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JFK and America’s Destiny Betrayed

A Review of DiEugenio’s “Foreign Policy Coup” Theory

BY LAURENT GUYÉNOT • UNZ REVIEW • JANUARY 21, 2023

I have watched Oliver Stone’s documentary on the assassination of JFK, both the short version, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, and the long version in four episodes, JFK: Destiny Betrayed. I recommend the latter, which I will discuss here. Although the technical parts (the bullets, the autopsy, Oswald’s CIA handlers) are interesting and partly new, I will focus exclusively on the theory regarding the main culprits and their motive. And I will discuss the larger work of James DiEugenio, who wrote the film—and probably interviewed the different contributors, although Stone appears to be doing it.

James DiEugenio has been investigating the Kennedy presidency and the Kennedy assassination from the time of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), which was largely a consequence of Oliver Stone’s Hollywood film JFK (1991). His first book was Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case (1992, newly edited in 2012). In 1993, he founded Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA), and co-edited Probe Magazine, now replaced by the website KennedysandKing.com.

In 1997, DiEugenio published a powerful two-part book-length article, “the Posthumous Assassination of JFK” (1997). It is still essential reading for anyone interested in the controversies surrounding Kennedy’s presidency and assassination, or puzzled by the unending stream of bizarre Kennedy lore. This is the text you want to send to anyone telling you about the Kennedys’ mafia dealings and unrestrained sex life, their murder of Marilyn Monroe, or Bobby’s irresponsible assassination plots against Castro that backfired on his brother. These stories are so widespread, repeated in well-published and well-reviewed books, that millions of people assume them to be documented. Writing on the occasion of the release of Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot, DiEugenio exposed their fraudulent nature and their true motivation: the obsession to “smother any legacy that might linger,” for “assassination is futile if a man’s ideas live on through others.” This flow of defamation had started in the 70s, as a counter-fire to the Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), and intensified in the 1990s after the ARRB. It never dried up.

Character assassination is only one part of the propaganda unleashed against the Kennedy legacy. Another part has consisted in distorting the historical record of Kennedy’s presidency, and particularly the radical but short-lived innovations of his foreign policy. DiEugenio writes in “Dodd and Dulles vs. Kennedy in Africa” (1999, modified 2016):

a clear strategy of those who wish to smother any search for the truth about President Kennedy’s assassination is to distort and deny his achievements in office. Hersh and his ilk have toiled to distort who Kennedy really was, where he was going, what the world would have been like if he had lived, and who and what he represented.[1]

DiEugenio has provided insightful answers to these questions. A graduate in Contemporary American History, he is probably the best Kennedy historian among Warren Commission critics, and his work has opened the way for other revisionist historians like Monika Wiesak, author of the recent and excellent America’s Last President: What the World Lost When It Lost John F. Kennedy (read DiEugenio’s review here). According to DiEugenio, there has been, in addition to the cover-up about Kennedy’s death, a “cover-up about Kennedy’s foreign policy,”[2] so that even critics of the Warren Commission fairytale have largely failed to grasp the full extent of Kennedy’s changes from the foreign policy of his predecessors—dominated by the Dulles brothers; “by only chasing Vietnam and Cuba, to the neglect of everything else, we have missed the bigger picture.”[3] The bigger picture drawn by DiEugenio includes the Congo, Indonesia, Laos and the Middle East. DiEugenio’s most essential articles on these topics are:

The three scholars who most contributed to DiEugenio’s understanding of the uniqueness of Kennedy’s foreign policy, and who are interviewed in the film JFK: Destiny Betrayed, are:

Kennedy’s Strategy of Peace

Although he praises James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable (2008), DiEugenio rejects his mythical portrayal of JFK as a Cold Warrior converted to peacemaking during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.[4] Despite the contrary impression he made during his televised debates with Nixon in 1960, Kennedy was never a Cold Warrior. The collection of statements published under the title The Strategy of Peace for his presidential campaign proves it.

DiEugenio traces Kennedy’s general ideas on foreign policy back to 1951, when Kennedy toured the Middle East and Asia. His meeting in Saigon with Edmund Gullion, whom he later brought into his cabinet, had convinced him that sending American troops to Indochina was a grave mistake.[5] He would never change his mind on that issue.[6]

By 1957, Kennedy was formulating a radical—by U.S. standard—foreign policy for the Arab world, which he outlined in a speech on the Senate floor denouncing French colonial occupation of Algeria:

In these days, we can help fulfill a great and promising opportunity to show the world that a new nation, with an Arab heritage, can establish itself in the Western tradition and successfully withstand both the pull toward Arab feudalism and fanaticism and the pull toward communist authoritarianism.[7]

Unlike his predecessors Truman and Eisenhower, and in defiance of the doctrine that prevailed in the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department, Kennedy accepted and welcomed a multipolar world, the only way, in his view, to overcome the dangerous bi-polarization of the Cold War. Had he succeeded, he would have transformed the U.S. into something totally different from what it was starting to become since WWII, and has fully become since he died: an imperial bully feared but hated throughout the world. In “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’État over Foreign Policy?” DiEugenio makes the point that:

[Kennedy’s] speeches, correspondence and high-level meetings with emerging Third World leaders reveal his growing antipathy for colonialism, rejection of imperialism, toleration for the non-aligned movement—contrasting markedly with his predecessor—and promotion of nationalistic leaders, albeit ones that were considered to be “responsible” in their moderation.[8]

The first foreign policy reversal that Kennedy made once in office was on the Congo. Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected leader, was killed three days before Kennedy’s inauguration, victim of a coup supported by the CIA. Jacques Lowe’s shot of JFK getting the news of Lumumba’s death on February 13th is, to DiEugenio, the picture that best symbolizes Kennedy’s personal commitment to support the national independence of Third world countries, and the ordeal of his struggle against the CIA’s machinery of assassination and regime change. After U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarksjold was killed (likely murdered) in a plane crash in September 1961, Kennedy carried on his campaign for a free and independent Congo. Lyndon Johnson destroyed this first attempt at a democracy in post-colonial Africa, and backed Josef Mobutu, who turned into a corrupted dictator and allowed his country to be utilized by outside imperial interests.

Kennedy rejected the “with us or against us” mentality of the foreign policy establishment, and this was also demonstrated by his support for Indonesia’s nationalist leader Sukarno, who co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1958, Eisenhower had authorized the CIA’s attempt at overthrowing Sukarno, but when Kennedy assumed office, he reversed that policy, and helped Sukarno stabilize his country. Less than a year after Kennedy’s death, the CIA was planning again covert action against Sukarno, which led to the killing of at least 500,000 people suspected of communist sympathy. Sukarno was placed under house arrest and CIA-backed Suharto ruled for three decades, turning his people into low-wage workers for foreign companies.[9]

And then, of course, there is Cuba and Vietnam. The story of Kennedy’s resistance to the Pentagon and the CIA’s push for military confrontation and escalation in these countries has been told many times—most eloquently by James Douglass—, so that I do not need to tell it again. Authors of the dominant school of JFK assassination research—and that includes those interviewed in Stone’s documentary—assume that Cuba and Vietnam are, in that order, the most important reasons why Kennedy was killed. DiEugenio agrees, but brings a larger spectrum of motives.

The Middle East

DiEugenio writes in “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel”:

For decades, the critical community overlooked areas of Kennedy’s foreign policy outside of Vietnam and Cuba. Kennedys and King has attempted to correct that oversight in recent years. We have tried to educate our readers on issues like Kennedy’s policies in Congo, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, and Laos. We have also tried to show how, after his murder, those policies—as well as his policy toward Vietnam and his attempts at detente with Moscow and Havana—were also altered.

But there is still another area of the world about which Kennedy’s reformist foreign policy is overlooked. That area is the Middle East. This is odd since many commentators justifiably perceive that the Middle East is one of the most important areas on the globe.[10]

He writes in his “Introduction to JFK’s Foreign Policy: A Motive for Murder”:

Why is the JFK case relevant today? Well, because the mess in the Middle East now dominates both our foreign policy and the headlines, much as the Cold War did several decades ago. And the roots of the current situation lie in Kennedy’s death, whereupon President Johnson began the long process which reversed his predecessor’s policy there.[11]

In other words, the Middle East is the region of the world where Kennedy’s foreign policy and Johnson’s reversal of that foreign policy have had the most dramatic and most lasting consequences. What was at stake was America’s involvement in the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, and that meant, essentially, between Ben-Gurion and Nasser.

So DiEugenio acknowledges that: 1. LBJ completely reversed JFK’s foreign policy, and 2. the most consequential reversal was in the Middle East, for the longtime benefit of Israel and to the detriment of Egypt. Yet he points, not to Johnson or Ben-Gurion, but to Allen Dulles as the most likely culprit for the Dallas coup. Does he document any evidence that Allen Dulles was interested in switching alliance from Egypt to Israel? None whatsoever. It is true that the Eastern Establishment generally favored Saudi Arabia over Egypt, but it is not the case that they wanted a closer relationship with Israel. So what is unique about Johnson’s pro-Israel policy is that it was not a return to a pre-Kennedy policy, but something new altogether. It was a radical break from all previous administrations. Recall Eisenhower’s resolute reaction to Israel’s invasion of the Sinai in 1956, and contrast it with what happened ten years later, when Johnson greenlighted Israel’s attack on Egypt and expansion, and covered up Israel’s false-flag attack on the USS Liberty designed to draw the U.S. into the war.

Cuba and Vietnam

Allen Dulles’s major interest in foreign policy in the 1960s was over Cuba. Assassinating Castro and/or invading Cuba to restore an American colonial regime was his priority. Like the majority of JFK investigators, DiEugenio considers that Kennedy had so angered the CIA, and Dulles in particular, when he didn’t go along with their plan to invade Cuba—not once but twice, first with the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961, and secondly during the Cuban Missiles Crisis in 1962—that Dulles’s gang decided to assassinate him. But guess what: LBJ did not invade Cuba either. He didn’t give the CIA and Pentagon hawks the retaliatory invasion of Cuba that their plan was supposed to force upon him. He didn’t even try.

This is a major weakness of that semi-mainstream theory to which DiEugenio subscribes, and which he contributed to write. That weakness is partly compensated by the secondary focus on Vietnam. It is true that, in Vietnam, Johnson gave the National Security state what they wanted, and more. As author Peter Dale Scott wrote, Johnson “had been, since 1961, the ally of the Joint Chiefs (and in particular Air Force General Curtis LeMay) in their unrelenting efforts, against Kennedy’s repeated refusals, to introduce U.S. combat troops into Asia.”[12] Yet, that presentation ignores one aspect of the full story.

The strongest push for sending ground troops to Vietnam came from Walt Rostow (“the biggest Cold Warrior I’ve got,” Kennedy said). As deputy to the National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy under Kennedy, Rostow had already weighted heavily on Kennedy’s decision to send military “advisors” to Vietnam. But Kennedy had grown weary of his bellicose advise (“Walt had ten ideas, nine of which would lead to disaster”).[13] Walt Rostow was promoted by Johnson as National Security Advisor, and found in the new president more enthusiasm for his war plans. Rostow was the main promoter of the lie that Johnson’s Vietnam policy was a continuation of Kennedy’s.[14]

Johnson named Walt’s brother Eugene Under-Secretary of State, “appointed precisely to support the coming Israeli war” according to Joan Mellen.[15] Walt and Eugene Rostow, sons of Jewish immigrants, had a good deal of control on U.S. Israeli policy. On June 8, 1967, the very day of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, Walt had recommended to Johnson that Israel be allowed to keep the captured territories.

Why did the Rostow brothers want a Vietnam War? In “Was Vietnam a Holocaust for Zion” I explained why the Vietnam War was good—even crucial—for Israel. But don’t take my word for it. Here is what French president Charles De Gaulle said during his November 27, 1967 press conference:

Without the tragedy of Vietnam, the conflict between Israel and the Arabs would not have become what it has become. And if South-East Asia could experience a renewal of peace, the Middle-East would also find its way to peace, in the climate of détente which would follow such an event.[16]

I am not implying that the shift in policy on Vietnam between Kennedy and Johnson does not support the theory that CIA and Pentagon killed Kennedy. It does. I am merely pointing out that Johnson’s pro-Israel cabinet members were at least as influential as Dulles and LeMay in Johnson’s reversal of Kennedy’s decision to withdraw from Vietnam, a fact which is also consistent with the theory that Israel was the prime mover.

Dimona

In his JFK and the Unspeakable, James Douglass has documented JFK’s deep commitment to prevent nuclear proliferation and even abolish weapons of mass destruction “before they abolish us” (Kennedy’s speech at the UN General Assembly, September 25, 1961). But Douglass makes no mention of JFK’s bitter confrontation with Ben-Gurion and Eshkol on that very issue. In this way, Douglass has proven that the historical school of which he has become a standard bearer is involved in a cover-up. To be generous, I ascribe it to a case of “cognitive inhibition”. I imagine it works somewhat like this: “My work—that is, the truth—is too important to risk it being censored by saying something bad about Israel.” Personally, I prefer to stick to Peter Janney’s principle that “the truth takes no prisoners.”

To his credit, DiEugenio does not eschew the Dimona story. His website links to two articles by Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb (1998), and William Burr of the National Security Archive, accompanied by declassified documents (here and here).[17] DiEugenio himself writes about Israel’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons in “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel” (2020):

Ben Gurion and the other Israeli leaders were so devoted to this aim that they resorted to two illicit means in order to secure the goal. First—there is no other way to say this—they involved themselves in a government-wide conspiracy to deceive Kennedy about the true nature of the Dimona reactor.

Israel’s second means to go nuclear was the theft of enriched Uranium from the U.S.:

Through [Roger] Mattson [author of Stealing the Atom Bomb], and also author Grant Smith [author of Big Israel], we know today that Israel had stolen hundreds of pounds of highly enriched uranium out of what was essentially their shell plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania, called NUMEC.[18]

Stone and DiEugenio mention the first of these Israeli deceptions in their film (the long version only, episode 3, 40:50). After a brief reminder of Kennedy’s decision to support the U.N. resolution for the return of Palestinian refugees, we are told:

The other problem Kennedy faced with Israel was the construction of the atomic reactor at Dimona. JFK was strongly against any proliferation of nuclear weaponry. He had been assured by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that Dimona was designed for peaceful uses of atomic energy. In the spring of 1963, Kennedy demanded full inspections by the US of the Dimona reactor, and threatened to place American aid for Israel in limbo if no agreement was reached. And at the time of his assassination, negotiations were in process for biannual inspections.

That is better than nothing. But since that story is only incidental to the thesis defended by Stone and DiEugenio, it seems to have been included only to immune the authors from the blame of covering it up, that Douglass deserves.

Interestingly, it is Stone who brings up this topic in this interview with Canadian journalist Éloïse Boies. At 34:20, DiEugenio states that “nobody was more anti-nuclear proliferation than John F. Kennedy. This was really a very important issue with him.” At this point, Stone interjects:

He took on Israel. He took on Ben-Gurion in Israel, because they were building a bomb that they’d stolen from us. And he really wanted to put a stop to that, but he, unfortunately died before, and Johnson carried through, knew about it and let it go, till Israel had the bomb by 1968. And even then, in 68, Johnson shut the Pentagon up. He said: “We are not going to announce this. The American people won’t know that Israel has the bomb.”

Notice Éloïse’s reaction: “Let’s talk about [something else].” The point is that, for Stone and DiEugenio, Dimona seems to be anecdotal and hardly relevant to solving the case. At the end (from 50:27), when asked “Who did it, and why?” they stick to the conclusion that Allen Dulles was the mastermind, with perhaps Curtis LeMay. But, they add as an afterthought, Dulles is only “the executioner” and “does get the OK from someone else. … You know who they are: the people with money” … like “David Rockefeller”. Éloïse gets it: “It’s all about money, at the end of the day.” It becomes absolutely ridiculous. When your theory implodes under its own hollowness, it’s time to change. But, as Stone says “once they’re locked in, it’s very hard for historians to go back” (19:10).

It might seem unfair for me to point to an interview rather than to the film itself. But the value of that interview is precisely to reveal the logical fallacies and confusions that are not apparent in the film.

Johnson

In that same interview (from 40:30), Stone says: “I don’t think Johnson was involved in the murder.” DiEugenio adds: “Johnson fell for the CIA story coming out of Mexico City” (an Oswald impersonator visiting both the Soviet and the Cuban embassies in Mexico in October 1963). But then DiEugenio mentions that Edgar Hoover had told Johnson that the Mexico story was impossible, since neither the voice nor the photo provided by the Mexico CIA station fitted the real Oswald. So now “the question becomes: did Johnson really believe this?” This gets confusing. DiEugenio can’t seem to decide whether Johnson believed Oswald’s communist legend or not.

But DiEugenio’s dilemma has no reason to be. For not only Johnson knew the communist Oswald to be bogus; it was he who used this fake communist connection to block all investigations. DiEugenio is an admirer of the work of professor John M. Newman, whose books he reviewed (hereherehere, and here), and whom he interviewed for the film. One contribution of Newman, introduced in the 2008 edition of his book Oswald and the CIA and repeated in the first three volumes of his series The Assassination of President Kennedy, is, in his own words:

An essential element of the plot was a psychological operation to raise the specter of WWIII and the death of forty million Americans. This threat of a nuclear holocaust was then used by President Johnson to terrify Chief Justice Earl Warren and some of the other men who served on the Warren Commission to such an extent that they believed there was no alternative to writing a report stating Lee Oswald alone had assassinated the president.[19]

According to that theory, endorsed by DiEugenio in this review,[20] Oswald’s profile as a communist pro-Castro activist was inbuilt in the plan (by none other than James Jesus Angleton), not for the purpose of starting WWIII, but as a national security pretext that Johnson could use to impose the lone-nut theory, lest the discovery of a conspiracy would “kick us into a war that can kill forty million Americans in an hour,” as Johnson kept repeating.[21] One important implication is that “many of the post-assassination lies and cover-ups were carried out by people who had nothing to do with the pre-existing plot to assassinate the president” and who “thought that what they were doing was in the best interests of the country.”[22] This applies to thousands of people from the Dallas Police to TV networks. But can it apply to Johnson himself? Given Johnson’s quick and efficient mastery of this device, it is much more likely that it was fabricated by Angleton specifically for Johnson and with his foreknowledge.

Yet DiEugenio and other authors on his site are dismissive of investigators who incriminate Johnson, and especially of Phillip Nelson, author of LBJ: The Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination. A big book like that (730 pages) is bound to contain some weak arguments, but the reviews in KennedysandKing.com (here and here) do not do justice to the strong evidence accumulated by Nelson that Johnson was actively involved, not just in the cover-up, but in the preparation of the Dallas ambush.[23] (Read Nelson’s response to KennedysandKing.com here). DiEugenio concurs with Douglass that Johnson was unaware of the conspiracy against his president, but “chose to cover-up everything and surrender to Cold War prerogatives.”[24] He assumes that Johnson was a man who had no clear idea of his own in foreign policy and liked to be told what to do. That is at odds with everything we learn from Johnson’s biographers—especially Robert Caro.

From my viewpoint, which differs from Nelson’s, Johnson’s role in the assassination cannot be understood independently from Israel’s—nor can Angleton’s role. Johnson allowed, and probably planned, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967, and he excused Israel when the operation failed (“Johnson did not break relations with Israel, and there were no trials held over this atrocity,” notes DiEugenio).[25] Not only that, but, as DiEugenio writes in “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel”:

As Roger Mattson notes in his book on the subject, when the CIA alerted the new president that it appeared that Israel had now developed the atomic bomb, Johnson barely reacted. (Mattson, p. 97) There was no official investigation launched. In fact, Johnson told the CIA not to alert either State or Defense about the discovery.[26]

For those two acts, Johnson qualifies as a traitor to the country he had been sworn to serve. If Johnson was working for someone, it was not for the “Eastern Establishment,” of which he had never been part; it was for Israel. Johnson was the initiator of a pro-Israel policy that Truman, Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers or the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy would never have imagined in their worst nightmare. It is today widely known that Johnson is the US president who “firmly pointed American policy in a pro-Israel direction.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, I find several logical flaws in DiEugenio’s general theory, the basis for Stone’s documentary:

  1. DiEugenio recognizes that the change of foreign policy from JFK to LBJ was most consequential in the Middle East, yet he blames the CIA and the Pentagon (Dulles and LeMay) for the assassination, although neither the CIA nor the Pentagon ever advocated the pro-Israel policy that Johnson set up. Johnson’s unprecedented support for Israel, to the point of treason, went against the approach advocated by the CIA, the Pentagon or the State Department. But it was the best foreign policy that Ben-Gurion could dream of.
  2. According to DiEugenio and the dominant school, the CIA’s prime motive for eliminating Kennedy would have been to resume their favored foreign policy toward Cuba, which Kennedy had stubbornly opposed. But that didn’t happen after the assassination. Johnson kept Kennedy’s pledge to Khrushchev not to invade Cuba, which Dulles and LeMay considered pure treason.
  3. DiEugenio agrees that Kennedy was intensely worried about nuclear proliferation, and that Israel posed him the most difficult problem. He also knows that Johnson did nothing to stop Israel from going nuclear, and showed neither surprise nor displeasure when told that Israel made its first nuclear bomb in 1968, with bomb-grade uranium stolen from the U.S. Johnson tried to keep it secret—which obviously was what Israel wanted. Yet DiEugenio does not see Dimona as having been a motive in the assassination, and finds no reason to suspect either Israel or Johnson.
  4. DiEugenio believes that JFK’s assassination was a “coup d’État over foreign policy,” and I agree that this is the only way to make sense of it. But the purpose of a coup d’État is to replace one head of state by another. Therefore, it is self-contradictory for DiEugenio to minimize Johnson’s role and motive in the assassination.

Actually, I think DiEugenio’s notion of a “cover-up about JFK’s foreign policy” needs to be qualified. Not all areas of Kennedy’s foreign policy are equally covered up. The three teachers of DiEugenio—Richard Mahoney, Philip Muehlenbeck and Robert Rakove—are published by Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press: not exactly fringe publishers. Rakove and Muehlenbeck are even included in the bibliography of the Wikipedia article on Foreign policy of the John F. Kennedy administration” (so are James Douglass and John M. Newman). This Wikipedia article is quite accurate and detailed, with one exception for the section about “Israel and Arab States”—a fine hasbara job, probably by Bennett Naftali’s army of Zionist Wikipedia editors. See by yourself:

The real “cover-up about JFK’s foreign policy” is the cover-up about JFK’s Israeli policy. According to DiEugenio’s own logic, that points in the direction that DiEugenio is not looking.

Since DiEugenio sees a link between Kennedy’s assassination and his “posthumous assassination”, I also suggest that he gets a clue about Kennedy’s assassins by looking at the political profile of Kennedy’s “posthumous assassins”. The list includes, next to Seymour Hersh, authors who specialize in trashing the Kennedy family, like Ronald Kessler (The Sins of the Father, 1997), Edward Klein (The Kennedy Curse, 2004), or the incomparable C. David Heymann, the Mossad employee (by his own admission)[27] who wrote the salacious Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story (2009). Is there a pattern here?

What about Howard Zinn, Gar Alperovitz, Martin Peretz, and Noam Chomsky, that DiEugenio blames in “The Left and the Death of Kennedy” (1997) for their defense of the Warren Commission report and their participation in the orgy of Kennedy-bashing. Chomsky, whom DiEugenio sees as the most nefarious liar when it comes to Kennedy’s presidency or his assassination (here and here), has nothing in common with Allen Dulles or Curtis LeMay. He is an anti-imperialist, and as such he should make Kennedy his hero, his icon. But Chomsky has another agenda: one of his specialties is blaming America for the crimes of Israel. As for Martin Peretz, DiEugenio writes that his New Republic buried Kennedy’s death in 1979, then “tried to bury his life.”

It actually made a feature article out of a review of the tawdry Horowitz-Collier family biography The Kennedys. Who did that publication find suitable to review this National Enquirer version of the Kennedy clan? None other than Midge Decter, wife of neo-conservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, mother-in-law of Elliot Abrams.

The Podhoretzs are not Eastern Establishment, but they hate the Kennedys. Their hatred is transgenerational and inextinguishable. If you doubt it, read the piece below, written by Norman’s son a week after the tragic death of John F. Kennedy Jr. The author imagines Satan—or is it Yahweh?—teasing Joe Kennedy in hell and bragging to have killed his grandson—a particularly heinous version of the “Kennedy curse”.

Perhaps DiEugenio should give more serious consideration to the “who” and the “why” of Kennedy’s “posthumous assassination”. But that would take him on the road less traveled, a dangerous path—some say suicidal.

Strangely, though, many other well-trodden roads seem to now converge on the Israeli trail:

  • Investigators tracking Johnson end up finding a snake pit of sayanim in his White House, as did Phillip Nelson in his second and third books (LBJ: From Mastermind to “The Colossus” and Remember the Liberty).
  • Jefferson Morley, investigating Angleton, saw him in cahoots with the cream of the Mossad, who considered him “the biggest Zionist of the lot,” while Robert Amory, head of the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, called him a “co-opted Israeli agent” to his face.
  • David Talbot concludes that RFK was assassinated by the same cabal as his brother, who now used for a patsy an anti-Zionist Palestinian, thereby presenting RFK’s assassination as motivated by “a visceral, irrational hatred of Israel” (but Talbot sees no Israeli fingerprint in there—another case of cognitive inhibition).
  • No one investigating Jacob Rubenstein, known as Jack Ruby, can now ignore his work for the Irgun as a “gangster for Zion” and his repeated declarations that “I did it for the Jews”.[28]
  • Clay Shaw, the only person (beside Oswald) to have been charged with having participated in the assassination, has been found a board member of Permindex, “a Mossad arms trading and money laundering venture” chaired by Louis Bloomfield, a devoted supporter of the Israeli cause and of the Mossad, as shown by Michael Collins Piper.[29]
  • The word is out that Arlen “Magic Bullet” Specter was a dedicated Israel-firster, honored by the Israeli government as “an unswerving defender of the Jewish State,” and by AIPAC, as “a leading architect of the congressional bond between our country and Israel”.[30]
  • It can’t be ignored that Abraham Zapruder, the man whose camera didn’t shiver when Kennedy’s head exploded, had his business office in one of the snipers’ nests, the Dal Tex Building overlooking Dealey Plaza, owned by B’nai B’rith financier David Weisblat.[31]
  • Investigators interested in George DeMohrenschildt cannot fail to learn that, before being found dead with a bullet in his head, he had complained that “the Jewish mafia” was out to get him.[32]

And of course, we must add to the equation Israel’s criminal record for the last sixty years. Thanks to Ronen Bergman, author of Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, we know that Israeli secret services has never had any inhibition against eliminating anyone perceived as a threat to Israel’s national security, especially when it comes to Israel’s nuclear hegemony in the Middle East. Bergman learned from the assassins themselves because, he writes, “acts that people in other countries might be ashamed to admit to are instead a source of pride for Israelis.”[33]

We now know so much more than Stone and DiEugenio could know when they first got involved in Kennedy assassination research. But those who understood Israel’s power back then already had a clue. In March 1992, commenting critically on Stone’s motion picture JFK, American Congressman Paul Findley noted in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:

It is interesting — but not surprising — to note that in all the words written and uttered about the Kennedy assassination, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, has never been mentioned. … on this question, as on almost all others, American reporters and commentators cannot bring themselves to cast Israel in an unfavorable light — despite the obvious fact that Mossad complicity is as plausible as any of the other theories.

Three years later, Mike Piper filled the gap with Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy (expanded through five editions until 2005). His work has been ignored by most investigators, but in 2013, historian Martin Sandler (listen to him here) mentioned it in his precious edition of The Letters of John F. Kennedy, to introduce Kennedy’s letter to David Ben-Gurion dated May 18, 1963:

author Michael Collins Piper actually accused Israel of the crime. Of all the conspiracy theories, it remains one of the most intriguing. What is indisputable is that although it was kept out of the eye of both the press and the public, a bitter dispute had developed between Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, who believed that his nation’s survival depended on its attaining nuclear capability, and Kennedy, who was vehemently opposed to it.[34]

In his previous letter to Kennedy, dated May 12, Ben-Gurion had assured Kennedy that the Egyptians “want to follow the Nazi example,” and begged: “Mr. President, my people have the right to exist… and this existence is in danger.”[35] He also made a bizarre digression about Jordanian King Hussein: “there is always a danger that one single bullet might put an end to his life and regime.”[36]

Notes

[1] DiEugenio, “Dodd and Dulles vs. Kennedy in Africa,” 15 February 1999, last modified 16 October 2016, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/dodd-and-dulles-vs-kennedy-in-africa

[2] “DiEugenio at the VMI seminar,” 16 September 2017, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/jim-dieugenio-at-the-vmi-seminar

[3] DiEugenio, “Introduction to JFK’s Foreign Policy: A Motive for Murder,” 22 December 2014, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/introduction-to-jfk-s-foreign-policy-a-motive-for-murder

[4] “DiEugenio at the VMI seminar, 16 September 2017, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/jim-dieugenio-at-the-vmi-seminar

[5] James Norwood, “Edmund Gullion, JFK, and the Shaping of a Foreign Policy in Vietnam,” 8 May 2018, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/edmund-gullion-jfk-and-the-shaping-of-a-foreign-policy-in-vietnam

[6] James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, Touchstone, 2008, pp. 107, 102.

[7] Quoted in “DiEugenio at the VMI seminar,” 16 September 2017, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/jim-dieugenio-at-the-vmi-seminar

[8] DiEugenio, “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’État over Foreign Policy?” January 14, 2021, covertactionmagazine.com/2021/01/14/deconstructing-jfk-a-coup-detat-over-foreign-policy/

[9] DiEugenio, “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’État over Foreign Policy?” January 14, 2021, covertactionmagazine.com/2021/01/14/deconstructing-jfk-a-coup-detat-over-foreign-policy/

[10] DiEugenio, “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel,” 22 October 2020, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/nasser-kennedy-the-middle-east-and-israel

[11] DiEugenio, “Introduction to JFK’s Foreign Policy: A Motive for Murder,” 22 December 2014, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/introduction-to-jfk-s-foreign-policy-a-motive-for-murder

[12] Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993, pp. 30-33.

[13] David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, Random House, 1972, pp. 156-162.

[14] John K. Galbraith, “Exit Strategy – In 1963, JFK ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam,” Oct/Nov 2003, www.bostonreview.net/articles/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam/

[15] Joan Mellen, Blood in the Water: How the US and Israel Conspired to Ambush the USS Liberty, Prometheus, 2018, p. 32.

[16] Film of De Gaulle’s press conference on fresques.ina.fr/de-gaulle/fiche-media/Gaulle00139/conference-de-presse-du-27-novembre-1967 at 41 min.

[17] Avner Cohen and William Burr,  Concerned About Nuclear Weapons Potential, John F. Kennedy Pushed for Inspection of Israel Nuclear Facilities,” April 21, 2016, nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/nuclear-vault/2016-04-21/concerned-about-nuclear-weapons-potential-john-f-kennedy and  The Battle of the Letters, 1963: John F. Kennedy, David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol, and the U.S. Inspections of Dimona,” May 2, 2019, nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/nuclear-vault/2019-05-02/battle-letters-1963-john-f-kennedy-david-ben-gurion-levi-eshkol-us-inspections-dimona

[18] DiEugenio, “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel,” 22 October 2020, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/nasser-kennedy-the-middle-east-and-israel For more detail, read DiEugenio’s review of Roger Mattson’s book Stealing the Atom Bomb (2016), “How Israel Stole the Bomb”, September 11, 2016, on consortiumnews.com/2016/09/11/how-israel-stole-the-bomb/ Read also DiEugenio’s review of Monika Wiesak, America’s Last President.

[19] John Newman, Where Angels Tread Lightly: The Assassination of President Kennedy, volume 1, self-published, 2017, p. xx; repeated in vol. 2, Countdown to Darkness, and in vol. 3, Into the Storm.

[20] DiEugenio’s words: « In his new Epilogue for this 2008 edition, Newman explains why only someone who a.) Understood the inner workings of the national security state, and b.) Understood and controlled Oswald’s files, could have masterminded something as superhumanly complex as this scheme. One in which the conspiracy itself actually contained the seeds that would sprout the cover-up » (DiEugenio, “John Newman, Oswald and the CIA (re-issue),” 01 September 2008, on www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-reviews/newman-john-oswald-and-the-cia-re-issue

[21] LBJ in a conversation to Senator Richard Russell on November 29, 1963, quoted in Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, op. cit., p. 83.

[22] John Newman, Where Angels Tread Lightly, op. cit., p. xx.

[23] Phillip Nelson, LBJ: The Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination, XLibris, 2010, p. 377-378

[24] Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, op. cit., p. 81.

[25] DiEugenio, “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’État over Foreign Policy?” January 14, 2021, covertactionmagazine.com/2021/01/14/deconstructing-jfk-a-coup-detat-over-foreign-policy/

[26] DiEugenio, “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel,” 22 October 2020, www.kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-articles/nasser-kennedy-the-middle-east-and-israel

[27] “C. David Heymann,” on spartacus-educational.com/JFKheymann.htm

[28] William Kunstler, My Life as a Radical Lawyer, Carol Publishing, 1994, p. 158.

[29] Michael Collins Piper, Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy, American Free Press, 6th ed., 2005, chapter 15, pp. 247-269.

[30] Natasha Mozgovaya, “Prominent Jewish-American politician Arlen Specter dies at 82,” Haaretz, October 14, 2012, www.haaretz.com/jewish/arlen-specter-dies-at-82-1.5192779.

[31] That shots came from the Dal Tex was suggested by Jim Garrison in his October 1967 Playboy interview, p. 165-166, ia801307.us.archive.org/20/items/JimGarrisonPlayboyInterview/Jim-Garrison-Playboy-Interview.pdf.

[32] Police report on fr.scribd.com/document/258263723/Police-report-on-sucide-of-de-Mohrenschildt; His wife confirmed to Jim Marrs that her husband thought that “the Jewish Mafia and the FBI” were out to get him: Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, Carroll and Graf, 1989, p. 285.

[33] Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, John Murray, 2019, p. xv.

[34] Martin Sandler, The Letters of John F. Kennedy, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013, p. 333. Listen to Sandler here on this topic on www.c-span.org/video/?c4547313/user-clip-jfk-gurion-mossad-dimona

[35] Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, Columbia UP, 1998, pp. 109 and 14.

[36] Quoted in Monika Wiesak, America’s Last President: What the World Lost When It Lost John F. Kennedy, self-published, 2022, p. 214.

January 22, 2023 - Posted by | Book Review, Civil Liberties, Film Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , ,

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  1. OTTO OTEPKA, ROBERT F. KENNEDY, WALTER SHERIDAN, AND LEE OSWALD
    By Joan Mellen

    “During the period 1961 to 1964, the activities of Walter and Bobby, germane to the events in this memorandum, are almost inseparable.”
    Otto F. Otepka, Memorandum, September 20, 1968

    Part 1.

    Beginning in 1957, Otto F. Otepka served as Deputy Director of the State Department Office of Security. This meant that Otepka was in charge of granting security clearances for all State Department personnel. A cadre of people worked under his supervision. From this position of considerable responsibility, Otepka was plunged into a nightmare universe of harassment and surveillance. He was reassigned and removed to a position from which he could no longer reveal inconvenient truths. Yet he had done nothing wrong. It is an extraordinary tale of a career government officer being framed from within the government, his only sin the scrupulous manner in which he performed his duties.

    Otto Otepka was born in Chicago on May 6, 1915 of Czech-born immigrant parents. His father had been a blacksmith and worked in America at a forge. He could offer his brilliant son little in the way of material support. Otepka worked his way through college and law school. After a stint in Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, in July 1942 he began his career in personnel security work with the Civil Service Commission as an investigator on the look-out for Nazis and crypto-fascists. With an interruption for service in the Navy, after the war he continued with the Civil Service Commission in the security field.

    In 1953, Otepka arrived at the Office of Security where he was charged with the authority to uncover either criminal acts or Communist sympathies in the histories of people who had been appointed to positions in the State Department. Otepka was a man of his time, of the Cold War period and the Stalinization of Eastern Europe. Like many, he perceived a danger to the United States from the Soviet outreach. He was a methodical man, fair-minded, exacting and scrupulous. He told the author that he “never overstepped boundaries.” As a personnel security evaluator, he offered no personal opinions on American foreign policy.

    Otepka was not a liberal, even as his case is a reminder that “liberals” hold no monopoly on integrity. He was a man of principle, a category that cuts across ideological lines. Otepka despised Senator Joseph McCarthy and his methods, even as he believed that Communist subversion was a threat to our system of government. “McCarthy didn’t identify Communists in the State Department,” Otepka told me indignantly. “He called people ‘Communists.’ A Communist is not a Communist because someone calls them that.” There were Communists, Otepka says, “but not those named by McCarthy.”

    Although he denied security clearances to some people, Otepka was not a man given to frivolous accusations. “I had never approved of Senator McCarthy’s tactics,” he said when his own troubles began. “Everyone in the security field knew that.” Otepka was neither a shady Teamster president, nor the imaginative district attorney of Orleans Parish with history and the death of a revered President on his mind. Yet just as Bobby Kennedy and his right-hand man, Walter Sheridan, were later to pursue Jimmy Hoffa and Jim Garrison with scant regard for the law, among their earlier targets was Otto Otepka.

    Walter Sheridan, who began as a National Security Agency operative, and garnered FBI and CIA clearances, enlisted the same grab bag of illegal and unscrupulous methods against Otto Otepka as he would utilize against Hoffa and Garrison. He was Bobby Kennedy’s “confidential assistant,” and on behalf of Bobby, aided by a clique of Kennedy loyalists planted in the Office of Security, he deprived Otepka of his position. Otepka was never severed from government service. Instead, he was reassigned to what seemed like higher positions, but which were, in fact, positions without responsibility, and which amounted to career oblivion.

    Otepka at first believed that his ordeal was based on his having denied security clearances to some Kennedy appointees. This was not the case. Rather, his removal from authority was based upon his development of a file relating to one “Lee Oswald, tourist,” a name on a list of “defectors.” The quotation marks were added by the CIA itself for an October 24, 1960 document that marks the beginning of Otto Otepka’s investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald.

    “DEFECTORS”
    It began that October, 1960, even before John F. Kennedy was elected. Several offices at the Department of State undertook to identify and research a list of Americans who had defected to the Soviet Union, to Soviet bloc nations, or to Communist China. The assignment to check on Oswald, and to explore whether his name appeared in any existing security files, came to Otepka as chief security evaluator at State. Otepka contacted the FBI at once. This was routine. The CIA was next on his list.

    At the Department of State’s “Office of Intelligence/Resources and Coordination,” Robert B. Elwood wrote to Richard Bissell, CIA’s then DDP [Deputy Director, Plans, a designation synonymous with the clandestine service]. The subject of his letter was “Request For Information Concerning American ‘Defectors.’” The quotation marks raise an implied question: were they really defectors or were they American agents introduced into the Soviet Union working for CIA Counter Intelligence?

    It became a variation on La Ronde. The files danced from Agency to Agency, component to component. Bissell shipped the file to James Angleton at Counter Intelligence and to Robert L. Bannerman, Deputy Chief of the Office of Security at CIA. Bannerman sent Oswald’s name back to Otto Otepka. “It would all have gone through Angleton,” Bannerman told retired military intelligence officer and author, John Newman.
    Beginning on June 1, 1960, Oswald’s background and file began to be examined by employees in the Office of Security at the State Department. On December 5th , 1960, the Intelligence Collection and Distribution Division informed Otepka that he and the Office of Security would handle the official list of Americans who had defected to the Communist bloc. By now, John F. Kennedy had been elected President, but had not yet taken office.

    Otepka began the work of determining whether “Lee Oswald” had bearing on any existing security case, either of an applicant for a position with the State Department, or of an existing employee. As he would any file, Otepka distributed the one bearing the name “Oswald” to his subordinates, eight or ten people, he told me, whose work he would then review. He sent Oswald’s name over to the Bureau of Soviet Affairs. It seemed to be all a matter of routine.

    Oswald’s file was marked #39-61981. Sitting as it did in the Central File Room of the Office of Security, the “39” denoting an “Intelligence File,” the Oswald material raised questions. As the months passed, more questions surfaced. Otepka examined Oswald’s return from the Soviet Union with the unlikely assistance of a State Department loan. Otepka also pondered the speed with which Oswald’s wife, Marina, was cleared for entrance into the United States. By 1963, Otepka would be wondering why Oswald was issued a passport for travel to Cuba and, seemingly, the Soviet Union, despite a possible “criminal” flag in Oswald’s ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] file. It was at this time that Otepka’s security safe was burgled and his Oswald file disappeared for good.

    Part 2:
    BOBBY KENNEDY MEETS OTTO F. OTEPKA, DECEMBER 1960
    Bobby Kennedy’s hostility to Otto Otepka surfaced in December 1960, even before the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, but after Otepka had begun to evaluate Lee Oswald. At 7 P.M. one evening, in the gathering winter darkness, Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s Secretary of State designate, requested that Otepka meet with him. Otepka assumed that the purpose of the meeting was a discussion of security clearances for Kennedy appointees. What turned out to be the troubling reality was that Rusk, whom Otepka had only just cleared, was functioning as an intermediary. It was Bobby Kennedy who wanted to meet with Otepka.

    Bobby was late. Otepka and Rusk sat twiddling their thumbs in the deserted building until Robert Kennedy finally appeared. Offering no apologies, he complained that he had become lost in the labyrinthine corridors. It was in these same corridors, nearly three years later that Bobby’s “confidential assistant,” Walter Sheridan, would be handed the tapes of the illegal surveillance of Otepka’s telephone and office.

    Eschewing preliminaries, Bobby came to the point. He was concerned that W.W. Rostow be granted a security clearance for his cabinet appointment. On two previous occasions, in 1955 and 1957, Otepka had declined to clear Rostow as a foreign policy expert. There was something not quite right about this man, Otepka thought. He pointed out to Bobby that Air Force Intelligence had voiced doubts about Rostow.

    Those people are “nuts!” Bobby blurted out. His anger seemed incommensurate with the issue and surprised Otto Otepka, who was a calm, reasoned man not accustomed to such outbursts of emotion in the course of his work. Otepka’s instincts regarding Rostow were both correct and incorrect. Otepka was incorrect in believing that Rostow was a Communist sympathizer of any kind, despite his family background. He was right that the man was not what he seemed. John F. Kennedy’s inexperience and naivete – he would go on to circumvent the security problem by appointing Rostow to his White House staff – was to emerge when Rostow revealed his true colors.

    Before long, Rostow began to beat drums for a ground war in Vietnam, a policy John F. Kennedy did not and would never favor. Rostow’s bleating for war would be heeded to the full once Kennedy was dead and Lyndon Johnson became president. By 1965, Rostow was demanding that 500,000 troops at the least be sent to Vietnam.

    Bobby emerged enraged from the only face-to-face encounter he would ever have with Otto Otepka. He perceived that he had confronted a man who would not be bullied and who was not subject to political influence. As for Otepka, he at first believed that Bobby’s inexplicable hostility must be based on his refusal to clear Rostow, and also a shadowy figure named William Wieland, who had once sold arms to Fidel Castro. It was not so. It is not clear when Robert Kennedy became aware of Otepka’s handling of the investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald. But Otepka became certain that it was this investigation rather than his unwillingness to clear minor Kennedy appointees that led to Otepka’s demotion.

    OTTO OTEPKA IS PLACED UNDER SURVEILLANCE
    In November 1961, five months after Oswald reclaimed his passport for return to the United States, and nearly a year after Otepka’s meeting with Bobby Kennedy, Otepka was informed that the Office of Security was being re-organized. His job as Deputy Director was eliminated. In January 1962, Otepka became chief of a newly-created Division of Evaluations, a position where he would enjoy far fewer responsibilities.
    Four months later, in April 1962, Robert Kennedy sent a long-time family loyalist named John Francis Reilly to head the State Department Office of Security. Roger Jones, who was Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Administration, later confided to author Michaux Henry Wilkinson, that Robert Kennedy told him personally that he wanted Reilly to be made Director of the Office of Security. Reilly had no experience either in security work or in personnel evaluation. He seemed an odd choice, this Justice Department lawyer. Reilly, a Massachusetts Irishman, had been recommended officially by Bobby Kennedy’s own executive assistant, Andy Oehmann. By Reilly’s own later admission, he was “sent over here to do a job, and by God I’m going to do it!”

    The other piece of the puzzle was soon in place. That same April, Otepka’s Division of Evaluations was removed from responsibility for the “Intelligence Reporting Branch,” which was transferred to the Executive Office. This unit, from which Otepka was effectively excluded, now had the responsibility for receiving all intelligence reports from the FBI and CIA. The Intelligence Reporting Branch, far removed from the eyes of Otto Otepka, now decided whether information was of significance for personnel security purposes. It was this “Intelligence Reporting Branch” that forwarded relevant data to other bureaus and offices – or did not.

    Another four months passed. In August 1962, a month after Lee Oswald returned to the United States, Reilly was promoted to the newly-created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Security, the more easily for him to proceed against Otto Otepka. Now four more Kennedy people arrived at the Office of Security to keep watch over Otepka. They included Joseph E. Rosetti, who had served in John F. Kennedy’s congressional office; Massachusetts Kennedy intimate, Robert J. McCarthy; and Charles W. Lyons, also from Massachusetts. These three were joined by David I. Belisle, a National Security Agency operative and friend of Walter Sheridan’s from his days at NSA. Belisle was to serve as Otepka’s immediate superior.

    So the effort to ruin Otepka proceeded. Eventually he would be charged with prosecution under the Espionage Act, not for providing intelligence to the Soviet Union, or to “Peiping,” as Dean Rusk would always refer to the capital of China. No, it was to a subcommittee of the United States Senate that Otepka would be charged with providing “secret” information.

    The charge was entirely bogus. No documents Otepka presented to the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, before which he was called to testify, were classified. Moreover, he had obtained permission to testify from the Secretary of State himself. It was against the law for a public official to refuse to cooperate with a committee of Congress. Otepka had no choice but to testify.

    Under watchful eyes, in his capacity as an evaluator, Otepka continued to work on his Oswald file. More details raised “red flags.” Oswald obtained a visa to the Soviet Union in Helsinki in two{2} days –normally it took at least thirty {30}days. (The State Department would lie to the Warren Commission and tell them that it took one to two weeks). Otepka wondered what Oswald actually did in the Soviet Union. He examined Marina’s propitious exit; it was known to take wives of U.S. citizens five months to a year for official permission to leave, and Oswald was no simple citizen: wasn’t he a defector, a traitor? Otepka would have liked to have examined Marina’s family history, he told me, and her connections to the Soviet secret police.

    On April 4, 1962, Otepka consulted the Passport Office, inquiring whether “there has been a change in the Subject’s citizenship.” He requested any other information which might be of assistance to the Navy in considering Oswald’s case. Otepka told me he had hoped to have examined the anomaly that Oswald had received an exit visa a month and a half before he actually left Russia, and, again, there was the matter of that State Department loan that made his return home possible.

    When Otepka learned in June 1963 that Oswald received a U.S. passport on one day’s notice, it confirmed his uneasiness. He did not blame Francis Knight in the passport office. Knight later told Otepka that she was following orders, that “she would issue a passport to a baboon if she knew that was the policy.”

    In those years, wire taps were illegal unless there was probable cause that national security was being compromised. By 1962, Otepka’s telephone was being tapped. The tap was instituted by an electronics expert hired personally by Reilly named Elmer Dewey Hill, who would be assisted by others. Out of a room directly across from Otepka’s new hole-in-the-wall office in exile, Hill made his tapes.

    Now every evening Otepka’s trash was confiscated. One night at 10 P.M., David Belisle, and a subordinate named Terence Shea, broke into Otepka’s office – only to discover Otepka sitting at his desk. Undaunted, they claimed they were searching for evidence that Otepka had provided classified information to the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, although there was no evidence that he had done so. He had not.

    An Otepka colleague named Stanley Holden, who would soon be fired from the electronics unit, disturbed by Otepka’s mistreatment, confirmed to him that the bugging had included not merely his telephone, but every word spoken in his office. Holden named Rosetti, Belisle and Shea as having led the surveillance, both of Otepka in his office, and Otepka in his private life. (Much later, a mastermind of an electronics expert named Bernard Spindel would reveal that a “Justice Department Agency” had a permanent tap into the main telephone line in Washington, D.C.).

    In December 1963, Stanley Holden, in sworn testimony before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, revealed that, in June, John Reilly had Otepka’s safe drilled open and personally searched the safe. Reilly had also gone through Otepka’s desk and files. Otepka did not remain silent.

    On the day after Dean Rusk ordered Reilly to find out how Otepka had managed to obtain proof that tapes were being made of his conversations, Stanley Holden met with a strange “accident.” His face and tongue were slashed so badly that stitches were required. Terrified, Holden claimed, not very persuasively, that a heavy spring had come loose in his lab and hit him in the face.

    Then Joe Rosetti and Robert McCarthy showed up at Holden’s home. McCarthy began to shout so loudly that the neighbors became witnesses. “Where is your loyalty?” he screamed at Holden for having revealed the wire taps to Otepka. “Don’t you have any loyalty at all? Don’t you think you owe Joe Rosetti any loyalty?” McCarthy concluded his tirade with a threat. “I’ll get you for this!”

    It strains credulity to believe that such a fierce campaign could have anything to do with Otepka’s providing the Internal Security subcommittee with unclassified information (He gave them three innocuous documents, to which the legislative branch of government was entitled legally). It is equally unlikely that Otepka was being treated as if he were a criminal because he had denied a security clearance to some political has-beens, as he did in the case of Kennedy’s Ambassador-designate to Ireland, the owner of a construction business who turned out to be covered in graft and corruption.

    Otepka was now relieved of any responsibility for security. He was given make-work, updating the Office of Security handbook. He was ordered to summarize each day’s Congressional Record. Otepka was not, however, a man to give up and suffer injustice without a struggle. From the moment he was driven from his position of responsibility and tossed into a limbo of boring tasks designed to press him to resign, Otepka became determined to learn who was responsible for his political demise – and why.

    What Otepka did not know at the time, information that is only emerging now, more than four decades later, is Bobby Kennedy’s extraordinary interest in Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination of his brother. Bobby’s obsession with Otto Otepka suggests that more than a year before John F. Kennedy’s death, he was concerned with Oswald.

    The curious intervention of the Department of Justice with the Dallas Police in the matter of Oswald’s having fired shots at General Edwin Walker, and Justice’s insistence that the Dallas Police not arrest Oswald, nor pursue him, is one example. The telling document disappeared from the Dallas police files, and has not yet re-emerged, but General Walker told his friend Louisiana judge John R. Rarick about it at the time. Near death, Walker urged the House Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate this extraordinary intervention that traces back to Bobby Kennedy.

    Another example of Bobby’s awareness of Oswald came to the author in an interview with Bobby’s operative Angelo Murgado, which is described in “A Farewell To Justice.”
    Another hint, as yet a mere suggestion, of a relationship between Bobby Kennedy and Oswald has also emerged. “A Farewell to Justice” describes Oswald’s movements in the towns north of Baton Rouge in the spring and summer of 1963. Both before and after they joined Jim Garrison’s investigation, Anne Dischler and state trooper Francis Fruge worked undercover for the Sheriff’s department of Lafayette Parish, among ten other Parishes. In a newly recovered notebook, Dischler revealed to the author, is evidence that Dischler and Fruge learned that an aide of Robert Kennedy’s had communicated with people in Lafayette, Louisiana.

    The information came through the Billie White Answering service in Lafayette; the note of the Kennedy office connection to Lafayette, through which Oswald (or a man calling himself “Oswald”) passed, stopping at the Holiday Lounge, was written in Fruge’s hand. The caller described himself as an “aide” working for Robert Kennedy.

    At the moment the story stops there. But combined with Murgado’s testimony, that during the summer of 1963 Bobby’s employees knew about Oswald, knew even that he worked for the New Orleans field office of the FBI, this revelation of Bobby Kennedy’s communications with someone in the then obscure town of Lafayette raises questions. Where Oswald, or someone called “Oswald,” made an appearance, it emerges that Robert Kennedy was not far behind, whether in the presence of an underling, this as yet nameless aide, or Walter Sheridan, or, less likely, in the person of Kennedy himself.

    This new evidence matches Bobby’s concerned telephone call to Dr. Nicholas Chetta, inquiring as to the cause of death of David Ferrie, Oswald’s closest New Orleans cohort. The incomplete notes in Anne Dischler’s notebook connect as well to the uneasy presence in Dallas in late September at Sylvia Odio’s of Murgado, who was working for Bobby Kennedy, along with Oswald.

    The many connections between Robert Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald help to clarify that question that had so plagued Jim Garrison:
    why did Bobby Kennedy send Walter Sheridan to New Orleans to destroy, discredit and undercut his investigation?

    Sheridan, short and stocky, with his beaky nose, slit-like eyes, and outrageous violations of people’s privacy and rights, was in New Orleans for one purpose alone, to demolish Garrison’s work. This reality was clear to many, not least lawyer and Office of Naval Intelligence operative Guy Johnson. Sheridan “was clearly sent here by the Kennedys to spike Garrison,” Johnson said matter-of-factly.

    Garrison himself had no doubt that Sheridan had been sent by Bobby to destroy his investigation, as he told John Wingate on the WOR-TV (New York) television program: “Robert Kennedy has without any question made a positive effort to stop the investigation and if he denies it here, he is a liar.” On “Mike Wallace At Large,” Garrison told reporter Joseph Wershba:
    “I cannot say with certitude what motivates this man. [Robert Kennedy]. I can only say that if my brother were killed, I would be interested in getting the individuals involved no matter who they are and I wouldn’t be interested in any way in the political aspect…it may be that Bobby is more interested in politics than I am.”

    Yet Bobby’s motive extended beyond his Presidential ambitions.
    The answer seems increasingly apparent:
    Bobby was attempting to ensure that Garrison be sufficiently discredited so that should Garrison uncover Bobby’s relationship with Oswald in the years preceding the assassination of his brother, no one would believe him.

    Otto Otepka becomes a historical precursor of Garrison, another investigator whose work and career Bobby Kennedy would destroy in an effort to conceal Bobby’s close knowledge of Oswald. At first glance, Otepka, conservative, a loyal government employee, and Garrison, liberal, flamboyant, and a devoted admirer of John F. Kennedy, have little in common. Yet they both suffered greatly as targets of Bobby Kennedy’s desperate effort to conceal what he had been up to.

    In retrospect, it becomes apparent that Bobby was frantic that no one discover that he had involved Oswald in his own operations against Fidel Castro. Up in Jackson, Louisiana, not far from Lafayette, at ease chatting with attendants at the East Louisiana State Hospital at Jackson, and overheard by the medical director of the hospital, Dr. Frank Silva, during the summer of 1963, Oswald had bragged about how he had been enlisted to kill Fidel Castro. Here was the real Oswald, no Marxist, but a government operative. And at every turn Bobby Kennedy hovered near. Garrison knew that Oswald had been up in Clinton and Jackson and might well have uncovered Bobby’s connection to him had Walter Sheridan not been dispatched to New Orleans to turn his investigation upside down.

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    Comment by Pip | February 4, 2023 | Reply

  2. Part 3:
    OTTO OTEPKA INVESTIGATES HIS OWN CASE

    Perplexed by his harsh treatment, determined to find out why he had been placed in professional exile, and now demanding answers, Otepka approached friendly contacts in the FBI. He was being investigated by “higher authority in the Department of Justice,” he learned. Otepka was too experienced not to perceive what this meant. The “higher authority,” he told me, could not have been J. Edgar Hoover, who was always identified with the “Bureau.” It could only mean the Attorney General himself, Robert Kennedy.

    It was in June 1963, after the Lafayette incident, and after the Walker shooting, that Otepka’s files on Oswald were stolen from his safe. The culprits, Otepka wrote in a 1976 letter to author Edward J. Epstein at “Reader’s Digest” magazine, were his superiors, people close to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Otepka’s crime had been his studying Oswald, as it had been his responsibility to do. That June, Otepka was removed from the Office of Security. He was never fired, nor ever would be. But in September 1963 ten criminal charges were leveled against him.

    It was now even more urgent that Otepka determine why this was happening to him. The investigator had no choice but to investigate his own case. In a Memorandum dated January 9, 1964, Otepka describes an interview he conducted with William R. Cathey, Chief Special Agent for Southern Bell Telephone Company. Cathey told Otepka that a company named “Five Eyes” had “contracts with several Government agencies including one with the Department of Justice.” Otepka learned too that home telephones in the Washington, D.C. area were being bugged with the help of an employee of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company.

    Under oath at his 1967 hearing, Otepka finally articulated in public and for the record what he had long believed, but never voiced. Asked who was out to get him, he named “a high official of another government agency…the person was Robert Kennedy.” Elmer Dewey Hill, who had done much of the wire tapping, admitted that the tapes of Otepka’s conversations had been handed to “some stranger” at Reilly’s behest. Reilly had instructed him, Hill said, to hand over the tapes at a pre-designated spot “to a person with whom he was unacquainted.” The name of that stranger would soon emerge.
    At this hearing, John Francis Reilly admitted under oath that it had been Bobby Kennedy himself who had appointed him to head the Office of Security in 1962. He revealed as well that he planned to intercept all conversations carried out in Otepka’s office, not merely his telephone calls. Asked for the name of the mysterious stranger to whom Elmer Hill had revealed that the tapes of Otepka’s telephone and office had been delivered, Reilly refused to provide it.

    Ultimately, Hill, Reilly and Belisle, all of whom had broken the law, escaped without punishment, although Hill and Reilly were both charged with perjury. Walter Sheridan stepped in and requested of both Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, and Deputy Under-Secretary of State J. Crockett, that David Belisle not be “asked to resign,” despite Belisle’s apparent malfeasance. Under the protection of Kennedy and Sheridan, Belisle was spirited off to a new job – at the American Embassy at Bonn.

    THE NAME OF THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER IS REVEALED
    It was in a most unlikely venue that the truth emerged about who had ordered the surveillance of Otto Otepka, and who had collected those surveillance tapes. It was not the “New York Times” or the “Washington Post” that produced the name of that “stranger.” Rather, the truth emerged in a Washington, D. C.-based weekly newsletter called the “Government Employees Exchange,” run by a man named Sidney Goldberg. It was Goldberg, a one-man editorial staff, who broke the story and solved the mystery.

    In an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism, in the issue of the “Government Employees Exchange” dated September 4, 1968, Goldberg wrote that a source had come forward with the truth about who was behind the harassment and persecution of Otto Otepka. Goldberg learned that the Otepka surveillance tapes had been prepared by one Clarence Jerome Schneider, an electronics expert on Reilly’s staff. They were delivered into the hands of none other than Bobby Kennedy’s right-hand man, Walter Sheridan.
    This same “knowledgeable source,” as Goldberg describes him, also identified Sheridan as “one of the chief contacts” for Robert F. Kennedy with International Investigators Incorporated. This firm, operating out of Indianapolis, was a “hush-hush” organization providing “industrial security services,” both to the federal government and to private employers. Among their specialties were “wiretap” operations. Outsiders called them “The Three Eyes,” Goldberg discovered. Employees used the name “The Five Eyes.” They were paid in “unvouchered funds” and provided with immunity from prosecution. So Justice Department records would never be able to reveal the role either Robert Kennedy or Walter Sheridan played in the surveillance of Otto Otepka.

    Goldberg notes that although Sheridan was on the payroll of the Justice Department, Sheridan’s office was physically located at the White House. “Through a series of interconnected transfers of funds,” Goldberg writes, “Walter Sheridan disposed over the personnel and currency of whole units of the Central Intelligence Agency.” This seems an exaggeration, but for the fact that Bobby Kennedy spent more of his time at his office at Langley, involved in CIA operations, than he did at Justice. Wire tap tapes, including “voice profiles,” made at the White House by the Secret Service and at the Department of State, were passed on to Sheridan, and retained in a separate facility.
    Goldberg’s source also reported that Bobby Kennedy had attempted to plant an anti-Hoffa article in “Life” magazine. This ploy was exposed in the “New York Times” on March 3, 1965. The source had discovered that the disgruntled Teamster whom Bobby planned to use against Hoffa was one Sam Baron, referred to as “Brown” in an exchange of letters between Hank Suydam of “Time/Life” in Washington and “Life” editor Edward K. Thompson.

    Walter Sheridan did not miss Goldberg’s extraordinary article. Incensed, Bobby’s operative made a personal appearance at Goldberg’s tiny office. Denying any involvement in the Otepka case, Sheridan demanded a complete retraction. He threatened Goldberg that he would sue him unless Goldberg furnished him with the name of his source. Goldberg refused. Goldberg held his ground.

    A decade later, author Jim Hougan interviewed Goldberg for his acclaimed investigative book, “Spooks,” published in 1978. Hougan found Goldberg to be a frightened man, his newsletter having long since folded. Goldberg did reiterate to Hougan that Walter Sheridan was the “chief contact” between the “Five Eyes” and Robert Kennedy.

    As a result of Hougan’s interview with Goldberg, Hougan was able to contribute more details to the story of the Otepka tapes. Apparently, the tapes were sent first to CIA to eliminate background noise, then back to John Francis Reilly. It was Reilly himself who apparently passed the tapes to that “unidentified man in the corridors of the State Department.” This was Walter Sheridan. Goldberg’s source also was aware that David Belisle, while he was a National Security Agency employee, had done “certain favors” for the Kennedys.

    Goldberg had been a courageous and bold journalist, as witnessed by another article in the “Exchange” that exposed how, after the Bay of Pigs, the CIA’s “New Team” infiltrated secret cooperating and liaison groups in the large foundations, banks and newspapers to influence U. S. domestic and foreign relations. Goldberg even named a “New York Times” executive vice-president, Harding Bancroft, as having been involved.

    To Hougan, Goldberg seemed a shattered man. When Hougan asked to read Goldberg’s Otepka files, Goldberg refused. Hougan begged Goldberg to at least give him the name of the source who had identified Sheridan. Goldberg refused this request as well, protecting his source to the end. Yet there was no question in Hougan’s mind that Goldberg was telling him the truth. When Hougan later sought microfilms of the “Government Employees Exchange” weekly from the Library of Congress, he was told that they had been “misplaced” and were unavailable.

    Over the years, Otto Otepka told me, he talked to Sidney Goldberg many times. He found Goldberg “a bit eccentric.” He was a man full of passion, but credible. Had he asked Goldberg for the name of the person who revealed that Walter Sheridan had taken possession of the surveillance tapes?

    “You can’t ask a newsman for his sources,” Otepka said.

    The fragments of the story of what happened to Otto Otepka emerged slowly and incompletely. Only in the wake of press indignation about Otepka’s harsh treatment did Senator Thomas J. Dodd add another piece to the puzzle of Bobby Kennedy’s and Walter Sheridan’s persistent obstruction of justice. Dodd admitted that he had called off four days of scheduled hearings during which the Senate subcommittee on Internal Security planned to question Edward Grady Partin about his relationship with Fidel Castro “because Bobby Kennedy told me to do so.”

    Partin had already been reimbursed for his appearance when the hearing was canceled. Bobby and Sheridan had come far enough with Partin to make certain that he not be afforded any opportunity to change his mind about implicating Jimmy Hoffa.
    Senator Dodd had elaborated. Bobby Kennedy told him that “he and the Justice Department had a personal interest in Partin and didn’t want to have the hearings held…Bobby had been the Attorney General and you don’t say no to him. He made the request a personal matter and I honored it.”

    Otto Otepka drew the only conclusion available to him:
    “Bobby Kennedy still ensconced at Justice immediately following the death of his brother, wielded his power and sought the aid of his chief investigator, Walter Sheridan, to get what he was after, no matter how it was done.”

    The end, for Bobby, justified the means. It was in 1968 that Otepka finally realized that it was “the influence of [Bobby] Kennedy [that] caused the failure of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee to call material witnesses like Schneider and prevented the thorough and timely resolution of my case.”

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    Comment by Pip | February 5, 2023 | Reply


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