIA operative, an operative responsible to
Robert Kennedy, named David Ferrie, took Oswald up to small towns
north of Baton Rouge. The towns to which Shaw, Ferrie and Oswald
traveled were named Clinton and Jackson, and their mission seems,
at first, incomprehensible. What I concluded was that Oswald was
a low level CIA operative, and he had been assigned to apply for
a job at an insane asylum, the East Louisiana State Hospital at
Oswald believed that he was applying to work in a hospital (he
did not even know it was a mental hospital before he got there)
as part of his service of a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. The
CIA had something else in mind for him. That trip to Clinton and
Jackson, uncovered by Jim Garrison's investigators, established
the “proof of the plot,” and that the CIA's cover-up of the assassination
of President Kennedy began before the murder itself.
It is this trip to Clinton and Jackson that has driven the government's
media assets to distraction: there is voluminous evidence that it
occurred: the whole town was watching because Oswald appeared in
Clinton in the company of Shaw and Ferrie to register to vote, as
he believed was necessary to gain employment at the hospital, on
the day of a major CORE voter registration drive. You can spot who
the government's media assets are to this day because they will
always take pains to assert that Oswald was never up there and that “Clinton
never happened,” as one of Clay Shaw's lawyers told me. Vincent
Bugliosi also insists that Clinton never happened, and goes on to
an extreme attack on me for daring to suggest that it did. Who sponsored
Bugliosi's book, and why was a 1600 page book produced at this late
date to endorse the 1964 Warren Commission? To answer that question
is another way to approach who rules America today.
Allow me to reiterate that government investigations are never
to be trusted: when in the late 1970s the House Select Committee
On Assassinations, under CIA control, pretended to investigate the
assassination of President Kennedy, the Louisiana investigators
were ordered to interview only those witnesses in Clinton and Jackson
who had ALREADY been interviewed by Garrison's office. They were
under specific instructions to talk to no one else, and, as Robert
Buras told me, against his every instinct as a former New Orleans
police intelligence officer, he had to abide by a list that was
sent to Louisiana out of Washington, D. C.
A committee member named Patricia Orr was dispatched to Louisiana
to accompany Buras to Clinton and Jackson, although she knew nothing
about Louisiana, lest Buras take the law into his own hands and
interview, for one, the medical director the hospital, Dr. Frank
Silva, who had never been interviewed before.
Dr. Silva was among the new witnesses I was fortunate enough to
interview for “A Farewell To Justice.” So Dr. Silva, a responsible
citizen who could never be impeached, related how he ran into Oswald
at the hospital. Some of Jim Garrrison's witnesses were members
of the Ku Klux Klan. Others were leaders of the East Feliciana branch
of the Congress of Racial Equality. Both of these groups could be
treated with disrespect. But what would a CIA-controlled government
committee do with Dr. Silva? We shouldn't expect a co-opted committee
of a co-opted government to tell us the truth, and they won't.
It has been the CIA's mission, of course, to conceal its involvement
in the murder of President Kennedy, and for the most part they have
been successful. It is important to note, however, as the events
of 9/11 are examined, that there is still time, that all doors are
not (yet) closed. There was a virtual blackout of my book by the
mainstream media, but I spoke at the National Archives, although
I was followed by a speaker suddenly placed on the program to endorse
the Warren Report; my lecture at the Ethical Culture Society in
New York was broadcast on C-Span. That BookTV presents a constant
parade of speakers from right-wing foundations does not minimize
for me the courage they showed in offering me their venue.
At the university where I teach, we have now to add to every syllabus
of every course an “academic freedom” clause, designed to undercut
dissent in the classroom. I added a sentence to mine this month,
asserting that any idea is appropriate to be heard in our class – I
teach creative writing - according to the rights granted all citizens
by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At every opportunity,
particularly in the schools, we need, at the very least, to assert
the existence of the Constitutional rights that are steadily being
The investigation into President Kennedy's death is ongoing. Was
I correct about CIA involvement in the murder of President Kennedy
in “A Farewell To Justice?” New traces, new pieces of evidence,
are still emerging. It is not only the Kennedy murder that we must
now understand. We have at the same time to deal with the seeming
contradiction of George W. Bush's seeming warfare with the CIA,
and his appointing a Director of National Intelligence to minimize
the power of that agency that President Truman, right after the
Kennedy assassination, accused of running a shadow government.
I would argue that in the coup accompanying the murder of President
Kennedy, the CIA served ably its purpose on behalf of what has become
the true shadow government. Once that coup was in place, once the
oligarchy of defense contractors, allied with the Pentagon and the
very “military-industrial complex” President Eisenhower abhorred,
took over the direction of this country, a free-wheeling CIA became
a threat that had to be contained.
I am interested now not in proving that the CIA's clandestine
service accomplished the assassination, may I immodestly suggest
that I've done that, but in exploring on whose behalf they did so.
Those are the forces that today rule America. The place to look,
I've found, is Texas, the subject of my next book. Is it an accident
that since the coup of the murder of President Kennedy, we have
had three Texas Presidents having previously had none at all? – General
Eisenhower, born in Texas, was no Texas President. In a letter to
his brother Milton, President Eisenhower warned about the threat
to the Republic of forces powerful in Texas. On the other hand,
Ronald Reagan in retrospect seems to have been a Texas president
in all but name.
I realize that there may remain, even here, listeners uncomfortable
with the idea of living in a country where the CIA murdered not
only a President, but an attractive one. The Vietnam and Iraq wars
reveal, however, how high the stakes were, and why the liberal point
of view, the perspective of the Eastern establishment represented
by John F. Kennedy, stood in the way of the America of preemptive
war in which we are living today. And because the Kennedy assassination
leads so directly to this America, I remain interested in new information
and leads, however fragmentary, so that more people will be persuaded
of the by now massive evidence.
Some argue that the conclusion that the CIA accomplished the assassination
must be incorrect because, surely, by now we would be in possession
of some deathbed confessions. An easily dispelled myth is embedded
there: history has revealed that CIA loyalists remain loyal to the
Agency even in death. I believe it was the “New York Times” that
headlined the obituary of Richard Helms, he “died with his secrets.” Lawrence
Houston, the CIA's general counsel, who was in on the assassination
and its cover-up, went quietly into the night. David Atlee Phillips,
an Oswald handler, among others, wrote a roman a clef in which he
portrays himself as – Oswald's handler. On his deathbed, he admitted
to his brother that he was in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
I'll share a small opening that emerged just this past week, and
may encourage us with a sense that this is not so cold a case as
it may first appear.
In “A Farewell To Justice,” I refer to a CIA cable arriving in
Mexico City on November 22, 1963. Miami is informing its Mexico
City station that one “Henry J. Sloman,” an alias for longtime CIA
asset named Anthony (Tony) Sforza, would be arriving in Mexico on
November 22 nd . Sloman/Sforza was to meet the wife of an agent
designated as AMHALF-2, and retrieve a message from an asset who
may have been Fidel Castro's sister.
Sloman was ordered to contact David Atlee Phillips on the next
day… Sloman certainly was the case officer for New Orleans figure
Emilio Rodriguez, whose brother Oswald visited in New Orleans…Sforza,
Arnesto Rodriguez, Phillips, Oswald…everyone is connected.
Without parsing this further, let me add that the timing of the
cable suggests not only the Kennedy assassination, but the CIA-Bobby
Kennedy-Desmond Fitzgerald sponsored Cubela assassination attempt
on Castro set up for November 22 nd . It reminds us that Oswald
believed that he was involved in the assassination of Castro.
I mention this cable because Sforza's daughter suddenly fired
off an email a week ago. Charmaine Sforza-Flick revealed that her
father was instrumental in the mission to murder Che Guevara, and
that the CIA awarded him one of its secret medals for this effort.
That the CIA was involved with Oswald is being corroborated slowly,
painstakingly. Those stout of heart and very patient will be able
to put more pieces together, and this applies to your 9/11 work
I want to return to the issue of what is to be done, and to examine
from what quarter or quarters we might hope for relief, and help
in reversing the current assault on due process and on the entire
U.S. Constitution. I want to return to the issue of Democrats v.
Republicans in the light of what I learned in my study of the Kennedy
assassination. In so doing, I hope I can also address the motives
of the CIA and the Pentagon and defense contractors, and entrepreneurs
with global outreach behind it, in demanding the assassination of
Was President Kennedy assassinated because he was on the side
of peace? Were he and his brother champions of civil rights? Who
were the Kennedys, the quintessential liberal Democrats of their
time? The answer to this question might help us to determine what
we might expect from the liberal Democrats on the political stage
The civil rights issue may be beyond our scope this evening, and
I would only urge anyone interested in that question to turn to
Taylor Branch's brilliant book, the first volume in his biographical
trilogy about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. It's called “Parting
The Waters” and it exposes how reluctant the Kennedys were either
to embrace Dr. King or to aid the activists down in Mississippi.
If I may insert a quick personal anecdote: I was too young to
vote for President Kennedy, but I do remember how vehemently he
promised to desegregate federally sponsored housing. It was a major
campaign promise. Yet he never managed to honor that promise. Years
later, I ran into Ted Sorensen at a dinner party. At dinner, I voiced
my disillusionment with President Kennedy over this failure to keep
what seemed like an easy promise. As soon as dinner was over, Sorensen
followed me into the living room. “He was going to,” Sorensen said,
quietly. We will never know.
My question is will the Democratic Party save the Republic? Whether
or not there is, at the moment, a viable alternative, is a corollary
question. I've concluded that an as-yet-to-be-imagined alternative,
an idea not yet a reality, may be more valuable to citizens than
an uneasy alliance with those who are at every turn betraying the
electorate that put them into office. I'm talking about the Democratic
My purpose in inquiring into the quality of the liberalism of
the Kennedys is not to blame the victims. It's to analyze what THOSE
Democrats actually believed so that we might have a more clear view
of what the current crop of supposedly liberal Democrats have to
offer the body politic. Too much is at stake for us to be distracted
by the worship of sacred cows, as Jim Garrison termed the corrupt
judges of the Orleans Parish criminal court. The judges then sued
him for criminal defamation, and won in two venues, before the U.S.
Supreme Court reversed them in the case now known as Garrison v.
Louisiana. Garrison v. Louisiana grants citizens the freedom to
criticize public officials with impunity.
On the motivation of the CIA, and those whom the Agency served
in the matter of the assassination of President Kennedy, let me
add that President Kennedy opposed a ground war in Vietnam, because
he saw, as everyone did, that such a war would bankrupt the country.
He did not believe it was in the country's interest to become saddled
with an astronomical deficit, as has occurred with Iraq. Halliburton
had bought Brown and Root in 1962, and stood waiting in the wings,
to fill its coffers by exerting its dominance in Vietnam. They watched
as Kennedy rejected the idea of the ground war, the position that
cost him his life.
The history of our time has clarified the meaning of President
Kennedy's fateful policy. President Kennedy's opposition to a ground
war in Vietnam finds a contemporary echo in Zbigniew Brezezinski's
February 1, 2007 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
and in Brezezinski's opposition to the Iraq War. That Kennedy and
Brezezinski share the same concern, the same policy, helps us to
understand why President Kennedy was assassinated, and what conflict
still rages behind the curtains concealing how America is ruled
Just as President Kennedy was murdered, an act of terrorism, to
ensure that the policy of preemptive war proceed in earnest, so
Brezezinski suggested in that testimony that there might well be
a staged terrorist act, “a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran,” is
how he put it, to provoke a “head-on collision between the U.S.
and Iran, setting up a general conflagration in the Middle East.
Brezezinski, the hard-line national security advisor of Jimmy Carter,
has a different view of how America might act on the world stage
from that of those in power now, but we need hardly term him the
prince of peace.
A war was waged behind the scenes in 1963, a conflict between
the rapacious forces symbolized by the Bechtels and Halliburtons,
and the less aggressive Eastern banking interests, who believe that
it may not be in the interests in the United States to instigate
global conflagration while bankrupting the country and ignoring
even the elementary needs of the population. Following President
Kennedy's approach, his unlikely bedfellow Brezezinski is revisiting
that conflict today.
As we attempt to retrieve our democratic rights at home, we must
contend with another reality regarding what we can expect from the
Democrats. As shocking as the illegal National Security Agency surveillance
of citizens has been, it has its precedents, and not only among
Republicans and fanatics like J. Edgar Hoover. We are all familiar
with the FBI's COINTELPRO efforts, Hoover's perfidious spying on
dissenters in the sixties, and his grotesque wire taps of Dr. King.
Lest we place our faith today in the matter of our personal freedom
in someone donning liberal vestments, I would like to talk a bit
about my research into Robert Kennedy's opposition to any effort
to investigate his brother's murder. I think it is important that
we take note of Bobby's surprising disregard for the rule of law,
his sanctioning of blackmail and bribery, and his obsessive use
of illegal wire taps. Let me remind you as well that Robert Kennedy
as Attorney General signed off on those illegal wire taps of Dr.
I would never have discovered Bobby Kennedy's endorsement of illegal
surveillances were I not confronted with having to explain Bobby's
concerted effort to destroy Jim Garrison's investigation. Lacking
the records we have today, Garrison was perplexed. If it were my
brother I'd want to know what happened to him, he said on television.
One thing was certain. Using Garrison's term, Bobby was out to “torpedo” his
In his effort to stop Garrison, whom he treated as a greater threat
than the CIA itself, Bobby sent to New Orleans his “confidential
assistant,” a man whose training was with the very National Security
Agency now plaguing us today, to attempt to bribe and blackmail
Garrison witnesses. Walter Sheridan's project was an NBC “White
Paper,” designed to ruin Garrison for good. In this effort, Sheridan
attempted to bribe Garrison witnesses with money and jobs. My research
also turned up a close relationship between NBC and the Kennedys,
so that Sheridan could offer a Garrison witness named Marlene Mancuso
a job on “The Tonight Show.” Time/Life also served the Kennedys,
so that anti-Hoffa stories were planted in LIFE (and other media)
by Kennedy loyalists out to “Get Hoffa.”
Before we address the issue of why Bobby Kennedy sabotaged any
real investigation of his brother's death, and he did, and why he
made so extensive an effort to stop Garrison, I want to address
the wire tap issue. If the Bush administration has been granted
a pass on the matter of those illegal surveillances by the current
Democratic Congress, I would urge us to have a look at Bobby Kennedy's
persistent use of illegal wire taps, in two efforts. One involved
Bobby's attempt to destroy the career of a State Department security
analyst named Otto Otepka because Otepka was investigating a person
on a list of “defectors”, quotation marks CIA's, named “Lee Oswald,
The other example of Kennedy-sanctioned illegal surveillance involves
Walter Sheridan's wire tapping of the hotel room of Hoffa and his
lawyer, and the illegal paying of witnesses, as well as bribery
and blackmail, in the effort to convict Jimmy Hoffa. What might
rest in the dust bin of history becomes relevant when we look up
and notice that the Constitutional guarantees of due process, and
equality under the law, and, not least, the principle of “habeas
corpus,” have been seriously undermined by the current administration
without effective protest by the Democrats who might, conceivably,
stop them. Do Democrats enjoy a history of standing up for the rights
of citizens? If Bobby Kennedy as the chief law enforcement officer
of the land, and later as a U.S. Senator, who had the moral authority
of being the survivor of his martyred brother, promoted illegal
wire taps, what can be expected of his party today?
We can't explore all of this tonight, so let me first direct your
attention to some government records. That citizens were not up
in arms about these Kennedy wire taps, and they were made public,
paved the way for the government's getting away with eviscerating
the U.S. Constitution today. As the Amtrak agent told me as I bought
my ticket to be here today, she amazingly heard two sermons in church,
from two different pastors, in one week, with the same title, “MAKE
SOME NOISE.” (The text is the 100 th psalm, I believe). Citizens
did not make enough noise.
The set of documents I discovered reside, of all places, at the
Johnson library in Austin.
They reveal a startling scenario. Bobby Kennedy made repeated
visits to Courtney Evans, an assistant FBI director, at FBI headquarters
to discuss FBI technology in wire tapping. Evans then sent over
written information and data on wire tapping for Kennedy's perusal.
When Bobby's wire taps became public, and there was public criticism,
he arranged for Evans to write him a letter denying that the two
had any discussions about wire taps, and denying that Evans had
ever provided Kennedy with the written material.
Bobby released this fraudulent letter to the press (Bobby was
now a U.S. Senator) only for J. Edgar Hoover to release to the press
two of the Evans-authored memoranda, dated 1961, that had been sent
to Kennedy. Bobby never spoke to Courtney Evans again, but the damage
I don't have time to tell you about Bobby and Otto Otepka, but
I will just mention that the new research I've been doing reveals
that Bobby Kennedy was aware of Lee Harvey Oswald early on in the
Kennedy presidency. It appears that Bobby came to know about Oswald
as Bobby involved himself, from his office at CIA headquarters at
Langley, in anti-Castro sabotage operations, and assassination plots.
Otto Otepka, an extremely diligent security evaluator, was sent
a list of defectors to the Soviet Union, people he was authorized,
as part of his job, to investigate. The name “Lee Oswald, tourist” was
on that list. Robert Kennedy then organized first the removal of
Otepka from his position of authority in the State Department Office
of Security, and then a wire tap of his office, a sophisticated
tap that recorded conversations that weren't even on the telephone.
The tapes were delivered by the Kennedy friend who had been placed
to run the Office of Security to….Walter Sheridan. By now, the State
Department Office of Security was manned entirely by people hand
picked by Robert Kennedy, most of them from Massachusetts. One night
Mr. Otepka's safe was burgled and the Oswald file disappeared for
In April 1963 in Dallas, a Department of Justice official telephoned
the police to order them not to investigate Oswald after Oswald
fired shots at retired General Edwin Walker. The damning document
disappeared from the files of the Dallas Police, but General Walker
talked about it to his friend, Louisiana judge John R. Rarick, and
to others. Near death, General Walker left a note for the House
Select Committee on Assassinations urging them to investigate this
extraordinary fact. (Do only liberals tell the truth? Would that
historical research were that easy!).
I learned as well that Kennedy's anti-Castro Cuban employees surveilled
Oswald in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, with Bobby Kennedy
telling them that since Oswald was an employee of the FBI in New
Orleans, they needn't be concerned about his loyalties. There is
new evidence I only just discovered of an aide to Bobby Kennedy
being in touch with people in Lafayette, Louisiana, a town near
Clinton and Jackson, where Oswald, or a man calling himself “Oswald,” passed
through on his way to Texas. This evidence came from the records
of a Lafayette answering service.
And there is more, including abundant evidence that Bobby Kennedy
with General Edward Lansdale, was involved in his own plots to assassinate
Castro, and that to this end he had a CIA employee named Charlie
Ford search for Mafia operatives. Yes, this was the same Bobby who
was out to get the Mafia, not only Hoffa, but also Carlos Marcello
in New Orleans, whom Bobby had kidnapped off the streets and deposited
in Guatemala, without, as Marcello complained, even a tooth brush.
It has seemed to me that all these strange efforts to protect
Oswald by Bobby Kennedy explain why, later, a horrified Bobby had
not only to be publicly silent about his brother's assassination,
and to endorse the absurd Warren Report – he knew better - but to
attempt to silence Garrison. It is apparent to me that Bobby sent
Walter Sheridan to New Orleans to “spike” Garrison because he feared
that Garrison was drawing close to the truth of Bobby's knowledge
of Oswald long before the assassination. This was a reality best
not be made public.
Hoover contributed to the effort to stop Garrison's work by calling
Garrison a “nut” so that even today the Special Agents who manned
the FBI field office in New Orleans explain why the FBI did not
assist Garrison, as a fellow law enforcement agency was obliged
to do, by insisting that Garrison, after all, was crazy.
Kennedy acolytes contributed to the slandering of Garrison with
the charge, being repeated to this day, that Garrison as district
attorney of Orleans Parish protected Carlos Marcello and the Mafia,
which was utterly untrue. For one thing, Marcello operated out of
Jefferson Parish, another jurisdiction entirely. For another, although
he was district attorney, Garrison had lost all interest in crime – his
office was manned by his assistants, people with no interest in
the Kennedy assassination whatsoever. All Garrison cared about was
that the truth emerge about what happened to President Kennedy,
a man he admired without qualification.
I have returned to history, and let me repeat, not because the
Kennedys were the worst of our recent nightmares. Rather, I believe
that to study the Democrats and their actual agendas, in the past,
as now, becomes not an idle historical exercise, but an urgent necessity.
What we are facing with the Bush usurpation of the rule of law,
and the turning the resources of this country over to what Jim Garrison
called “The War Machine,” is far more insidious than the contradictory
games the Kennedys, or any other Democrats, have played or are playing.
I'm suggesting that the search for truth must be accompanied by
the courage to accept wherever it might lead, that we cannot afford
the luxury of worshipping at the shrine of any hero. I exclude even
that courageous adopted Texan, Sam Houston, a bright light in the
history of that once sovereign nation, a man who as President of
the Republic of Texas tried to protect the Indians and as Governor
refused to sign Texas over to the Confederacy. Texas stands as the
emblem for the harm that has been done to this Republic behind the
personas of the two Bush quasi-Presidents.
This process, this search for true transparency of government,
is exhausting, more urgent than ever, and must, of course, be its
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