Category Archives: Power Elite
Hughes in Vegas
Hughes responded to divestiture aggressively by using his $486 million cash in hand (he was lugging it around the country in suitcases) to go after the Lansky Syndicate’s monopoly of big-time gambling. He hovered for a moment in Boston undecided whether to attack in Montreal, the Bahamas, or Las Vegas, but shortly determined upon Las Vegas. By Thanksgiving 1966 Hughes was sliding quietly into his new headquarters at the Desert Inn penthouse which his advance man – reenter Robert Maheu – had prepared for him. He would remain there, for four years to the day, then disappear under circumstances much more mysterious than those of his coming.
There can be no serious doubt of Hughes’ intentions of establishing a Nevada empire and of competing head-to-head with Lansky. Editor Greenspun of the Sun pushed for such an establishment from Hughes’s first day in town on the shortsighted argument that Las Vegas’s best weapon against the Syndicate was such a capitalist as Hughes – strong and independent.
And of course, ambitious. We have already cited Dietrich to the effect that in the West Coast phase, Hughes tried to buy up the entire local governing infrastructure from tax assessors to senators. In 1974, the then-deposed Maheu testified to the same ambition in Hughes: “I clearly recall explaining to [Hughes’s Nevada lawyer] Tom Bell the desire of Howard Hughes to own the state of Nevada, to own the judges in Nevada, to own all the officials of Nevada. I was concerned about the desire of Mr. Hughes to want to own the President of the United States.
By 1968, Hughes’s Nevada operations had grown under Maheu’s management to a worth estimated at well above a half billion dollars. Hughes was the state’s biggest employer with a staff of over eight thousand and a $50 million payroll and a private security force (under another ex-FBI man, Jack Hooper) easily a rival of the official and criminal agencies with which it might have to contend. He had put some $400 million into hotels and casinos. He owned the Desert Inn, the Sands, the Castaways, the Fontier, the Landmark, and the Silver Slipper. He was angling for the Silver Nugget, the Stardust, and the Dunes. He also owned Alamo Airways and McCarran Field and was on his way to getting Air West. He owned KLAS-TV. He owned the Krupp Ranch and thousands of square miles of other Nevada real estate and some $30 million in mining claims. Governor Paul Laxalt said flatly, “Howard Hughes’s operations are as important to Nevada as U.S. Steel is to the nation or General Motors to Michigan.”
Reflecting and furthering that eminence, Hughes in 1968 gave $150,000 to Nixon (two-thirds of it covertly), $100,000 to his presidential opponent Humphrey (half of it covertly), $70,000 to Senator Cannon, $50,000 to Senator Bible, and – strangely – $25,000 to the estate of the recently assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy.
Let us take a moment with this Kennedy contribution, superficially so out of character for Hughes. It has been explained as a Hughes sympathy gift to help with the costs of the funeral. But Hughes? The Kennedys? We might find a more plausible explanation if we set this $25,000 in the context of another gesture Hughes was making at the very same moment in the direction of the again-bereaved Kennedy camp.
On June 28, 1968 two weeks after Robert Kennedy’s death in Los Angeles, Maheu concluded a lengthy handwritten memo to Hughes with the following item:
Larry O’Brien – He is coming here on Wednesday next for a conference as per our request after the assassination of Senator Kennedy. He is prepared to talk employment and has received a commitment (without any obligation whatsoever) from the four or five top men in the Kennedy camp that they will not become obligated until they hear from him.
O’Brien Associates of New York and Washington did indeed subsequently sign a consulting contract with Hughes-Mahue, but my efforts to find out from O’Briens’s office and home what he was doing for Hughes were unproductive. No one better equipped to get an answer seems interested, even though as I write one of the prevailing theories of the Watergate DNC break-in is, in substance, that the Nixon people were afraid that O’Brien’s stint with Hughes-Nevada had taught him, and thus the Democrats, something useful about the Nixon-Hughes relationship, and that they sent the Plumbers into the DNC to try to find out what that could be.
But what was Hughes’s original interest in Larry O’Brien and the other superliberals of the RFK staff? What could have been O’Brien’s interest in a figure of Hughes’s far-right ideology? And was it not a little early after the prince’s murder for his ministers to be sifting job offers from a kingdom of the ideological opposition?
Investigator-journalist Jim Hougan, who has made a special study of Intertel (see below), buesses that by the phrase “the for or five top men in the Kennedy camp,” Hughes actually meant the attorneys, notably Robert Peloquin and William Hundley, who played roles in Robert Kennedy’s early 1960’s campaign against organized crime. By 1968 Hughes was moving irreversibly toward his confrontation with the Syndicate over control of Las Vegas gambling. Hougan thinks that in reaching out to the RFK anticrime staff, Hughes may have been simply seeking to strengthen his front.
We do not know whether this was the basis of Hughes’s interest in the Kennedy staff people or of theirs in him or how far any such common interests might have been realized in joint projects. We do not know how to evaluate the importance of Hughes’s now exposed special relationship to the CIA, Glomar, the Maheu-Roselli link, etc.) in terms of the antagonism between elements of the CIA and the Kennedy group. But we do know for a fact that the Hughes contact with the RFK staff was made, that it came about at Hughes’s initiation through Maheu, that Hughes did contribute the $25,000, that the job offers were made and at least in O’Brien’s case accepted, and that all this coincided (a) with Hughes’s efforts to reverse several antitrust decisions limiting his further expansion on the Lansky Strip and (b) with his tortuous payment via Richard Danner to Nixon of $100,000 in cash for which Nixon would be accountable to no one – not even Lansky.
The following passage from Maheu’s June 1968 memo to Hughes shows how conscious Maheu and Hughes were of the anti-Syndicate aspect of their expansion. Maheu wrote:
Howard Cannon called me this afternoon to inform that he and Senator Bible have been told all day long – by fellow Senators – that they can depend on full support and assistance in sustaining their position that we obtain the Stardust. Cannon stated that Justice was severely ridiculed for having taken action which precluded the accomplishment of what the criminal division has tried to do for fifteen years – when particularly the result was only 52 hours away.
And Hughes answered:
Now also, re the club being a gathering place for North Las Vegas’s less respectable citizens, all the more reason for us to control this very dangerous gathering place for less desirables to the result that it no longer continues to be a gathering place for the less desirable element. For this reason, Bog, I am determined we under no circumstances bring Moe [Dalitz of Cleveland’s infamous Mayfield Road Mob] or any of his group in to run it under our control. This is the very very last thing I feel we should do. So please don’t discuss the Nugget with Moe or any of his group at this time.
Hughes goes on in the same memo to approve a Maheu offer to approach the chief of the Nevada FBI. “At the same meeting, please try to arrange that Mr. FBI of Nevada will convince Dickerson [of the Nevada Gaming Commission] also of the likewise importance of our buying out the Silver Nugget of NLF because of the criminal element no gathering there and the hope that under our management this would be discontinued.”
Whether this was indeed Hughes’s purpose or just convenient rhetoric, certainly Maheu’s buying spree was having the advertised effect. As crime-writer Richard Hammer wrote a few years later, “though the Organization never completely abandoned the Las Vegas gold fields, its influence and control began to wane with the increasing dominance of Hughes. Before, there had been a widespread feeling that only the mobsters could run casinos profitably; the Hughes operations proved this was only a Mob-perpetuated myth. And the arrival of Hughes also pushed some Nevada officials out of their easy chairs to take a closer look at the casinos that they had long claimed could not be controlled.
How and why did the Syndicate let this happen? It cannot be simply that Hughes was too strong to be kept out and that Lansky had no choice but to bow before his billions. The fact is that Hughes could never have come to Las Vegas to begin with if Lansky had not decided to permit and support it. Maheu cultivated a close relationship in particular with Moe Dalitz (see Hughes’s memo to Maheu, above). Maheu actually purchased from Dalitz the hotel-casino the Desert Inn, where Hughes made his headquarters. “Not only did I depend very much upon the advice of Mr. Dalitz,” said Maheu, “but so did Mr. Hughes. Repeatedly he would ask me to get Mr. Dalitz’s advice. Mr. Hughes recognized, as I did that we had no expertise in the gambling business and that there was no one in the Hughes world at that time who did.”
Fortune speculated that the Syndicate’s earlier friendliness to Hughes was predicated on Lansky’s sense that Hughes’s “entry into gambling lent respectability to a sleazy business; stock in gaming companies enjoyed a considerable vogue at the time.” There may be something to that. It conforms with Lansky’s usual style of legitimizing previously criminal business operations. But it would not tell us why Lansky let Hughes drive him out of one of his major bases without an apparent fight.
Could Lansky in fact have been playing on a bigger field than Hughes knew? I think there is a case he was, and that Hughes was ultimately no more the victor in the struggle for Las Vegas than in the struggle for TWA. The reason I say this involves the case of John Meier.
John Meier – do not confuse with Johnny Meyer, Hughes’s aid in the Brewster episode (above) – was in his early thirties when he joined Hughes’s Nevada operations in 1968. He was diagrammatically at Maheu’s level in the organization in that he reported to Hughes through the throneroom guard, though he had none of Maheu’s power in the larger works. He had a background in ecology, systems analysis, and the Rand Corporation and had been a member of Nixon’s Resources Aid Environmental Task Force. In 1970, he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from Nevada. With Hughes, his special province was silver mining claims and other real estate. His job was to find claims worth buying and to recommend purchases to Hughes. The altitude this had him flyin at is roughly indicated by current estimates valuing Hughes’s Nevada land and mining holdings in the $20 million range.
Two grand juries in Las Vegas later decided that what was actually happening was that Meier was in cahoots with Syndicate fronts in a massive land fraud in which Hughes was the victim. One of Meier’s confederate groups was Georgetown Research and Development, which materialized in a Watergate address one day, sold off its worthless holdings to Hughes the next, and dematerialized that night. A more constant companion was the Toledo Mining Company of Salt Lake City, whose president, Anthony Hatsis, is identified by the Senate Select Committee investigators as an executive-level officer of the Lansky Syndicate. Hughes’s losses to such Syndicate fronts on land and mining deals may have totaled as much as $10 million in the brief period, less than two years, during which Meier occupied his advantageous position.
What happened to all this money? Part of it went into a trust in the name of Meier-Callandria at Overseas, Ltd., a Swiss bank with a Robert Vesco connection. A larger part was routed out of the country through banks in the Bahamas and Montreal holding companies into a Dutch firm called Maatschappil Intermovie.
The money, thus laundered in Europe, was then funneled back to the States, where Meier and Hatsis used it to finance business ventures involving Nizon’s brother, Donald. The three men visited the Dominican Republic in September 1969. Dominican Present Juan Belaguer staged a classy public reception and sold what the Wall Street Journal termed “valuable” concessions to Hatsis’s Toledo Mining, whose stock rose to $30 per share. In a splashy public ceremony, Donald Nixon conspicuous at the side, Belaguer decorated Meier for “Hughes’s charities” in the Dominican Republic, and Meier and Hatsis scratched back by giving blocks of Toledo stock to various Dominican officials “for services rendered in regard to securing a mining concession.”
The relationship developing between John Meier and Donald Nixon was observed from the White House with some anxiety. The president’s personal tax accountant, Arthur Blech, was told to review all of Donald’s proposed projects, including the Dominican ones. Blech is said to have turned them all down. Then White House pressure against Meier’s relationship to Donald intensified. Rebozo called Maheu in Las Vegas and told him to keep Meier away from Donald. Nixon’s famous brother-bugs were put in. Donald was put under twenty-four-hour White House surveillance. The FBI hassled Meier, Donald and Hatsis together at a Florida airport in September on one of their trips to the Dominican Republic. Maheu answered Reboxo that he too wanted to get rid of Meier, but that Meier worked for Hughes, not for him. Maheu said that Hughes liked Meier, and that all Maheu could do was to ask him to keep away.
Maheu also put a tail on Meier and thus found him and Donald Nixon trysting in October in the Orange County Airport. As a result of the intense reaction this provoked, Hughes at last cut Meier loose. Maheu said he was fired, Meier called it resigning. Meier was taken on at once by Hatsis at Toledo Mining as a $6,000-a-month consultant. IN the Summer of 1975, he was avoiding indictments in British Columbia.
The Thanksgiving Coup
The conflict developing here between Hughes and Lansky, with the Meier branch of it curving through the foreground, forms the strategic context of the events of November and December, 1970, the Thanksgiving coup of Hughes’s Nevada Operations and the overthrow of Maheu.
We are concerned in this coup with a power struggle between two parts of the Hughes empire in which various outside parties participated, not always openly. On one side, the main force was the Toolco board of directors and the main actor was Chester Davis. On the other side, the main force was Hughes’s $400-million Nevada Operations and the main actor was Maheu.
Davis and Maheu were not new men to the Hughes empire. Davis had come on to fight the TWA case in 1960 and was stilla stride it. Maheu had come in through the FBI and a private career in the security business. The hotel-dicks-at-heart who make up this insulfurated subculture must see their highest dreams realized in Maheu’s life. Before his fall, this entailed a $600,000 mansion to live in rent free and an annual salary of $520,000 to play around with, never mind the fishing and hunting lodges, the private airplanes always ready to go anywhere, the constant company of millionaires and their kind of people. He had come to Hughes in the late fifties as a security and intelligence expert with a background of FBI work in Chicago. As noted, he took charge of such seamier chores of Hughes-tending as matchmaking the CIA with the Rosselli-Giancana crowd in plots against Castro’s life and against the life of who knows who else besides. He got it on with Syndicate heavies like Dalitz in order to operate casinos successfully in Las Vegas. After the Castro work, he turned up next in the Boston interlude after the divestment of TWA when Hughes first decided to take on the Syndicate for control of Las Vegas. Maheu put together the whole secret move to Las Vegas, including the impenetrable security precautions, and allowed Hughes to arrive while Lansky slept or pretended to. He quickly became the chief officer in charge of Hughes’s boisterous Nevada expansion.
Maheu was fearful as early as March 1968 that the old Hughes guard of Houston and Los Angeles, the Toolco board, would grow jealous of his unique closeness to Hughes. The Toolco board’s authorization was still required for most of Maheu’s deals in Vegas. Although, the board would never refuse a specific order from Hughes, it could be dilatory in the absence of such an order. It could cut Maheu off. Maheu sought reassurance from Hughes in 1968 against any problems the intrinsically touchy situation could lead to. Hughes answered him as follows:
Bob, I have your message. I do not feel your apprehension in the least unjustified. If I give you my word to find a solution promptly, such as a voting trust for my Hughes Tool Company stock [which of course would have made Maheu the legal master of the whole Hughes empire], and if I put the formalities into a state of effectiveness for your scrutiny without any unreasonable delay, will you consider it done as of now, so your mind will not be filled with these thoughts in the near future? I will assume an affirmative answer and proceed accordingly.
Hughes never got around to doing that, but at the same time he stayed available to Maheu by memo and phone, sometimes (so ‘tis said) spending twenty hours a day on the phone with him.
In January 1970 Hughes put Maheu in charge of the TWA case, an act which set in train the events leading to the major climax of his career, the Thanksgiving coup, and possibly thence to Watergate. Hughes’s tone as he undertook this move was definite:
“Bob, please understand one thing which I do not think you have understood heretofore: you have the ball on the TWA situation. You do not need further approval from me to a specific settlement of a specific sum of money….If I am to hold you responsible for the overall outcome of this litigation, I must give you the complete authority to decide which law firm you want to handle each phase of it. I repeat, Bob, you have full authority.”
Maheu convinced Hughes to say this to the Toolco directors.
He did, they accepted the news with whatever inner murmurings but no recorded protest. And indeed issued Maheu “the necessary authorizations to handle all the phases and aspects of the TWA suit, including a settlement.”
This gave Maheu strength but left him exposed. There were first of all the troubles normal and natural to the TWA case itself. On April 14, 1970, Judge Metzner handed down a final judgment in favor of TWA against Hughes of $145,448,141.07. By the time the Supreme Court threw the whole thing out of court three years later, chargeable expenses had worked that amount up to about $160 million. That was what Maheu was looking at, and his job was to succeed where Davis had failed in finding a way not to have to pay it. On top of this, he had the additional problem of having to work without the sympathy of the powerful Toolco directors.
No sooner does Hughes turn the TWA problem over to Maheu than Maheu learns – this is in February 1970 – of a large-scale land fraud operating somewhere inside Nevada Operations. Now we can sense the Lansky pressure, but all Maheu had to go on then was a rumor. Taking up the TWA task with one hand, with the other hand he began to track down the silver mining swindle.
Maheu seems to have done everything you and I would have done to avoid getting shredded to pieces by the corporate violence implicit in this situation. Especially on the TWA matter, it is hard to see how he could have covered himself any better than he did, first in getting Hughes actually to tell the Toolco board that he was putting Maheu in charge, then in getting everything confirmed in explicit Toolco authorizations.
Maheu’s first step with TWA was to hear everyone out on the question of what to do. First he heard Chester Davis, whom he thought too defensive of his own role in the preceding legal defeats. Davis might well have been very defensive. These defeats amounted to the loss of a very large airline and the threatened loss of a very large amount of cash. The Supreme Court would finally agree in January 1973 that Davis was right and had been from the first day. But early in 1970, facing a damages bill for $160 million and a lost airline, Maheu thought Davis’s efforts to defend himself and his strategy too self-serving to be true.
So Maheu went to four blue-chip law firms with the question: Given everything that has happened and the situation as it is, what should Hughes do to save whatever can be saved out of the TWA mess? Maheu went to Washington to Clark Clifford’s firm of Clifford, Warnke, Glass, McIlwain & Finney. He went to New York to Welch & Morgan, the Morgan being Edward P., a close friend of Maheu’s and the Hughes lawyer whose advice originally decided Hughes on going to Las Vegas. He went to New York’s Donovan, Leisure, which represented Toolco throughout the damages hearings. And he went to the Beverly Hills firm of Wyman, Bautzer, Finell, Rothman & Kuchel, whose Gregory Bautzer was a long-time associate and Hollywood friend of Hughes.
Each one of these firms told Maheu to do the same thing; namely, get Davis off the case. This was not necessarily because they found Davis is a bad lawyer. It was because rightly or not the arguments he stood for had been rejected by the bar, and what was n ecessary for Hughes now above all was to get the case back in court. That required new arguments and new arguments necessarily required a new chief counsel. So Davis had to leave the case. One could think up the new arguments later. Perhaps there were even some good ones. It did seem strange, after all, that the largest damages claim ever yet awarded in the history of civil law should have been awarded in behalf of a company against the man who built, made, and owned that company. And it was also strange that the claim was not awarded on the merits of the case at all but because some inexplicable inner compulsion kept Hughes from appearing personally to testify in his own behalf.
What about Hughes solitude? Why could he not show his face to save $160 million? Does this not go beyond eccentricity? Sometimes it seems Hughes must have died, as so many insist, long before April 1976. The only people who claim definitely to have seen and had daily transactions with Hughes are the so-called Mormon Mafia, or the Big Five, the mostly Mormon superstraights who were said to tend him as nurses and secretaries. They were all recruited by Bill Gay of the Toolco board, and they are of course loyal to Gay. Parties to the events they served, partisans, these five men alone assured us of Hughes’s existence. That he did as they say he did, willed as they say he willed, we have no word but theirs.
But this is getting us too much ahead. We are thinking here of the standing mystery of Hughes’s reclusiveness, and we note that, come to think of it, with a tiny number of doubtful exceptions, the only people who actually saw Hughes since 1970 were Gay’s men. Maheu later took his place in the ranks of ministers who must observe ruefully, as he did, “All you have to do is control the palace guard, because that is who really controls the empire.”
But Maheu’s rue came a year later. In early 1970, armed with the best legal opinion Hughes’s money could buy, he opened his reign as strawboss of the TWA project by informing Toolco and Davis that Davis was off the TWA case. Not that he was no longer Toolco’s chief counsel; Maheu never claimed the power to fire Davis from his corporate bastion. Only that the universally recommended legal strategy in the TWA case required the use of new attorneys.
At that moment, Hughes suddenly moved Maheu in two new directions simultaneously. First, he launched him in an effort to penetrate gambling in the Bahamas. Hughes’ consciousness of what this entailed ins indicated in a fragment from an early 1970 phone conversation (taped) with Maheu: “If I were to make this move I would expect you to wrap up that government down there to a point where it will be – well, a captive entity in every way.
Hughees’ interest in the Bahamas was not new. His choice came down to the Bahamas or Las Vegas in Boston in 1966. But actually activating Maheu to start thinking of ways to take on and beat the Lansky apparatus in the Bahamas – that would look new and different from a Lansky perspective, all the more so because Hughes’s concurrent gyrations with Nixon in Washington.
And second, Hughes got Maheu going on a secret campaign to find out what Meier was up to in his theretofore secluded little silver-mining corner. In other words, Hughes was now opening two new fronts against the Syndicate on top of his already achieved preeminence on the Las Vegas Strip. He was expanding to the Syndicate’s other capital, and he was about to discover their man in his machine.
These were Maheu’s preoccupations as Davis mobilized his response to the TWA dismissal notice. Davis informed Maheu that his notice naturally meant nothing to him or to Toolco, and would Maheu please stay out of matters lying far outside the scope of his contact as a consultant on gambling and hotel security.
To date you have lost this case at every level with catastrophically adverse financial and other injury to the defendant….You were previously before the Second Circuit on this case and sustained a crushing defeat. This must not be repeated. You have repeatedly assured me that no antitrust violations were involved and that in consequence TWA could prove no damages. I must conclude that you were either wrong or wholly ineffectual, for the judgment now stands at a staggering figure. The time is at hand for other counsel to endeavor to achieve a favorable result….I deeply resent your presumptuous request that I “cease interference with the counsel in charge and responsible for the case.” There has been no interference on my part other than taking steps to accord other counsel an opportunity to salvage a case which you have tragically lost.
The Toolco directors behind Davis were meanwhile taking four concrete steps.
1: They voted the dismissal of Maheu.
2: They mandated Director Bill Gay to have the Mormon Mafia cut off Maheu’s communications. Maheu was from now on losing this particular game.
3: They ordered the two chiefs of the throneroom guardsmen, Howard Eckersley and Levar B. Myler, to enter in unto Hughes with a one-sentence proxy conferring full powers to the Davis group. This proxy was signed by Hughes, according to Eckersley who notarized it and Myler, who witnessed it. Hughes had now assigned to the Toolco board the right to run a large section of his empire.
This was November 14. Myler took the signed proxy to the Nevada State Bank in Las Vegas and put it in a strongbox.
4: Toolco promoted a whisper-in-Hughes’s-ear campaign against Maheu. “No outsider so far is privy to the exact details,” writes Tinnin, “but in essence, the reports informed Hughes that Maheu had developed into a disloyal and avaricious employee, who was taking his trusted employer for all he was worth.” The story on Maheu was that he was pocketing part or all of the finder’s fees for everything Hughes was buying in Nevada. These charges were never proved. It now is clearer that what was happening was that Toolco was accusing Maheu of the crimes that the Syndicate was committing and that maheu had begun to stumble onto.
Hughes’ Nevada security chief, Jack Hooper, left un-guarded the back stairway leading down from Hughes’s Desert Inn penthouse to a backdoor opening onto a parking lot, Hooper had taken off the door handle and assumed the doorway was now permanently closed. On November 26, 1970, the palace guards, the Eckersley-Myler group, took Hughes down nine flights of back stairs, out that door, and into one of several waiting station wagons. IN a variation on the Boston departure of 1966, a decoy caravan of black sedans with California plates was dispatched to Hughes’s McCarran Field, while the actual Hughes party drove to Nellis Air Force Base. There they were met by a Lockheed JetStar, leased from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, come to carry Hughes away to the Bahamas.
Hughes was met in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day by an Intertel official named James Golden, whose presence in the melodramatic escape episode is interesting because of his reputation as “Nixon’s man.” Secret Serviceman Golden was assigned to Vice-President Nixon in 1957. He accompanied Nixon to Russia and Central America. They got stoned together in Venezuela. They grew close. When Nixon left the White House in 1960, Golden left the Secret Service to take a job as security chief for Lockheed. In 1968 Lockheed gave him a leave of absence to join Nixon’s campaign as director of security. After Nixon’s election he became Resorts International’s deputy director of security on Paradise Island. He was a founding officer of Intertel and one of its vice-presidents at the time of the events of November. He later joined the Hughes Las Vegas staff. As of summer 1975, he was at the Justice Department as chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force of the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency.
Golden’s presence in the coup raises the question of a Nixon influence, since “Nixon’s man” either means nothing or something. Could Nixon have been involved in the plot of Thanksgiving 1970 to overthrow Maheu, abduct and confuse Hughes, and radically change the nature of the crime-connected, FBI-connected, and CIA-connected Hughes empire? Was the motive to protect the Meier-Donald Nixon racket against exposure? Was it to resolve the tensions of the Hughes-Lansky conflict within the Nixon coaliton? Golden’s possible role constitutes a workpoint for further investigations.
For the next four days, Hoopers’s guards kept routine vigil at their closed-circuit TV displays which showed every means of access to Hughes except the one actually used by the intruders. Then Greenspun got a tip from a Syndicate friend at the Desert Inn to the effect that Hughes’s suite had been strangely quiet lately. Greenspun got his intelligence to Maheu. Maheu tried to put through a call to Hughes. A second-level aide finally answered and told him Hughes was no longer there.
The next day, December 3, the Sun headlined, “Howard Hughes Missing.” A Toolco director later said that Hughes saw this headline on December 4 on Paradise Island and was infuriated. Throneroom guardsman Levar Myler claims to have heard Hughes say that Greenspun by himself would never have dared print such a headline and that Maheu therefore had to be behind it, and thus that Maheu should be fired at once. Myler said Hughes then told him to release the November 14 proxy.
On that same day, December 4, Toolco battle commander Davis summoned his adversary’s friend and lawyer, Ed Morgan, to a meeting in Beverly Hills. Morgan had been active that summer in the transfer of the Danner-Rebozo money (and would be again active in its return three years later). On this trip to face Davis, in fact, Morgan brought Danner along. Danner’s reputation is that of an intimate of Nixon’s. He was also at this time a manager of one of Hughes’s hotels in Las Vegas.
Morgan and Danner found Davis awaiting them in Beverly Hills with Toolco directors Bill Gay, Calvin Collier, and Raymond Holliday. Davis told Morgan that Morgan’s client, Maheu, was thereby formally and officially fired by Davis’s client, Toolco, which was sole representative of Hughes. Davis flashed the November 14 proxy to prove it. Hughes had lost confidence in Maheu, said Davis. Nevada operation were not doing well. Earnings were less than 5 percent on a turnover of about $5 million. Only the Sands was showing a good profit. (And Danner was also fired, screamed Holliday, “number five on a list of 155,” This was a mistake soon corrected. Holliday had perhaps not appreciated the importance of Danner’s relationship with Nixon. Danner is last seen, post-Watergage, running the Sands.) Both groups flew back to Las Vegas that same day.
December 4, 1970, transfigured Vegas night. In swooped the Davis command – secretaries, files and telephones going full speed from first landing. Davis commandeered the penthouse at the Sands. The Sands was at that time managed by Maheu, but like the rest of Hughes’s Nevada holdings, it was actually owned in the name of Toolco. The Sands and the rest fell within the legal authority of the Toolco board and Davis.
Davis liberated and occupied his chosen headquarters swiftly. He installed a tough-looking security guard and announced that he alone spoke for Hughes, that Maheu was now out, and that a whole new order reigned.
Simultaneously, Davis commanded his “small army of special agents form Intertel,” flashing their mysterious credentials, to move with no more than necessary force into the sacrosanct cashiers’ cages in all the Hughes casinos. The Intertel men stuffed the cash into paper bags and boxes with no explanation other than their story about “a new management” and no credentials other than their advantage in surprise and force. They could as easily have been robbers as cops. They completely succeeded in putting the law’s first nine parts to work for Toolco. Subsequent discussion about who actually should boss the casinos was much influenced by the fact that Davis did.
We noted above that Maheu had feared something like this all along and had repeatedly sought Hughes’s reassurances that he was doing just what Hughes wanted him to do. Now he had no access to Hughes and therefore no reassurances and therefore nothing. The lawyers Morgan and Bell were loyal to Maheu, as were Greenspun with his paper and Hooper with his shamefaced security force. These people gave Maheu some capability for tactical defense but not enough. Without Hughes’s voice to animate it, Maheu’s world turned back into a pumpkin.
But Maheu did make a good argument of it. He gave four solid reasons in support of his outrageous theory that Hughes had actually been abducted by his enemies.
1: Hughes’s health was too poor for so sudden and hurried a trip. Newsweek reported on these events in its issue of December 21, 1970. This story scornfully informed its readers that “Maheu’s group spread another story that Hughes had been visited by a heart specialist (or in one version, three heart specialists) in November, that he was too ill to be moved anywhere but to a hospital, and that he had been kidnapped.” But actually, one of the few hard facts in this case accepted by all sides is that in the early part of that month, Hughes’s health had so sharply declined that Hooper’s security agents and Gay’s throneroom guards were compelled to open the airlock and let a doctor-human from the normal world, Dr. Harold Feikes, come into the innermost bubble to examine Hughes in the flesh, forbidding task. Davis quickly got a court order shutting Feikes up on what he had observed behind the screen at Oz, but in the split second before the order fell, Feikes said enough to confirm the general lines of Maheu’s claim.
According to Feikes, Hughes stood six feet four inches and normally weighted about 150 pounds. Now, said Feikes, he weighed 97 pounds and was suffering from an active heart condition, pneumonia, and anemia stemming from chronic malnutrition. (Malnutrition in one of the world’s richest men? His routine lifelong diet was cookies and milk.)
Feikes gave him immediate blood transfusions and said later that he was still on transfusions at the time of his sudden departure for the Bahamas, a departure carried out so hastily, however long it may have been considered, that he actually left behind his till-then precious or even indispensable life-support equipment. Maheu may well have found this sufficiently improbable to raise doubts about Davis’s claims.
2: Maheu thought it was strange that Hughes should choose Davis and Gay as his personal trustees in a matter as sensitive as this. Maheu said he once suggested to Hughes that Davis be brought to Las Vegas for a certain legal task, and that Hughes answered, “God damn it, Bob, you must be losing your mind. If we allow this man to come to Las Vegas, in 24 hours the whole city will be devastated, and in 48 hours the entire state of Nevada will be in chaos. This is of course self-serving on Maheu’s part, but it was apparently ture that Davis had been in bad standing with Hughes. Hughes had tried to take Davis off the TWA case and may easily have sensed and resented his resistance. The Toolco directors of course knew all about this, having gone through the ritual transfer of authority from Davis to Maheu earlier in the year.
Gay was also on the outs with Hughes. In 1965, Hughes backed a new major corporate undertaking on Gay’s recommendation. This was a computer company, Hughes Dynamics, aimed at capturing a piece of IBM’s action. Hughes Dynamics collapsed within a year with a loss of about $9 millioin. When Hughes was preparing his clandestine entry into Las Vegas, he turned to Maheu for security, Gay’s former preserve. According to Maheu, Hughes also gave instructions that Maheu was “not to invite Bill… and not to permit him to be privy to our affairs….I no longer trust him. My bill of complaints against Bill’s conduct goes very deep.”
I explained this to bill Gay in great detail. But he resented it to the extent that he began to move into areas of my domain…Shortly after we had arrived here [in Las Vegas], I asked [Hughes] if, on land problems, I was to take instructions from Bill Gay. Whereupon he literally went into a tirade and explained…that Bill Gay was less important in his world than his aides [i.e., than the throneroom guard]. He said that Bill Gay’s only assignment in life was to keep his relationship with Mrs. Hughes intact…and to keep Mrs. Hughes’s name out of the newspapers. He said Bill was just a baby-sitter for Jean.
Maheu, then cited a passage from a later Hughes memo on Gay: “Bills total indifference and laxity to my plea for help in my domestic area, voiced urgently to h im week by week, throughout the past seven or eight years, have resulted in a complete, I am afraid irrevocable loss of my wife. I blame bill completely for this unnecessary debacle. I feel he let me down – utterly, totally, completely.” (Hughes and Jean Peters were formally divorced in 1970.)
3: Maheu argued that it was certainly peculiar for a man like Hughes, engaged as he was at that exact moment in a battle for control of the Las Vegas-Bahamas gambling axis, suddenly to abandon old friends and helpers in the game, people like Maheu himself and Hooper, and to leap headlong down the spiderhole of an organization like Resorts International, “a company which operates a casino in the Bahamas…in direct competition with those in Nevada.” This in spite of bad health and only on the counsel of formerly dispirited executives. On top of all, what would possibly lead him to employ as over-all manager of this trip a security organization, Intertel, 94 percent of which was owned by Resorts International?
So even if Intertel was not the CIA or the Lansky Syndicate, it was still the least the CIA of Resorts International, and that Resorts International, whether it was a Syndicate front or not, was still Hughes’s chief competion.
4: Lastly, Maheu raised the question: If Hughes was so down on him, why not simply terminate his contract? Why so much fuss? Why the seemingly deliberate attempt to provoke a public controversy? And was it not another stupendous coincidence that Hughes should have closed himself off to Maheu at the very moment the Toolco board felt most threatened by him? One moment Maheu is a good guy with Hughes doing a hard job honestly and well. His communication lines are open to the top. He bends over backward to keep his face and hands clean. He is studiedly correct in all things. Then, pop! The mandate he won by that very competence, the TWA mandate, brings him up against the power of Davis and Toolco. So Gay tells the throneroom guard not to carry Maheu’s memos to Hughes anymore, not to put his phone calls through, to tear up his Valentines and badmouth him to Hughes – and thus lead Hughes to the belief that Maheu was responsible for the Syndicate’s silver-mining swindle.
The force of Maheu’s self-defense grew with developments, the following two in particular.
First, after years of digging in the records of Maheu’s Nevada administration, Toolco attorneys were unable to find a single fault to stick him with. Then in July 1974, in Los Angeles, Maheu won a jury verdict in his multimillion-dollar libel suit entered against Hughes in 1972 after Hughes told reporters (in a telephone interview growing out of the Clifford Irving “hoax” biography affair) that Maheu was a “no-good, dishonest son of a bitch and he stole me blind,” a view Hughes held on the strength of information he got from the Toolco throneroom guard service, the Mormon Mafia.
The Las Vegas battle was finally resolved not by the force of anyone’s arguments or by the integrity of either side, but by the Eckersley-Myler proxy of November 14. Myler got it from the strongbox and presented it to the court on December 10. Eckersley arrived the same day from Paradise Island with a long letter purportedly from Hughes in support of Davis. Two days before, phoning from the Britannia Beach Hotel, Hughes spoke to Governor Laxalt and District Attorney George Franklin. Both of them said they were positive the person they heard calling himself Hughes over the phone was the same person they had heard every other time they believed themselves to be talking to Hughes. Hughes told them he was alive and reasonably well, that Maheu was a disloyal employee and had been fired, and that Davis spoke from him in all matters.
Maheu produced a handwriting expert who swore that the Hughes signature on the proxy was a fake. Davis produced another handwriting expert who swore it was genuine. The court found Davis’s expert the more convincing one. Maheu lost his job.
In the aftermath came a complete reconfiguration of the over-all Hughes empire. In place of the old Toolco, a new creature materialized, the Summa Corporation. And stock in the drillbit company from which it all had started was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The CIA relationship was continued within the structure of Summa and the Hughes Medical Institute of Miami.
Something had come full-circle. Hughes, the individualist tycoon had now disappeared altogether behind exactly the kind of closet corporation that had been hounding him all of his life – perhaps the master, but perhaps after Thanksgiving 1970, the slave and victim of an ambitious and resourceful staff in revolt.
The Greenspun Caper
Maheu could not prevail against Davis, but he protected himself against annihilation by stashing away, in the safe of his ally Greenspun, his large private collection of Hughes documents and tapes. It contained memorable items not only from the teeming four years of happiness in Las Vegas, but also from all Maheu’s adventures with Hughes before that, such as the time Maheu got the CIA and the Syndicate together. Since Maheu was at one time or another immersed in these activities, his documents presumably painted an insider’s picture of the larger relationship emerging between Hughes, Toolco, the CIA, and the Syndicate.
Rumor of the scope of Maheu’s document trove finally prompted Robert Bennett, president of the CIA-linked public relations firm of Robert Mullen and Company, to convene a meeting in Washington between himself, Howard Hunt and Ralph White. White was the new Hughes-Nevada security chief after the coming of Toolco. He has an Intertel background. Bennett assembled this group in order ot discuss “the communality of interests” among them in the contents of Greenspun’s safe. Bennett is the son of Utah Senator Wallace Bennett, a high official of the Mormon Church. He joined Mullen and Company as its president early in 1971, bringing the Toolco-Davis account with him.
Mullen and Company was incorporated in n1959. According to Senator Baker’s special report on the CIA and Watergate (July 2, 1974), Mullen “maintained a relationship with the CIA” from then on and was providing cover for agents in Amsterdam and Singapore at the hour of the Watergate break-in. Besides Hughes, Mullen was also close to ITT and CREEP. Douglas Caddy worked out of Mullen offices during the halcyon days of the Huston Plan.
Hunt told the Ervin Committee what he had told McCord, that there was some scandal on Muskie in Greenspun’s safe. Hunt’s tenacity in struggle is better than this story. Greenspun’s denial, the partial revelation of the Maheu papers, and the whole subsequent flow of the situation persuade us that McCord’s estimate the following December was better; that Nixon and Mitchell thought “Greenspun had other material which would personally incriminate the President and his friends.” We need only wipe away the dust to see that this material was the Maheu collection.
The February 1972 meeting at Mullen’s Washington office determined upon a straight-ahead, Liddy-style approach to the problem, i.e., burglary, a Plumber favorite. McCord’s testimony is that Liddy told him that he, Liddy, shortly thereafter handled a first-installment Hughes contribution of $50,000 to CREEP, the money flowing from Hughes through Bennett. In November, also flowing between Bennett and Liddy at the Mullen/CIA office, another Hughes cash dose for CREEP came through, this one for $100,000. Was Toolco hiring the services of the White House Plumbers?
In April, Liddy went to Las Vegas (again according to McCord) to case the layout of the Sun a second time. McCord does not say the break-in was actually attempted, but his account indicates that plans and preparations were carried to extensive detail. The Maheu documents and their White House thieves were to have been flown out of the country to a Central American haven in an airplane provided for that purpose by Toolco.
An unsuccessful attempt to open the Sun’s safe was reported that month. It has never been conclusively linked to the Plumbers. But whether the Greenspun document heist was abandoned in the planning stage or muffed in the attempted execution, it remains an abiding fact of American history that it did not end the interest of the Nixon people in the contents of Greenspun’s safe or the Hughes problem. The best current explanation of the actual Watergate break-ins of June 1972 is that they were motivated by fear that something on Hughes and Nixon – possibly on the whole question of Cuba, the CIA, and the attempted Castro assassination – had fallen into the hands of the McGovernites of the Democratic party. Even in the glaring publicity of the Senate Watergate hearings, the Nixon people still could not resist a last little try to get these papers back to Toolco. On May 23, 1973, the day after McCord told the Ervin Committee and the world of the Greenspun break-in plot, two IRS agents showed up at Greenspun’s office with a pretext for demanding the Maheu material. Greenspun went to court and got that stopped. The safe remained inviolate, and Maheu’s treasure helped serve him a victory in his Los Angeles libel suit against Hughes.
The Hughes-Nixon Connection
We opened this exploration of the political-economic Hughes with the words that first brought his name into Watergate, those of McCord to Ervin on May 20, 1973. In view of the specific light cast by the story just reconstructed, I think we now know how to decode the McCord statement. He is telling us the technical truth, but he is also telling us that a significant detail is wrong, that something else was afoot, that we should look for a twist. He is saying through clenched teeth that Nixon was the presidential figure whome the Maheu-Greenspun documents posed a threat to, not Muskie. Decoded, his original statement would then read:
Liddy said that Mitchell told him that Greenspun had in his possession blackmail type information involving NIXON [not Muskie] and Mitchell wanted that material, and Liddy said that this information was in some way racketeer-related, indicating that if this candidate, NIXON [not Muskie] became president, the racketeers or national crime syndicate would have a control or influence over him as president.
I submit that this is the “other motive” McCord hinted of, the unnamed motive he thought might actually have prompted the Greenspun caper. The link between the “presidential candidate” and organized crime existed, but if I am ever to be too obvious, the motive oof the attempt on Greenspun’s safe was to protect that secret, not to acquire it, because the link did not run between Lansky and Muskie, it ran between Lansky and Nixon and Hughes.
Theory: Hughes and Lansky both had a piece of Nixon.
When Hughes and Lansky got along, as they did so well on the Cuban question, things went well. They went badly after about 1968, when Meier appeared. The Hughes-Lansky conflict over Nevada was a conflict internal to the Nixon coalition, essentially a conflict for control of the presidency and the president.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
The gold-outflow crisis of January-February showed the Yankees how vulnerable the Vietnam war of the Cowboy administration had made the American economy and all those economies that depended on it. There were sophisticated ways to mystify the fact, and they were used, but most of the world had no trouble grasping the main thrust of events. The larger economic system of the Western world as a whole was suffering from another great malaise which in some way or another was connected to the Vietnam war. Interpretation was, as it remains, of course, open to the usual ideological variations, and as there were those who decided Vietnam was getting too expensive to win and those who decided Vietnam was getting to expensive to lose, the new realization about the actual magnitude of the cost did not in itself settle a thing, except that the firght would grow more intense.
The Tet Offensive
This was another event both fatally unambiguous and ultimately mystifying. All parties to the dispute would continue to agree that Tet was a major event, full of military meanings and political consequences – whatever they might turn out to be. For who in 1968 could see how the war was going to turn out? Cowboys thought the main thing about Tet was that the opposing forces, in all-units, all-out attack, had been beaten back from their objectives, mauled and spent beyond powers of recovery, provided that the United States and friendlies would now seize the time. Yankees tended to think, on the contrary, that Tet’s main teaching was that it was indeed the strategy of military escalation itself that had failed. If you could field a half-million men in Vietnam and commit the strategic quadroons at such length and such intensity and still get a Tet offensive unannounced, then something was wrong with the strategy and/or the assumptions upon which it was founded. The economy was meanwhile bleeding away, main arteries open and gushing. West Europe was blanching. If the Americans lost grip, what would become of the rest? The correct strategy must then be to cut Vietnam losses and bid to hold the line in Thailand, where conditions were better.
Precisely according to their material interests and their historical perspectives, Yankee consciousness affirmed the priority of the Atlantic basin while Cowboy consciousness affirmed the priority of the Pacific rim. Formerly these images had been harmonized in the conduct of a two-front, two-ocean, two-theater war, a great Atlantic and Pacific effort joined and supported equally by all descendents of Civil War foes. This World War II coalition endured in the strategy of two-front Cold War in which Red Russia traded places with Nazi Germany and Red China with Fascist Japan, a friend for a foe and a foe for a friend. With the Tet offensive, people started pulling back from the coalition. Naturally enough, the ones who were the first to pull back were the ones who had the least to win from staying in and winning and the most to lose from staying in and losing, the Yankees.
Historian Geoffrey Barraclough of Oxford and Brandeis writes of this moment “that the war in Vietnam, and the mounting inflation that ensued, undermined the international system built up since 1947, and in particular weakened the position of the United States, the linchpin of the system.” He quotes C. Fred Bergsten of the Brookings Institution and the Kissinger fraternity: “After 1967, the rules and institutional bases of the old structure began to disintegrate.”
This sense of collapse prompts the Yankee rejection of Johnson. Barraclough observes, “In retrospect, it would seem probable that the operative cause [of Johnson’s “retirement”] was less the much advertised student unrest than a revolt of big business and corporate finance, frightened by the damage Johnson’s policies were inflicting on the U.S. economy and on its economic position abroad.” This “revolt of big business and corporate finance” is what I imagine was at the base of the movement afoot early in 1968 to get rid of Johnson: a Yankee revolt.
The Abdication of Johnson
The tell-tale sign that Johnson’s March 31 stepdown was a result of a power play was the number of chieftains of the opposing tribe who played key roles in the ceremonies of transition, most notably and visibly the top-class Yankee gunslingers Clark Clifford, Averill Harriman, Cyrus Vance, and George Ball. Defense Secretary Clifford was the acting chief national executive presiding behind the scenes from his perch over the Defense Department because it was (and is) basically the Defense Department that the president of the United States is required to rule. Harriman and Vance set up the Paris peace talks. Vance defused the Pueblo incident. Ball went to the UN. All the old boys were spinning and driving together.
That Johnson’s decision not to run in 1968 was somehow forced upon him is to my mind further indicated in such details as (a) the suddenness of his move, (b) his failure to pass power on to a designated heir the likes of John Connally, and (c) the extend to which the stepdown benefited his main blood enemies: The Kennedys and the Yankee Establishment. Johnson’s abdication as well as his switch to a negotiated settlement line on Vietnam may be more clearly seen as outcomes of an internal power struggle much like the struggle we discerned in the record of Frontier Camelot. I am far from wanting to say that Johnson’s downfall was in the least detached from the Tet Offensive, or the rise of the antiwar movement, or the degeneration of the Atlantic-system Free World economy under the burden of limitless Vietnam expenses. On the contrary, these large social motions, “contingencies” of world-historical scale, defined the terms of clandestine power struggle and determined the objectives of its participants: the Cowboy to win a war believed to be winnable except for domestic and internal dissension, the Yankee to break off a war believed to be unwinnable except through an internal police state, both sides fighting for control of the levers of military and state-police power through control of the presidency. Johnson’s Ides of March was a less bloody Dallas, but it was a Dallas just the same: it came of a concerted effort of conspirators to install a new national policy by clandestine means. Its main difference from Dallas is that it finally did not succeed.
The Turn Toward Peace
Was the Eugene McCarthy campaign a stalking horse for Kennedy? By design or by flaw, it had that effect. It warmed the waters and perfumed the air for the Kennedy antiwar campaign. When Kennedy stepped out to soar he already knew where the wind was. So did the hunters.
What is it about Kennedy’s politics and situation that makes it possible for this Irish Catholic and decidedly nonestablishment family to form national electoral coalitions inclusive of the big-city machines, acedemic liberals, and the Establishment? We have noted (chapter 2) how the Kennedy link with the WASP Establishment was formed in pre-World War II days when father Joseph and son John were at the Court of St. James. But what was the basis, for example, of John Kennedy’s access to Johnson in 1960 or Robert Kennedy’s to Daley in 1968?
However the Kennedy presidential coalition was formed, it was in the process of forming again in 1968 around Robert. We do not and cannot ever know whether he would have returned the crown to the East, but we should not forget that at the time of his assassination he had assembled a prowithdrawal coalition easily strong enough to dominate the Democratic party and carry off the nomination, and that owing to Johnson’s early “retirement,” he would have enjoyed the further advantage of not having to face an incumbent.
The Assassination of King
The problems of the lone-Ray theory are much the same as the problems with the lone-Oswald. Four eyewitnesses to the April 4 killing, including two police detectives spying on King, said they saw the gunman in the bushes on the ground, not in the second-story window in which Ray was said to have been perched. The angle of the mortal wound is consistent with a shot fired from the ground, inconsistent with a shot fired from the second story. For the alleged murder weapon, a rifle, to be aimed at the correct angle from the bathroom window alleged to have been Ray’s nest, the butt would have had to project into the wall. Ray’s travels after the assassination took him to Montreal and then Europe, although (like Oswald) he had no visible purse. He traveled under the aliases Eric S. Galt, Paul Bridgman, and George Ramon Sneyd, which turned out to be names of real people living in Montreal, all Ray’s age, all had Ray’s build, all bearing and astonishing facial resemblance to Ray, including in one case identical scars. And so on.
Ray’s first lawyer, Alabaman Arthur Hanes, convinced Ray to sell the rights to his story as the only way to raise funds for legal defense. The author thus retained came to pressure Hanes not to let Ray testify in court for fear of compromising the commercial prospects of the forthcoming book – according to Ray, who therefore dissolved the contract.
His next lawyer, Percy Foreman, connected to the H.L. Hunt empire, took the stance from the start that ray’s only reasonable tactic was to plead guilty, which he did only after he and his family strenuously resisted; all Foreman’s lawyerly skills almost could not make them see the necessity of a guilty plea. (The guilty plea guaranteed, of course, against a serious trial and a serious investigation.) Foreman was at the same time involved in a big-money deal on the book rights to Ray’s story, a deal whose only commercial premise obviously was that Ray would in fact be convicted as the real assassin of King. Foreman told the Ray family that he “didn’t want Jimmy to testify because he’d talk about conspiracy.” Strange reason, but it may ring a distant bell to learn that Foreman was also one of Jack Ruby’s lawyers during the no-conspiracy period. Meanwhile, the only witness who positively connected Ray to the crime was a drunk, alleged to be on the Memphis police payrolls as an informant, whose wife testified that, at the time of the shooting, he “was drunk and saw nothing.”
Ray’s later assertion of innocence does not reject the possibility that he may have been unwittingly used: “I personally did not shoot Dr. King, but I may have been partly responsible.” The evidence of conspiracy and cover-up has persuaded Coretta King among others that a new investigation is necessary: “I do not believe an impartial investigation has been held.” As of early 1976, it had not been held because of the refusal of the Tennessee court to let Ray reverse his guilty plea.
The May Memos of Hoover
This is the battery of memos signed May 10 with which Hoover formerly launched the FBI’s so-called counter insurgency intelligence program, called “Cointelpro,” the explicit purpose of which was to crush the civil rights and antiwar movement, the New Left. We do not yet know all the details of Cointelpro, we do not know its full range; above all, we do not know its impact – except that there is no longer a New Left. But we have the large print up front and it is not hard to deduce the basic variations. Directing all offices to mount an attack on the “New Left movement and its key activists…who spout revolution and unlawfully challenge society to obtain their demands,” Hoover wrote that “the purpose of this program is to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents. It is imperative that the activities of these groups be followed on a continuous basis so we may take advantage of all opportunities for counterintelligence and also inspire action where circumstances warrant.” He said, “consideration must be given to disrupting the organized anarchistic activity of these groups…the devious maneuvers and duplicity of whose activists…can paralyze institutions of learning, induction centers, cripple traffic, and tie the arms of law enforcement officials to the detriment of our society….Law and order is mandatory for any civilization to survive.”
The Assassination of RFK
Besides the woman in the polka dot dress, there are the following mysteries in the RFK shooting:
1: The Los Angeles coroner, Thomas T. Noguchi, insisted from the first that the shots fatal to Kennedy were fired from the rear, point blank to the back of his neck, not from Sirhan’s position several feet in front of Kennedy. As in the JFK case, this problem of the direction of the lethal fire is basic.
2: The bullet taken from Kennedy’s neck and the bullet taken from the body of newsman William Wiesel have never been matched to the same pistol.
3: The bullet removed from Kennedy has never been conclusive matched to the Iver Johnson .22 Cadet, the revolver the police took from Sirhan.
4: There is even a single-bullet theory. Since Sirhan’s pistol held only eight bullets and seven were recovered from the bodies and there were three bullet holes in the ceiling, the L.A. police were inspired, Specter-like, to theorize that one of these bullets went up through a ceiling panel, ricocheted off the floor above, came back through another ceiling panel, hit the floor, bounced up and wounded a bystander in the head. In the summer of 1975, Kennedy aide and former Congressman Allard Lowenstein reported that the Los Angeles police had destroyed the ceiling panels.
5: The L.A. police might have laid the ballistics doubts to rest long since by simply test-firing the Sirhan pistol. On one occasion they did carry out a test firing, but the results were odd. Yes, the police said, the test proved it against Sirhan, the bullet fired from his pistol into a watertank and recovered compared positively with the bullet removed from Kennedy. But closer inspection turned up the fact that the serial number of the pistol fired in this test was totally different from the serial number of Sirhan’s pistol. This embarrassment doubtless reinforced the natural shyness of the police, and the ten volumes of evidence collected by the unit set up to investigate “Special Unit: Senator” are still secret.
Whatever time teaches us to think about the origins of the RFK assassination, its result was the destruction of the Yankee effort at unhorsing the Cowboys in 1968. The nomination of McCarthy had always been impossible, and the ascendancy of Hubert Humphrey guaranteed against any basic new departures in U.S. foreign policy and Vietnam.
Then came Chicago against the background of Prague, Paris, Mexico City. The the election of Nixon, the continuation of war and repression – the secret wars, Bach Mai, Kent State, Jackson State, Watergate.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
The more familiar one grows with the material evidence available to the Warren Commission, the harder it is to see the Warren Commission’s failure to find the truth as a result of mere blundering or philosophical prejudice against “conspiracy theories.” That prejudice was do doubt present and operating; it seems a standard attachment to that vintage (as well as current) liberal sensibility. But there is too much here for Warren to have ignored it all by mistake or prejudice alone: the Zapruder film, the problems of the single-bullet theory, the implications of Oswald’s intelligence background, Ruby’s promise to tell some whole new story if he could be got out of Dallas. And as we now know, thanks to Judge Griffin, the scent of police and FBI obstructionism had reached the commissioners and their staff even at the time.
Is it thinkable that Warren himself was complicit in a cover-up of the truth? May we think such a thing of this paragon? Was it not mainly his reputation that made the lone-Oswald theory go down (as in the case of Connally)?
I think we are compelled to look at Warren’s reactions from the beginning all the way through the investigation in terms of what we can now divine of the cover-up, because nothing is clear if not that Warren played a key role. The cover-up could in no way have succeeded had Warren wanted to find and publish the truth.
But what could motivate a man of such unimpeachable reputation to support a cover story, an obstruction of justice, a lie beyond any lie yet told in American political life, all for the sake of the conspirator’s skin?
I too agree that Warren’s integrity is not to be doubted. It was evidently in some respects quite strong. But what if your strong integrity, for example, is confronted with a choice it is not familiar with, a problem mere integrity might not know how to solve? What if the choice is not between truth and falsehood but between falsehood and oblivion? What does “a patriot of unimpeachable integrity” do if the choice is between covering up a murder and sending a whole world to the brink of war?
Recall that Warren resisted the commission appointment to begin with and had to have his arm twisted by Johnson in a lengthy private session before agreeing to take the job, a session from which he emerged in tears everyone presumed were motivated by his love of the dead chief, but which might as easily have been motivated by something else. Warren himself suggested thereafter a different interpretation when he spoke so ominously of “national security” considerations bound up with the assassination, and then sealed up certain documents and evidence for seventy-five years (until 2039).
The cover story of Dallas appears to be many-layered. It has the internal structure of boxes within boxes within boxes. We struggle to get past the lone-Oswald theory and to assert (against all kind of psychological and pseudophilsophical as well as political defenses) the strict technical need for a conspiracy theory of some kind, that is, for a reconstruction of the crime on the premise that there was a minimum of two gunmen. The simple-minded inclination of faithful citizens is to think that this need, once established in public debate, must necessarily lead to the truth. On the contrary, the disintegration of the lone-assassin cover story only introduces us to the really difficult part of the controversy, the question of who did it if Oswald did not, or who was with him if he was not alone. And in this second phase of the controversy, the need will be to pierce the second layer of the Dallas cover, namely, the story that Oswald was a Castroite agent whose purpose was to avenge the Cuban revolution against Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs and the CIA’s attempts on Castro’s life.
This was the apparent theory of Lyndon Johnson and other right-wingers who from time to time have hinted they were never altogether convinced by the Warren conclusion. For example, Jesse Curry, Dallas police chief at the time of the assassination, said in 1969 (celebrating the coming of Nixon?) that he himself had doubts about the lone-Oswald idea, leaving out the fact that he and his department ran a big part of the investigation themselves and were responsible for much of the deception that crippled the investigation at its base. “We don’t have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle,” he said. “No one has been able to put him in that building with the gun in his hand.”
Another Texan, Lyndon Johnson in retirement, let fall a few side thoughts on the assassination to Walter Cronkite in the famous September 1969 interview and then to Time writer Leo Janos somewhat later. Janos published his report on Johnson’s last days in the Atlantic Monthly for July 1973. The relevant passage runs as follows:
During coffee, the talk turned to President Kennedy, and Johnson expressed his belief that the assassination in Dallas had been part of a conspiracy. “I never believed Oswald acted alone although I can accept that he pulled the trigger.” Johnson said that when he had taken office he found that “we had been operating a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean.” A year or so before Kennedy’s death a CIA-backed assassination team had been picked up in Havana. Johnson speculated that Dallas had been a retaliation for this thwarted attempt, although he couldn’t prove it. “After the Warren Commission reported in, I asked Ramsey Clark [then Attorney General] to quietly look into the whole thing. Only two weeks later he reported back that he couldn’t find anything new.” Disgust tinged Johnson’s voice as the conversation came to an end. “I thought I had appointed Tom Clark’s son – I was wrong.”
Then on April 25, 1975, CBS released a formerly unreleased segment of Cronkite’s September 1969 interview with Johnson containing the same views quoted by Janos, but a little less explicitly put. Cronkite asks Johnson if he through there was an “international connection” in the Kennedy murder, and Johnson puckers his eyes, stares at Cronkite, waits a moment, then says he cannot “completely discount” it. “However,” he goes on, “I don’t think we ought to discuss suspicions because there’s not any hard evidence that Oswald was directed by a foreign government. Or that his sympathies for other governments could have spurred him on in the effort. But he was quite a mysterious fellow and he did have connections that bore examination on the extent of the influence of those connections on him, and I think history will deal with much more than we are able to now.” The Warren people, “did the best they could. …But I don’t think that they, or me or anyone else is always absolutely sure of everything that might have motivated Oswald or others that could have been involved.
The Oswald connections that Johnson wants us to think about (remember both he and Police Chief Curry are expressing these doubts about warren at the springtide of Nixon power, 1969) are the connections implied by his defection to Soviet Russia and his membership in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. We have seen that these are peculiar connections – whether Johnson knew it or not, by the way, and whether Warren knew it or not. Oswald is much more substantially linked into the U.S. than into the USSR or Cuban intelligence systems from the days of his training in the Russian language at the CIA U-2 base at Atsugi, clear through the Russian adventure, and back to the New Orleans – Dallas shuttle in the bosom of the Great White Russian Czarist exile community and the veterans of Fiasco.
The public record does not tell us what to make of Oswald and his game, but it does suggest that he was no more a left-winger than a loner, and that his apparent attachments included both the CIA and the FBI. He may have been simply an FBI informer bullied into the assassination job by an FBI agent threatening his wife’s awkward status, as O’Toole speculates. He may have been a CIA operative covering as an FBI informer, for such is the way of the clandestine sphere, and one cannot often be sure where the spiral of deception finally closes and the spy’s absolute political identity becomes manifest. Howard Hunt, in the motto to his post-Watergate autobiography, would muse that the spy can have no loyalty more final than his loyalty to himself because to do his work he must be able to accommodate all masters. Perhaps Oswald too would be the last to know for what or for whom he was working on the bottom line.
But what did we all believe in 1964 about the integrity of our upper government? What did we believe about spies, clandestinism, real politik, about intrigue as a method of decision making and murder as an instrument of policy? In 1964 we could not yet even see through the fraud we call “the Gulf of Tonkin incident.” We may look back in some chagrin to recall that the “event” that aroused the Senate to give Johnson the legal wherewithal to make big war in Vietnam was conceived, planned, and staged exactly to do just that – by forces we still cannot name. We see the whole story of the Vietnam war as one unbroken cover-up designed to deceive not “the enemy” but us, the people of the land, the ones who pay the costs of war.
But what could Warren have been able to believe in 1964? Hearing of a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy and reviewing the most prominent features of Oswald’s vita under the pressure of Johnson’s Red-conspiracy interpretation, Warren might easily have been persuaded that there had indeed been a conspiracy of Castroite Reds behind Oswald. There could even be a Russian presence in the affair (Oswald’s defection, the secrets given over, Marina, the niece of a highly placed Soviet intelligence official, the possibility of brainwashing, etc.) If such a thing ever got out, the United States would find itself publicly confronting, ready or not, the most classic of all causes of war, the murder of a head of state by a hostile foreign power.
Moreover, since Castro’s Cuba had enjoyed the protection of the Soviet Union ever since the Missile Crisis, how could an armed clash with Cuba be confined to the Caribbean? Given that Russian and American A-bombs had been pressed so hotly up against each other the preceding October, how could Warren countenance pursuing an investigation that might bring them up against each other more hotly still?
Perhaps the question of Warren’s motivation can never be settled. Presuming it will be established that he and his commission’s verdicts were wrong, and that Oswald really was a patsy, one can form answers to the question, “How could Warren have done it?” less awesome than the theory I have just sketched out. Maybe it was that he didn’t know, that the evidence seemed less clear then than it does a decade later, that he was misled by the police, CIA and FBI, that he was in a hurry to get the onerous task out of the way, or that his liberal ideology blinded him to indications of conspiracy. I have no desire to rule out such alternatives. What I do claim, however, is that close study of the evidence available to Warren through his commission’s own investigation will raise to any open mind the question of whether or not Warren turned aside from the Zapruder film, the absurdities of the single-bullet theory, and the mysteries of Oswald’s identity and Ruby’s motive on purpose, with an intention to hide the truth, not to protect the guilty, but because he had been persuaded that the truth, let out, could lead to a nuclear war.
Alternative Models of 11/22/63
One cannot discuss Dealey Plaza conspiracy theories without taking up an early and persisting specimen, the John Birch Society theory that the assassination cabal originates within the orbits of the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, the secret Round Tables, the inner power sphere of the Rockefeller-Morgan-Rothschild world system. The JBS would say it was Yankee power that killed JFK, as I would say it was Cowboy power. Yankees are as capable as other types of turning against their own, and it seems self-evident from the problem remaining before us that they were quite capable of abandoning the pursuit of his killers as soon as it was convenient to do so and going along with the Johnson program of progress through war. Kennedy was far to the left within the coalition through which he sought to govern, even in his own base and constituency. By fall of 1963, he had probably “lost the support of his peers,” in Indira Gandhi’s phrase. But it is naïve of the JBS to think Yankee power could have succeeded in covering up such a thing in an important Cowboy capital like Dallas.
Then did the CIA do it?
This is likely to be the most appealing cover-up of all, now that the CIA has lost so much of its former charm. “The CIA did it.” But as I argue here and there in this book, and especially in the essay on McCord (chapter 8), this could easily be a meaningless shibboleth. The interior of the CIA appears strongly polycentric; there are ideological nooks and crannies within it. What the Intelligence side sees is not always what the Operations side reacts to. Indeed, it is former CIA agents like George O’Toole, Phillip Agee, Victor Marchetti, Jon Marks, and others who are currently contributing so much impulse to the campaign for a new JFK investigation and uniformly they are of Intelligence, not Operations.
We can easily get lost below this level. The names of the organizations that enter the expert discussions at this point are no longer so familiar. Now we come upon stranger beasts the likes of Permindex, Six Star, Intertel, Interpol, the Great Southwest Corporation… the Illuminati. But on the evidence as we have it, the plot of Dealey Plaza could not have succeeded without the specific collusion of elements of the Dallas Police Department, the FBI, the CIA, and various branches of military intelligence.
But this does not teach us to conclude that the FBI did it, or the CIA did it, and so on. The very multitude and magnitude of public institutions apparently implicated in the crime and/or its cover-up actually suggest a different and not so overwhelming picture of “the cabal,” namely, that these institutions were drawn in by pieces from the bottom rather than as entities form the top; drawn in by an ideologically, politically, and morally corrupt renegade agentry rather than ordered in by commands flowing routinely downward through the bureaucratic hierarchy. We can still risk assuming, that is, without flying in the face of all reason, that the cabal is not inclusive, its domination not universal throughout our political system, that there is a residual, basic loyalty to the Constitution and our traditional democratic and republican values flowing through the national defense and security institutions. This is not to say that such loyalty is not put to the night in every storm, only that it is not totally stupid to assume that it may still in some little party survive – in DOD, CIA, FBI, etc. We might assume that these institutions have merely been penetrated, not commandeered, in much the same way that our typical big-city constabulary has been penetrated by organized crime but (possibly) not totally conquered by it.
Yet there is nothing so very reassuring, is there, about the analogy to mobster penetration by the police. The crisis of “law and order” is directly rooted in the larger cities of the infestation of metropolitan police by organized crime, and around that penetration, a vast surrounding bruise of a bureaucratic corruption and demoralization spreading to the population through every institutional pore. The general criminalization of the police is obviously horrifying enough, but in theory that disease is at least confined to “local” structures and checked (if never thrown back) by action at a higher power level. We do not feel quite so powerless before a corrupt municipal police force as before a corrupt federal government (and military), simply because the scale of the former is not so overwhelming. How could we possibly confront the corruption and criminality of the state itself?
If one holds out a theoretical hope that the American state might still be an instrument of its own salvation, and is not irreversibly a tool of big crime, big business, big militarism and right-wing treason, that is not to say that the following picture of Dallas is so very much more hopeful. Only that there is a little more time in it.
In our review of Frontier Camelot, we have observed an intensely inflamed line of conflict running between the Kennedy side and the Johnson side of the 1960 electoral coalition. We have traced out the line of this conflict chiefly with respect to the main foreign policy issues Kennedy had to face – Cuba and Vietnam. But we have also noted that this conflict is apparent in every phase of Frontier Camelot’s life, in domestic policy as in foreign policy, in substance as in style.
I have proposed the Yankee-Cowboy model as a simple structure to situate the events in which this conflict unfolded. From this perspective, we identify Kennedy as a left-wing Yankee, adopted child and hero of the Eastern Establishment, and Nixon as a right-wing Cowboy. The game began in earnest in 1960 when Kennedy beat Nixon by the narrowest of margins through the expedient of allying himself with the most right-wing elements of the Democratic party around Johnson. (Cowboy Nixon’s strategy was the mirror image of Kennedy’s: his running mate was Massachusetts Yankee Henry Cabot Lodge.) Then Kennedy scuttled a basic project of the Nixon-Johnson group, the Bay of Pigs invasion, pet project of the very Cowboys whose fierce-warrior rhetoric he had so cynically co-opted for campaign purposes.
From the furies generated by that immediate internal conflict about Cuba and what we came to call “Third World Revolution,” the line led only to one escalation after another, each new battle compounding prior differences, Kennedy all the while pressing the military budget down and finally trying to turn the FBI against the rebellious Bay of Pigs clique of the CIA.
The magnitude of this battle we can appreciate better from afar, after the fall of Saigon and the liberation of Ho City. The stakes in the fight over Cuba in 1961 were the underlying if not explicit stakes in every American fight that transpired thereafter to May Day 1975. Cowboy militarism, fired by the need to press outward against America’s closing world frontiers and force an Open Door to the Third World, versus Yankee imperialism, fired by the need to expand the Atlantic system, to reform and consolidate the Western base and foundation of the empire. Those are always the contending inner forces.
The first great contemporary subplot of this conflict was laid in that complex American experience leading from the twenties and Prohibition forward to the thirties, the Depression, Repeal, and the slide toward World War II. The Prohibition-Repeal mechanism in particular was like a slingshot in terms of the economic and political impetus it imparted to organized crime. Repeal, to put it simply, legalized organized crime, and it did that by legalizing its main product, liquor, and then more diffusely, by opening up the general kingdom of vice as a sector of the larger national economy.
Then came Operation Underworld, another big step forward in the wedding of crime and the state. The Lansky Syndicate’s interests in Cuba became absolute during the early forties. Kennedy’s decision not to commit the United States to countering the Cuban revolution was thus in practice, from the standpoint of the Syndicate, a reneging on the basic relationship instituted by Operation Underworld, just as from the standpoint of the hard right it was a violation of the unifying principle of the domestic Cold War coalition, the only real basis of internal American unity since the end of World War II.
Then came another thickening. The Gehlen apparatus was incorporated within the womb and bowels of the American foreign intelligence system; this was probably the ballgame by itself. Everything after this, on top of Operation Underworld, was probably just a consequence of this merger. How can a naïve, trusting, democratic republic give its secrets to crime and its innermost ear to the spirit of central European fascism and expect not to see its Constitution polluted, its traditions abused, and its consciousness of the surrounding world manipulated ultimately out of all realistic shape? It now seems only natural and logical that thing would go toward Dallas from Misery Meadow, and toward Watergate from the burning of the Normandie.
In Frontier Camelot the Cowboy/Yankee contradictions are all present, all agitated, all at full spin and drive. First the Bay of Pigs showdown, then the disarmament showdown, then the oil-depletion showdown, then the civil-rights showdown, then the astounding showdown between the FBI and the CIA in the swamps of Lake Ponchartrain, the Everglades and No Name Key.
Then on top of that, in September 1963, came Kennedy’s first clear restraint of further escalation of the Vietnam war. He began to move toward disengagement and a negotiated agreement with yet another new Communist regime. From the standpoint of the Cowboy and indeed of the mainstream American political imagination of the early sixties, what was not imperiled by such reckless and sudden departures from the standard anticommunism of the fifties? If there was ever to be a time when old-minded patriotism must kill the king, was 1963 not the time?
So the motive of the Syndicate couples with the motive of the Nazi-Czarist intelligence clique, of American anticommunism, of the military elite, of the independent oilmen, of reaction, of racism: Everything in America that wants and likes and believes in guns and the supremacy of force over value was at hair-trigger against Kennedy when he resolved that he would no more lead the country into a big land war in Vietnam than into a full-scale over-the-beach operation in Cuba.
That was September, that indubitable and final clarification of Kennedy’s intentions. In October, the Texas Democratic party sent Connally up to see Kennedy about coming down to mend fences as soon as possible. The patsy was in place at the Depository. The “Wanted For Treason” posters were printed. The Vietnam war was about to take place.
So who was Oswald? Now even Ford admits he doesn’t know. The campaign to re-open the investigation of Dealey Plaza succeeded to at least that extent. The likes of Time, Inc., and CBS and Ford will cling to the theory that Oswald killed Kennedy, but by the time of the CBS specials of Thanksgiving 1975, even they had been compelled to admit that the loner theory of Oswald had not withstood a decade of criticism. But now they want to say Oswald must have been a Castro agent.
This move was anticipated by The Assassination Information Bureau in its January 1975 conference at Boston University, “The Politics of Conspiracy,” when it called for a larger effort to understand Oswald from the standpoint of his bureaucratic and personal associations. The no-conspiracy position is going to collapse, we predicted, and when that happens, and suddenly everyone is an assassination buff of a conspiracy freak, then the great claim of the cover-up artists will be that Oswald was part of a leftwing conspiracy answering to Cuban or Russian discipline.
This repeats completely the bias of the Warren Commission in its original work. Always for them the word “conspiracy” actually meant “international Communist conspiracy,” such that the alternative to the lone-assassin concept was axiomatically the next thing to war. The idea that a conspiracy to murder Kennedy might as well be domestic or foreign and as well rightwing or leftwing certainly occurred, but if it was given any serious thought, we have yet to see the record of it. Now again, still in the time of Ford, the same bias is imposed: Probably there was no conspiracy, and if there was a conspiracy, probably it was the work of the Castroites or the KGB.
After the Thanksgiving 1975 CBS specials on JFK and Ford’s positive reaction to them, the AIB at once raised its tiny voice to say that the questions of the assassination itself had by no means been resolved by CBS’s self-commissioned board of inquiry (as if CBS had a mandate to resolve this dispute!), and that nobody was going to get anywhere at all with the question, “Who was Oswald?” by starting out convinced that Oswald killed Kennedy. That was where Warren had started. Any new investigation starting from the same assumption will come to the same or worse confusion. As it always was, and as it will remain until an open investigation is carried out by some group (such as a federal grand jury?) capable of commanding the public trust, the key question is still, “Who killed JFK?” Oswald is not yet proved guilty.
But at the same time, the question of Oswald’s identity obviously remains one of the outstanding submysteries of the larger drama and contains within it many of the decisive threads. If it is explored without a presuppostion of Oswald’s guilt, it can prove a rewarding –a startling, and astonishing –area of study. For my part, I would have no desire to try to anticipate the outsome of such a study were it not for the insistence with which Warren defenders press the unfounded picture of Oswald as the lone assassin upon the public consciousness. Be reminded it is a theory that Oswald did it, not a fact – a minority theory to boot. However speculative it must be, then, the presentation of a different theory of Oswald seems justified if only to counter the impression that Oswald, whatever else, must have been a leftwinger.
From his involvement in top-secret CIA intelligence work (the U-2 flights) at a big CIA base (Atsugi), we surmise that Oswald became a CIA workman while he was still a Marine. From the peculiarities of his defection in 1959 and his turnaround and return in 1962- how precipitous the going, how smooth the coming back – we surmise that he was in the Soviet Union on CIA business for which the role of Marxist defector was only cover. When he came back to the United States, he was met by one CIA operative (Raikin), taken under the wing of another CIA operative (de Mohrenschildt), and accepted in the two most militantly reactionary communities in the United States at the time (the White Russians and the exile Cubans).
Assuming Oswald might have been a CIA man, what possible mission could have brought him to this scene?
Think back to the Bay of Pigs Fiasco and recall the anger of Cuban exile reaction to Kennedy’s last-minute shortening of the invasion effort and his refusal at the crisis of the beachhead to stand by implied promises of support. We know now that a group around Howard Hunt and Richard Nixon was sentimentally and politically at one with the anti-Castro Cubans in their sense of outrage with Kennedy and their desire to force the issue.
A militant faction of this group broke regular discipline in the period after the Fiasco, the period in which Kenned fired Warren commissioner-to-be Allen Dulles, instead installed John McCone in his place, and threatened “to smash the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” This breakaway component operated independently of official control and carried out, with the exile Cubans, its own program of “pin-prick” raids along the Cuban coast. These attacks were staged from bases inside the United States.
This group existed. It was organized. It was being funded. It was getting large supplies of weapons. It was mounting illegal operations from within the continental interior. Yet Kennedy could not find it. And particularly after the October 1962 Missile Crisis, he had to find it, because he had to shut it down; for now he had promised the Russians that the United States would respect the integrity of the Castro government. How do you look for such a group?
You get a trusted agent with the right background and capabilities. You dress up your agent to look like one of the other side’s agents. You get your agent circulating in the flight patterns of the suspect communities.
Obviously we are still far from being able to say for sure what Oswald’s identity and role really were. But to my mind, the hypothesis that best fits the available facts about him is that he was a loyal CIA man sent out to help locate the renegade Bay of Pigs group, contact it, penetrate it, and determine its organization, backing and plans. The now-famous Oswald letter to the Dallas FBI of November 19, 1963, which the FBI first destroyed and then lied about, and which it now says contained a threat to blow up its Dallas office, was just as likely a warning from Oswald that he had discovered a plot against the President’s life set to be sprung that Friday in Dallas. Oswald and his control could not guess that FBI communications were not secure, or that Oswald himself was all the while being groomed for the role of patsy.
Rose Cherami at forty was employed as a stripper at Jack Ruby’s Dallas nightclub, the Carousel, at the time of Kennedy’s murder. She was a narcotics addict with an arrest record two-and-a-half pages long from jails in San Antonio, Amarillo, Dallas, Shreveport, Angola, Houston, New Orleans, Austin, Galveston, Los Angeles, Tucson, Deming, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Montgomery, Jackson, and South Gretna, mostly on vagrancy and narcotics charges, though the charge filed in Jackson was “criminally insane.”
On November 20, 1963, she and two unidentified men were driving through Louisiana on a dope run – so she later said – for Jack Ruby. An argument turned violent. The men threw her out of the moving car and abandoned her on a state highway outside Eunice.
She was found hurt and dazed by Lt. Francis Fruge of the Louisiana State Patrol. Fruge took her for treatment to a hospital, then brought her back to the jail and held her on a suspected narcotics connection. Her withdrawal symptoms grew violent. She stripped off her clothing and slashed her ankles. Fruge committed her to the Jackson Mental Hospital, where she was confined until November 26.
During her confinement, after the Kennedy assassination but before Ruby killed Oswald, she told the house psychiatrist at Jackson, Dr. Victor J. Weiss, Jr. (in the words of Frank Meloche), “that she knew both Ruby and Oswald and had seen them sitting together on occasions at Ruby’s club.”
“Information was also received,” says Meloche, “that several nurses employed at Jackson Mental Hospital who were watching television along with Rose Cherami the day Kennedy was assassinated stated that during the telecast moments before Kennedy was shot Rose Cherami stated to them, ‘This is when it is going to happen,’ and at that moment Kennedy was assassinated. Information states that these nurses had told several people of this incident.
On November 26 Rose Cherami was returned to prison in Eunice for questioning. She gave Lt. Fruge information about a narcotics ring operating between Louisiana and Houston. Lt. Fruge told Meloche this turned out to be “true and good information.”
She was then flown to Houston for further questioning on the narcotics angle. “While in flight,” said Meloche,
Rose Cherami picked up a newspaper with headlines of Ruby killing Oswald and further on down in the newspaper it stated where Ruby denied ever knowing or seeing Oswald in his life. Rose Cherami laughed ans stated to Lt. Fruge that Ruby and Oswald were very good friends. They had been in the Club (Ruby’s) together and also stated that Ruby and Oswald had been bed partners. Upon arrival at Houston she again repeated this story to Captain Morgan. When asked to talk to the federal authorities about this, she refused and stated that she did not want to get involved in this mess.
Meloche and Fruge tried to track Rose Cherami down in 1967 in connection with Garrison’s case but found that in September of 1965 she had been killed in a peculiar auto accident outside Big Sandy, Texas. Reads Fruge’s report:
The accident was reported to Officer Andrews by the operator of the car after he had taken the subject to the hospital. Andrews stated that the operator related that the victim was apparently lying on the roadway with her head and upper part of her body resting on the traffic lane, and although he had attempted to avoid running over her, he ran over the top part of her skull, causing fatal injuries. An investigation of the physical evidence at the scene of the accident was unable to contradict this statement. Officer Andrews stated that due to the unusual circumstances, namely time, location, injuries received and lack of prominent physical evidence, he attempted to establish a relationship between the operator of the vehicle and the victim to determine if any foul play was involved. This resulted negative. It should be noted that Hwy #155 is a farm to market road, running parallel to US Hwys #271 and #80. It is our opinion, from experience, that if a subject was hitch-hiking, as this report wants to indicate, that this does not run true to form. It is our opinion that the subject would have been on one of the U.S. Highways. Andrews stated that although he had some doubt as to the authenticity of the information received, due to the fact that the relatives of the victim did not pursue the investigation, he closed it as accidental death.
We wish to further state that fingerprint identification shows that deceased subject, Melba Christine Marcades, is the same person as subject Rose Cherami, who was in custody, by us, from November 21, 1963, through November 28, 1963, at which time she stated that she once worked for Jack Ruby as a stripper, which was verified, and that Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were definitely associated and known to be, as she stated, “bed partners.” She further referred to Ruby as alias “Pinky.”
The fate of Julia Ann Mercer, another Ruby witness, was much better but still bad. As she deposed in New Orleans in January 1968 to Garrison:
On the morning of the President’s assassination, in the vicinity of 11:00 o’clock, I was driving west on Elm Street toward the Triple Underpass. There was a green pickup truck parked on the right-hand side of the road, with its two right wheels up on the curb. I was delayed by traffic congestion long enough to observe a man remove from the back of the truck a rifle wrapped in paper.
Because the delay caused by traffic I happened to see the face of the driver of the truck quite clearly. While I was stopped there he looked at me twice. This man was, as I later recognized from the papers, Jack Ruby.
The next morning FBI agents showed me photographs. This was on Saturday – the day after the assassination and the day before Ruby shot Oswald. The FBI then showed me some photographs to choose from. One of the men I picked out was Jack Ruby. When one of the FBI agents turned the picture over I saw Ruby’s name on the back….
The next morning I was looking at television with my family and when I saw Ruby shoot Oswald, I said, “That was the man I saw in the truck.” Form the view the television screen gave of Ruby – especially when they showed it again slowly – I recognized him as the man who was at the wheel of the truck on Friday and as the man whose picture the FBI showed me on Saturday.
But what happened to her information in the hands of the FBI is just another of the countless reasons serious investigators of the JFK death are driven to the conclusion that the FBI was in some way creatively involved in whatever foul play happened in Dallas. Her testimony was turned completely upside down in the FBI report filed by Special Agent Louis Kelley. Kelley reported that she was “shown a group of photographs which included a photograph of Jack Ruby. Mercer could not identify any of the photographs as being identical with he person she had observed….She was then shown a photograph of Ruby, and she advised the person in the truck had a rather large round face similar to Ruby’s, but she could not identify him as the person.”
Four years later, Garrison showed Julia Mercer a copy of this FBI report. “This is not an accurate statement,” she deposed, “because I did pick out Ruby’s picture. Also, this report does not mention the fact that the FBI showed me Ruby’s picture on November 23rd, the day before he shot Lee Oswald.”
I have also been shown a separate FBI report….[which states] that I only felt able to identify the man with the gun and not the driver. Contrary to this identification, I had no doubts about what the driver’s face looked like. This was on the same day they showed me Ruby’s picture, among others, and the day when I picked him and three similar pictures as looking like the driver of the truck. I do not know whether the other three pictures shown me were other men who looked like Ruby or whether they were three other pictures of Jack Ruby. But they definitely showed me Jack Ruby and I definitely picked him out as looking like the driver.
Another funny thing. The FBI report of November 23 says that Mercer described a sign on the door of the green truck made up of the words “air conditioning” in a crescent design. Half the force was sent looking for a green Ford pickup with a sign like that on its door. “This is not true,” deposed Mercer to Garrison. Every time I was interviewed-and at least two of the interviews were by the FBI- I stated that there was no sign of any kind on the side of the truck. The words ‘air conditioning’ were not painted on the truck, nor were any other words. It was a plain green truck without any printing on it and I made this clear from the outset.”
She goes on to depose that her signature as it appears on a document put out as her affidavit by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department is a forgery; that a notary public has signed this document, whereas there was no notary present at her interviews; that like the FBI statement, the sheriff’s affidavit also has her describing the nonexistent sign. “That is not the way it was at all,” she deposed to Garrison: “The truck was plain and had no letters whatsoever painted on it.”
And her coda: “That ‘affidavit’ also has me stating, with regard to the driver, that I could not see him too clearly.’ That is not true. I saw the driver very clearly. I looked right in his face and he looked at me twice. It was Jack Ruby.
“I was not asked to testify before the Warren Commission.”
The Warren Report tells us that “Ruby was unquestionably familiar, if not friendly, with some Chicago criminals” (p. 790). A partial list of Ruby’s organized-crime connections as they were known to the Warren Commission, would include:
Lewis McWillie, a “gambler and murderer” who had managed the Lansky Syndicate’s Tropicana in Havana before 1959 and by 1963 was an executive at the Thunderbird in Las Vegas, another prime Lansky holding. Ruby traveled to Cuba with McWillie, received two phone calls from him from Cuba, and shipped him a pistol, all in 1959.
Dave Yaras, an intimate of Ruby’s from Chicago childhood days, a Syndicate mobster operating out of Chicago and Miami. Yaras told the Warren Commission that Ruby was also close to:
Lenny Patrick, another Chicago-based hood also known to Ruby’s sister Eva as a friend of her brother’s. Yaras and Patrick are both prominently identified in congressional crime hearings as important figures in the Chicago Syndicate.
Paul Roland Jones, Paul “Needlenose” Labriola, Marcus Lipsky, Jimmy Wienberg, Danny Lardino, and Jack Knappi, the Chicago Syndicate group that moved into Dallas in 1947 (the year Ruby moved to Dallas). Jones, an opium smuggler in the forties, told the Warren Commission that “if Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald on orders, the man to talk to would be Joe Savella [properly Civello], then head of Syndicate operations in Dallas. Chicago Daily News crime reporter Jack Wilner also told the commission that Ruby was involved in 1947 in the Chicago Syndicate takeover of Dallas gambling. “The Commission finds it difficult to accept this report,” said Warren.
Robert “Barney” Baker, a Teamster hood convicted by RFK. His phone number was in Ruby’s address book.
Milt Jaffe, also in Ruby’s address book, a point holder in the Stardust of Las Vegas with Cleveland Syndicate heavy Moe Dalitz.
Ruby told the commission that he had once dined with the “Fox brothers” who “ran the Tropicana” in Havana and were “the greatest that have been expelled from Cuba” by Castro. The “Fox brothers,” as the Commission might easily have established, were Meyer and Jake Lansky.
At the age of fifteen Ruby already belonged to a gang of Chicago youths who ran messages for Al Capone. This gang produced such other notables as Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Capone’s successor as head of the Chicago Syndicate, and his associate, Charles “Cherry Nose” Gior, busted in 1943 with John Roselli who is later associated with the CIA-Syndicate scheme to assassinate Castro.
Peter Dale Scott (whose citations I gratefully borrow here) has identified three independent reports to the Warren Commission strongly suggesting that Ruby was “in fact a pay-off or liaison man between organized crime and the Dallas police department (over half of whose policemen Ruby knew personally).”
1: In 1956, the Los Angeles FBI advised the Dallas FBI that Mr. And Mrs. James Breen, “acting…as informants for the Federal Narcotics Bureau,” had become involved with “a large narcotics setup operating between Mexico, Texas and the East….In some fashion, James [Breen] got the okay to operate through Jack Ruby of Dallas.” In 1964, reinterviewed by the Chicago FBI, Mrs. Breen confirmed her 1956 story.
2: After the assassination, a prisoner in an Alabama jail told the FBI that a year previous to the assassination, when he had tried to set up a numbers game in Dallas, he was advised “that in order to operate in Dallas it was necessary to have the clearance of Jack Ruby…who had the fix with the county authorities.”
3: Again after the assassination, another prisoner in Los Angeles, Harry Hall, contacted the Secret Service (who vouched for his reliability) with the information that in his days as a Dallas gambler he had turned over 40 percent of his profits to Ruby, who “was supposed to have influence with the police.”
The Warren Commission’s conclusion was that “the evidence does not establish a significant link between Ruby and organized crime.”
The commission also failed to investigate a communication received on June 9, 1964, only two days after Ruby’s testimony, from J. Edgar Hoover, in which Hoover disclosed that Ruby may have been and FBI informant for several months in 1959. Nor did it seek to reconcile its picture of Ruby as a small time psychotic with evidence that Ruby was on good terms with such powerful Texas millionaires as H.L. Hunt, his son Lamar (whose office Ruby visited the day before the assassination), Billy Byars, and Clint Murchison, a power behind Johnson and involved heavily in the Bobby Baker scandal.
All the testimonies in the twenty-six volumes of the Warren Commission Hearings begin with conventional courtroom punctilio, except for that of the second lone assassin of Dallas. In Ruby’s act, the hero himself if the first to break the silence.
“Without a lie detector on my testimony,” he blurts out of nowhere, “my verbal statements to you, how do you know if I am tell[ing] the truth?”
His lawyer Joe Tonahill jumps: “Don’t worry about that, Jack.”
Ruby persists: “Just a minute, gentlemen.”
Warren turns: “You wanted to ask something, Mr. Ruby?”
Ruby: “I would like to be able to get a lie detector test or truth serum of what motivated me to do what I did at that particular time, and it seems as you get further into something, even though you know what you did, it operates against you somehow, brainwashes you, that you are weak in what you want to tell the truth about, and what you want to say which is the truth.”
I offer her that Ruby’s tortured phrase, “you are weak in what you want to tell the truth about,” is monumentally expressive of the situation in which he found himself. He was too weak to tell the truth that he wanted to tell. But we must come the long way around to this in order to see it.
We pick Ruby’s testimony up a few sentences later as he continues struggling to explain why he wants a lie-detector test.
As it started to trial – I don’t know if you realize my reasoning, how I happened to be involved – I was carried away tremendously emotionally, and all the time I tried to ask Mr. [Melvin] Belli [his first lawyer], I wanted to get up and say the truth regarding the steps that led me to do what I have got involved in, but since I have a spotty background in the nightclub business, I should have been the last person to ever want to do something that I had been involved in. In other words, I was carried away tremendously. You want to ask me questions?
Yes, Mr. Ruby, I would have said. Take this last sentence, “since I have a spotty background in the nightclub business, I should have been the last person to ever want to do something that I had been involved in.” Can you straighten that out? Are you trying to say that since you have a Syndicate-linked background, it doesn’t make sense for you to have killed Kennedy’s assassin in order to protect the beloved widow from the mortifications of a trial? Is that what you are trying to say through your clenched teeth?
But Warren said no such thing. Instead he said, “You tell us what you want, and then we will ask you some questions.”
And Ruby says, “Am I boring you?”
The more closely one reads the some hundred pages of Ruby’s testimony to Warren (the second two-thirds of which are spoken from a polygraph harness to the FBI’s top interrogator), the harder it is to avoid seeing something very brave in Ruby. The exasperated pugnacity of that “Am I boring you?” for example, couldn’t be better: Warren, he is saying, if you want to understand me, you are going to have to pay close attention to what I say. It would seem a fair enough proposition from a key witness to the chief commissioner of a big public probe. But of the seven august commissioners only two were present, Warren and the ubiquitous Gerald Ford, and they were not overly inclined to probe. And Warren had not even wanted to talk to Ruby. Ruby had to fight his lawyers and send the messages to Warren through his family. The hearing took place with a handful of lawyers hostile to Ruby present, plus the court recorder, and a Dallas policeman at the door. They were all I the interrogation room of the Dallas County Jail at Houston and Main looking out on Dealey Plaza. It was 11:45 A.M., June 7, 1964. The Warren Commission Report was at this point virtually complete. For that reason in itself, perhaps, the commission members were disinclined to pursue distant echoes in Ruby’s difficult but suggestive language.
Against the commission’s passivity, what Ruby most wants to tell them is that he wants a lie detector test. The reason for this, he says, is that the story he is telling about why he shot Oswald is inherently implausible. How can the commission believe he is telling the truth if he is not put in a polygraph harness? But why is his story inherently implausible? We will come across that, too, in his own words.
We skip through a half-dozen pages of meandering but tense discussion of Ruby’s activities on November 22, 1963, mainly bearing on an anti-JFK ad placed in one of the Dallas papers. Then at last Ruby comes to the events of that night. He tells Warren how he remembered that it had been a hard day for his friends, the police (he was on personal terms with virtually the entire force), and how he decided to take them a snack:
RUBY: ….I had the sandwiches with me and some soda pop and various things, and Russ Knight opened the door and we went upstairs.
(Mr. Arlen Specter, a staff counsel, entered the room.)
WARREN: This is another man on my staff, Mr. Specter. Would you mind if he came in?
(Chief Justice Warren introduced the men around the room.)
RUBY: Is there any way to get me to Washington?
WARREN: I beg your pardon?
RUBY: Is there any way of you getting me to Washington?
WARREN: I don’t know of any. I will be glad to talk to your counsel about what the situation is, Mr. Ruby, when we get an opportunity to talk. [Ruby has been intermittently begging a chance to talk to Warren alone.]
RUBY: I don’t think I will get a fair representation with my counsel, Joe Tonahill. I don’t think so. I would like to request that I go to Washington and take all the tests I have to take. It is very important.
TONAHILL: Jack, will you tell him why you don’t think you will get a fair representation?
RUBY: Because I have been over this for the longest time to get the lie detector test. Somebody has been holding it back from me.
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I might say to you that the lateness of this thing is not due to your counsel….It was our own delay due to the pressures we had on us at the time.
Ruby carefully summarizes his story up to this point, starts into a skirmish with Tonahill, then abruptly, “throwing pad on table,” as the commission stenographer notes (a stage direction preserved) he turns abruptly to his main idea and desire, to get out of Dallas somehow.
RUBY: ….Gentlemen, unless you get me to Washington, you can’t get a fair shake out of me. If you understand my way of talking, you have got to bring me to Washington to get the tests. Do I sound dramatic? Off the beam?
WARREN: No; you are speaking very, very rationally, and I am really surprised that you can remember as much as you have remembered up to the present time. You have given it to us in great detail.
RUBY: Unless you can get me to Washington, and I am not a crackpot, I have all my senses – I don’t want to evade any crime I am guilty of. But Mr. Moore, have I spoken this way when we have talked?
MOORE: Yes. [Elmer W. Moore is a Secret Service agent.]
RUBY: Unless you get me to Washington immediately, I am afraid after what Mr. Tonahill has written there…
An argument ensues with Tonahill, Tonahill trying to stop him from saying things a prosecutor could use to show he had prior intention of killing Oswald. Unmindful of Ruby’s apparent belief that his best interest lay in getting the truth out, Tonahill as defense attorney wants at least to be able to argue that the killing was an unpremeditated act, motivated by an errant burst of emotion. Ruby had the same complaint against Belli, his first lawyer. Belli could only think in lawyerly terms, that is, in terms of conviction and acquittal. Ruby, on the other hand, wanted to tell his story to a lie detector. Why?
Exasperated with Tonahill, he turns back to Warren: “Well, it is too bad, Chief Warren, that you didn’t get me to your headquarters six months ago.”
We skip a few pages of intense but repetitive discussion on the question of premeditation and the lie-detector and truth-serum tests Ruby wants to take, with Ruby hurling obscure shafts to Tonahill, such as “it is a greater premeditation than you know is true,” which sends Tonahill up the wall. “I don’t say it is premeditation,” says the lawyer, “I never have. I don’t think it is.” And Ruby, discounting a certain story helpful to the spontaneous-act-of-passion theory: “You would like to have built it up for my defense, but that is not it. I am here to tell the truth.”
The question turns to why Ruby was not dealt with earlier and Warren promises a no-delay lie-detector test. Ruby pushes for speed and discovers that Warren is leaving in the morning. And at that point, Dallas County Sheriff J.E. (Bill) Decker, unbidden, enters the dialogue.
RUBY: Are you staying overnight here, Chief Warren?
WARREN: No; I have to be back, because we have an early session of Court tomorrow morning.
RUBY: Is there any way of getting the polygraph here?
DECKER: May I make a suggestion? Jack, listen, you and I have had a lot of dealings. Do you want my officers removed from the room while you talk to this Commission?
RUBY: That wouldn’t prove any truth.
DECKER: These people came several thousand miles to interview you. You have wanted to tell me your story and I have refused to let you tell me. Now be a man with a bunch of men that have come a long way to give you an opportunity to –
RUBY: I wish the President were right her now. It is a terrible ordeal, I tell you that…. [he subsides for a moment to his pat narrative, then turns back to Decker.] Bill, will you do that for me that you asked a minute ago? You said you wanted to leave the room.
DECKER: I will have everyone leave the room including myself, if you want to talk about it . You name it, and we will go.
RUBY: All right.
DECKER: You want all of us outside?
DECKER: I will leave Tonahill and Moore. I am not going to have Joe leave.
RUBY: If you not going to have Joe leave –
DECKER: Moore, his body is responsible to you. His body is responsible to you.
RUBY: Bill, I am not accomplishing anything if they are here, and Joe Tonahill is here. You asked me anybody I wanted out.
DECKER: Jack, this is your attorney. That is your lawyer.
RUBY: He is not my lawyer. (Sheriff Decker and law enforcement officers left room.) Gentlemen, if you want to hear any further testimony, you will have to get me to Washington soon, because it has something to do with you, Chief Warren. Do I sound sober enough to tell you this?
WARREN: Yes; go right ahead.
RUBY: I want to tell the truth, and I can’t tell it here. I can’t tell it here. Does that make sense to you?
WARREN: Well, let’s not talk about sense. But I really can’t see why you can’t tell this Commission.
RUBY: But this isn’t the place for me to tell what I want to tell.
MOORE: The Commission is looking into the entire matter, and you are part of it, should be.
RUBY: Chief Warren, your life is in danger in this city, do you know that?
WARREN: No; I don’t know that. If that is the thing that you don’t want to talk about, you can tell me, if you wish, when this is all over, just between you and me.
RUBY: No; I would like to talk to you in private.
WARREN: You may do that when you finish your story. You may tell me that phase of it.
RUBY: I bet you haven’t had a witness like me in your whole investigation, is that correct?
WARREN: There are many witnesses whose memory has not been as good as yours. I tell you that, honestly.
RUBY: My reluctance to talk – you haven’t had any witness in telling the story, in finding so many problems.
WARREN: You have a greater problem than any witness we have had.
RUBY: I have a lot of reasons for having those problems.
WARREN: I know that, and we want to respect your rights, whatever they may be. And I only want to hear what you are willing to tell us, because I realize that you still have a great problem before you, and I am not trying to press you….
RUBY: When are you going back to Washington?
WARREN: I am going back very shortly after we finish this hearing – I am going to have some lunch.
RUBY: Can I make a statement?
RUBY: If you request me to go back to Washington with you right now now, that couldn’t be done, could it?
WARREN: No; it could not be done. It could not be done. There are a good many things involved in that, Mr. Ruby.
RUBY: What are they?
WARREN: Well, the public attention that it would attract, and the people who would be around. We have no place for you to be safe when we take you out, and we are not law enforcement officers, and it isn’t our responsibility to go into anything of that kind. And certainly it couldn’t be done on a moment’s notice this way.
RUBY: Gentlemen, my life is in danger here. Not with my guilty plea of execution [i.e., not because of killing Oswald]. Do I sound sober enough to you as I say this?
WARREN: You do. You sound entirely sober.
RUBY: From the moment I started my testimony, have I sounded as though, with the exception of becoming emotional, haven’t I sounded as though I made sense, what I was speaking about?
WARREN: You have indeed. I understand everything you have said. If I haven’t, it is my fault.
RUBY: Then I follow this up. I may not live tomorrow to give any further testimony. The reason why I add this to this, since you assure me that I have been speaking sense by then, I might be speaking sense by following what I have said, and the only thing I want to get out to the public, and I can’t say it here, is with authenticity, with sincerity of the truth of everything and why my act was committed, but it can’t be said here.
It can be said, it’s got to be said amongst people of the highest authority that would give me the benefit of doubt. And following that, immediately give me the lie-detector teast after I do make the statement.
Chairman Warren, if you felt that your life was in danger at the moment, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you be reluctant to go on speaking, even though you request me to do so?
WARREN: I think I might have some reluctance if I was in your position, yes; I think I would. I think I would figure it out very carefully as to whether it would endanger me or not. If you think that anything that I am doing or anything that I am asking you is endangering you in any way, shape, or form, I want you to feel absolutely free to say that the interview is over. [A prize specimen of Warren integrity: If telling us the trugh in Dallas would hurt you, cost you your life, we’d rather you just left it unsaid than go to the trouble of getting you to a place where you could feel safe to say it.]
RUBY: What happens then? I didn’t accomplish anything.
WARREN: No, nothing has been accomplished.
RUBY: Well, then you won’t follow up with anything further?
WARREN: There wouldn’t be anything to follow up if you hadn’t completed your statement.
RUBY: You said you have the power to do what you want to do, is that correct?
RUBY: Without any limitations?
WARREN: Within the purview of the Executive Order which established the Commission….
RUBY: But you don’t have a right to take a prisoner back with you when you want to?
WARREN: No; we have the power to subpoena witnesses to Washington if we want to do it, but we have taken the testimony of 200 or 300 people, I would imagine, here in Dallas without going to Washington.
RUBY: Yes; but those people aren’t Jack Ruby.
WARREN: No; they weren’t.
RUBY: They weren’t.
WARREN: Now I want you to feel that we are not her to take any advantage of you, because I know that you are in a delicate position, and unless you had indicated not only through your lawyers but also through your sister, who wrote a letter addressed either to me or Mr. Rankin saying that you wanted to testify before the Commission, unless she had told us that, I wouldn’t have bothered you….
RUBY: The thing is, that with your power that you you have, Chief Justice Warren, and all these gentlemen, too much time has gone by for me to give you any benefit of what I may say now.
Warren protests that it is not so. Ruby names his family, says they are all threatened; and for a moment he seems to give up and revert to the basic story of his motive, the unpremeditated-murder story, namely, that he saw in that Sunday morning’s newspaper “the most heartbreaking letter to Caroline Kennedy…and alongside that letter a small comment in the newspaper that…that Mrs. Kennedy might have to come back for the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. That caused me to do what I did; that caused me to go like I did.” Then continuing in this new tone, Ruby goes almost singsong: “…I never spoke to anyone about attempting to do anything. No subversive organization gave me any idea. No underworld person made any effort to contact me. It all happened that Sunday morning.”
So Sunday morning he drives downtown on an errand taking him to the Western Union office near the ramp of the county jail, where Oswald was being removed that morning. The errand had to do with a call he received that morning from “a little girl – she wanted some money – that worked for me” at the Carousel. The next day was payday, but he had closed the club.
It was ten o’clock when he got downtown. He tells us he noticed the crowd at the jail but assumed Oswald had already been moved. He carried out his errand at the Western Union office, “sent the money order, whatever it was,” and walked the short distance to the ramp. “I didn’t sneak in,” he says, “I didn’t linger in there. I didn’t crouch or hide behind anyone, unless the television camera can make it seem that way. There was an officer talking – I don’t know what rank he had – talking to a Sam Pease in a car parked up on the curb.” Thus he underscores the fact that the police saw him and let him pass freely into the closed-off ramp area. Then to the killing: “I think I used the words, You killed my President, you rat.’. The next thing I knew I was down on the floor.”
In the murkiest passages of his testimony, Ruby then proceeds to tell (as he calls it) “a slipshod story” in which he insinuates at least a part of the background information he feels he cannot directly give out. We will not try unraveling it here because it would take a lot of unraveling and we are interested in the coming climax of the Warren-Ruby confrontation. But in his slipshod story, Ruby develops a quite detailed and potentially verifiable picture of his underworld past, but as though to deny that it existed. For example, he names as a “very close” friend one Lewis J. McWillie as typical of “Catholics” Ruby knew who would be especially “heartbroken” over Kennedy’s murder. Which is a joke. “Catholic” McWillie was even then a prominent Syndicate gambler with big interests in pre-revolutionary Cuba. “He was a key man over the Tropicana down there,” says Ruby. “That was during our good times. Was in harmony with our enemy of the present time.” In August 1959, Ruby tells Warren, McWillie paid his plane fare down to Havana. “I was with him constantly,” Ruby says, strongly suggesting a professional relationship if only because McWillie was such an important Syndicate executive, and as of August 1959, had concern for the future of its Havana games.
Ruby also mentions another important racketeer with whom he had an association, but in a strangely concealing way, as though he were preparing for subsequent denials, “As a matter of fact,” he says, “I even called a Mr. – hold it before I say it – headed the American Federation of Labor – I can’t think – in the state of Texas – Miller.” Warren says, “I don’t know.” Then Ruby gets it: “Is there a Deutsch I. Maylor? I called a Mr. Maylor here in Texas to see if he could help me out” in an obscure situation involving nightclub competition, i.e., Syndicate vice arrangements, some years before. This person, whom Ruby first calls Miller and then, ever so deliberately, changes into Deutsch I. Maylor, is actually Dusty Miller, head of the Teamsters Southern Conference. Peter Dale Scott made this identification first, but blamed the Warren stenographer for the distortion of Dusty Miller into Deutsch I. Maylor, even though Ruby had just shown that he could pronounce Miller perfectly well and the stenographer had shown he could spell it. I think it is a precious detail in the reconstruction of Ruby, and I submit to common sense whether Deutsch I. Maylor could have been anything other than an intentional and purposeful distortion on Ruby’s part. He is hiding something in order to reveal it. Chief Council Rankin forces the testimony back to other questions, but Ruby tirelessly weaves in his stories of Cuban gambling and bigtime crime, his relationship to McWillie and other Syndicate people like Dave Yaras and Mike McLaney, and his general awareness of Syndicate networks.
When Rankin asks him point bland, “Did you know Officer Tippit?” he responds with another intriguingly indirect and suggestive answer, thus: “I knew there was three Tippits on the force. The only one I knew used to work for special services.” This last refers to the Dallas Police Department’s Special Services Bureau. The SSB was working closely with the FBI and was responsible, as Scott indicates, for both the world of subversives and the world of organized crime, the worlds of the cover-story Oswald and the underlying Ruby. (Scott adds that another responsibility for the SSB was taking care of intelligence preparations for visiting VIPs like the president.) Ruby says he is “certain” his Tippit and the dead Tippit are not the same, but then perhaps the “wrong” Tippit was the dead one after all, and the “right” Tippit was this other one that Ruby did indeed know, the Tippit of the SSB whom Vice-Chief Gilmore elsewhere testified was “a close friend” of Ruby’s and visited his club “every night they are open.”
The above came out when Warren confronted Ruby with the story with which Mark Lane had already confronted the commission some time earlier, that shortly before the assassination Ruby had seen at a booth in his nightclub with Officer Tippit and a “rich oil man” otherwise not identified. Above is Ruby’s denial of any such Tippit relationship, that is to say, his nondenial of it (“I knew there was three Tippits,” etc). On the score of the “rich oil man”, he only volunteers it migh thave been the man who then owned the Stork Club, William Howard. Warren observes that Lane’s informant had not given Lane permission to reveal this story. It was before them after all as groundless hearsay. They had decided nevertheless to put it to Ruby in the bigness of their intellectual curiosity. They had now put it to him. He had now answered it. “So we will leave that matter as it is,” which elicited from Ruby another of his remarkable improvisations: “No, I am as innocent regarding any conspiracy as any of you gentlemen in the room….”
Warren grows restless and turns to Ford and the lawyers. “Congressmen, do you have anything further?”
Ruby, one imagines quickly, says: “You can get more out of me. Let’s not break up too soon.”
And Ford, perhaps startled, comes up with a good question: “When you got to Havana, who met you in Havana?” This gives Ruby an opportunity he obviously relishes to spin a little thicker his web of insinuations that his Havana relationship to Syndicate executive McWillie was a serious one. But Warren again tires: “Would you mind telling us anything you have on your mind?” Ruby falters, then starts a line that suddenly swerves to the heart of the matter: “If I cannot get these tests you give [the truth tests], it is pretty haphazard to tell you the things I should tell you.”
Rankin decides he must test the slack:
RANKIN: It isn’t entirely clear how you feel about your family and you yourself are threatened by your telling what you have to the Commission. How do you come to the conclusion that they might be killed? Will you tell us a little bit more about that, if you can?
RUBY: Well, assuming that, as I stated before, some persons are accusing me falsely of being part of the plot – naturally, in all the time from over six months ago, my family has been so interested in helping me.
RANKIN: By that, you mean a party to the plot of Oswald?
RUBY: That I was party to a plot to silence Oswald.
In other words, this is the inference which he has all along been begging them to make. The commission does not respond. The stenographer then moves Ruby to a new paragraph. He stumbles through several hundred murky words on the impact of the affair on his family and notes that he has the sympathy of a good many people for killing the President’s assassin. But he says, “That sympathy isn’t going to help me, because the people that have the power here, they have a different verdict. [Get this:] They already have me as the accused assassin of our beloved president.” The commission must have given him a blank look as this new idea tried to register: Ruby shot Kennedy? Ruby says, “Now if I sound screwy telling you this, then I must be screwy.”
Warren rallies his senses and moves into the breech:
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I think you are entitled to a statement to this effect, because you have been frank with us and have told us your story.
I think I can say to you that there has been no witness before this commission out of the hundreds we have questioned who has claimed to have any personal knowledge that you were a party to any conspiracy to kill our President.
RUBY: Yes, but you don’t know this area here. [They squabble about the point. Warren really wants to evade this.]
WARREN: Well, I will make this additional statement to you, that if any witness should testify before the Commission that you were, to their knowledge, a party to any conspiracy to assassinate the President, I assure you that we will give you the opportunity to deny it and to take any tests that you may desire to so disprove it.
But how does he know this is what Ruby is talking about, or that Ruby would necessarily want to “deny and disprove” it? And above all, why should Warren be so blazingly uninterested in this man? Ruby maybe said it all back in the first minute: “Am I boring you?”
It is the beginning of summer, the report is in, the presses are about to cook, the awful part of this thing in Dallas is about to be wrapped up, and now this hangnail, Ruby, with his weird way of talking, his ominous and portentous airs, his impenetrable, melodramatic double-meanings:
RUBY: ….And I wish that our beloved President, Lyndon Johnson, would have delved deeper into the situation, hear me, not to accept just circumstantial facts about my guilt or innocence, and would have questioned to find out the truth about me before he relinquished certain powers to these certain people….consequently, a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won’t live to see you another time. Do I would screwy in telling you these things?
WARREN: No; I think that is what you believe or you wouldn’t tell it under your oath.
RUBY: But it is a very serious situation. I guess it is too late to stop it, isn’t it?…
Ruby seems to struggle against this insight later, but I think that at just this point in the text he is about to see into the heart of darkness. He is coming to think that, indeed, it is too late, because not only are the Dallas police and the Dallas sheriff in on it, but so is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And unknown to everyone but Ruby the ones actually in on it, as a consequence of this, “a whole new form of government is going to take over the country.”
FORD: Are there any questions that ought to be asked to help clarify the situation that you described?
RUBY: There is only one thing. If you don’t take me back to Washington tonight to give me a chance to prove to the President that I am not guilty, then you will see the most tragic, then you will see the most tragic thing that will ever happen….
RUBY: ….Now maybe something can be saved. It may not be too late, whatever happens, if our President, Lyndon Johnson, knew the truth from me.
But if I am eliminated, there won’t be any way of knowing.
Right now, when I leave your presence now, I am the only one that can bring out the truth to our President, who believes in righteousness and justice.
But he has been told, I am certain, that I was part of a plot to assassinate the President. [!]
I know your hands are tied; you are helpless.
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I think I can say this to you, that if he has been told any such thing, there is no indication of any kind that he believes it.
RUBY: I am sorry, Chief Justice Warren, I thought I would be very effective in telling you what I have said here. But in all fairness to everyone, maybe all I want to do is beg that if they found out I was telling the truth, maybe they can succeed in what their motives are, but maybe my people won’t be tortured and mutilated. [That is, Ruby begs forgiveness from the assassination conspiracy, having failed in his effort to rat on it through double meanings tossed into Warren’s ear.]
WARREN: Well, you may be sure that my President and his whole Commission will do anything that is necessary to see that your people are not tortured.
WARREN: You may be sure of that.
RUBY: No. The only way you can do it is if he knows the truth, that I am telling the truth, and why I was down in that basement Sunday morning, and maybe some sense of decency will come out and they can still fulfill their plan, as I stated before, without my people going through torture and mutilation.
WARREN: The President will know everything that you have said, everything that you have said.
RUBY: But I won’t be around, Chief Justice. I won’t be around to verify [!] those things you are going to tell the President.
TONAHILL: [Who never left the room] Who do you think is going to eliminate you, Jack?
RUBY: I have been used for a purpose, and there will be a certain tragic occurrence happening if you don’t take my testimony and somehow vindicate me so my people don’t suffer because of what I have done.
WARREN: But we have taken your testimony. We have it here. It will be in permanent form for the President of the United States and for the Congress of the United States, and for the courts of the United States, and for the people of the entire world.
It is there, it will be recorded for all to see. That is the purpose of our coming here today. We feel that you are entitled to have your story told.
RUBY: You have lost me though. You have lost me, Chief Justice Warren.
WARREN: Lost you in what sense?
RUBY: I won’t be around for you to come and question again.
WARREN: Well, it is very hard for me to believe that. I am sure that everybody would want to protect you to the very limit.
RUBY: All that I want is a lie-detector test, and you refuse to give it to me.
Because as it stands now – and the truth serum, and any other – Pentothal – how do you pronounce it, whatever it is. And they will not give it to me, because I want to tell the truth.
And then I want to leave this world.
Warren again promises the test, and soon, and then again starts trying to wrap things up. But then again Ruby asks for more:
“Hold on another minute,” Warren says, “All right.” Ruby says, “How do you know if the facts I stated about everything I said, statements with reference to, are the truth or not?” Ruby’s overburdened syntax is finally crumbling. Ford and Warren repeat their promise of protection and speedy tests and again seem half out of their chairs.
RUBY: How are we going to communicate and so on?
WARREN: We will communicate directly with you.
RUBY: You have a lost cause, Earl Warren. You don’t stand a chance. They feel about you like the do about me, Chief Justice Warren.
I shouldn’t hurt your feelings in telling you that.
Remarking that he knows he has his enemies, Warren adjourns the session. It has consumed three hours and five minutes.
Ruby got his lie-detector test six weeks later, not exactly right away in the Warren scheme of all deliberate speed. Against all standard procedures, the test was a marathon, some eight hours long with only short breaks. Other people were in the room, some of whom Ruby insisted were his enemies (for example, his lawyer, Joe Tonahill). Little wonder that the chief FBI expert in lie-detection polygraphy, Bell P. Herndon, who gave the test, testified later that its results were too ambiguous to support any conclusive interpretation.
Yet Ruby’s session with the lie-detector is as rich with suggestive details as the session before Warren and Ford. We are anxious to press on to a statement of our conception of Dallas, but the person of Ruby has been ignored too long, and the special volatility of the JFK issue as a whole just now begs for special awareness of the importance of Ruby’s role. Ruby’s gangland situation makes him a direct link between the Bay of Pigs and Dallas.
The text of this interview must be read in its entirety to be appreciated, something we cannot begin to do here. We must be satisfied with the key points from the interview itself. Then we go to the sequel, the psychiatrist’s on-the-spot analysis of what Ruby was up to in his “psychotic delusional” state, and the examiners explanation of the ambiguity of the test.
The basic problem of the lie-detector test surfaces as soon as Ruby comes into the Dallas City Jail interrogation room at 2:23 p.m., July 18, 1964. His lawyers and family have taken the position that he must not give the prosecuting attorney (William Alexander, present in the room) a way to prove his murder of Oswald was a premeditated act. His lawyers want to argue that it was total coincidence he drifted into the basement of the jail just as Oswald was being moved, and that it was only when he happened to see Oswald before him that he was overwhelmed by the idea of taking out the pistol, which he was packing by another coincidence, and shooting him down on the spot, without stopping to think about it.
But the story Ruby seems careless in telling is that his motive began to form early that morning when he saw a press item about Caroline Kennedy in the Sunday paper and realized that the widow would have to return to Dallas for the trial of Oswald. Ostensibly to show that Jews like himself (so runs his story) could act in a patriotic and brave way, he seized the time.
It is true that Ruby never says he started planning to kill Oswald that morning before he went downtown. He says clearly he went downtown to send money to a stripper who complained that morning by phone from Fort Worth that she needed money since Ruby had closed the Carousel for three days including the regular payday. He went down to the Western Union office to send her a money order, then went in a very straight line over to the jail, eased down the ramp, was confronted at once with Oswald, and stepped into the experience that killed both of them.
The polygraph testimony opens with Ruby offstage, his lawyers laying what ground they can to keep the results of the lie-detector test closed up. The Warren people are sympathetic to that. Assistant Counsel Specter loses no opportunity to make it clear tha the test is not happening because of any desire of the commission’s: it’s members have never entertained the least doubt of Ruby’s basic story.
Ruby is not long on stage before this comes up. He at once moves to make his position plain, lawyers or no lawyers. “I want to supersede the attorney…in stating that I want everything to come out immediately, as soon as possible, and whoever wants to know the results – what the results are – I want it to be known, regardless of which way it turns.”
A little later he tries unsuccessfully to get one of his lawyers out of the room:
RUBY: Did you get your pants sewed up, Joe?
TONAHIL: It went through to my leg.
RUBY: That was a pretty rough brawl we had, wasn’t it, Joe?
RUBY: Joe, I’d appreciate it if you weren’t in the room. Can I ask you to leave, Joe?
TONAHILL: I’ll be glad to leave, if you want me to, Jack.
RUBY: As a matter of fact, I prefer Bill Alexander to you, you’re supposed to be my friend.
TONAHILL: Let the record show that Mr. Ruby says he prefers Bill Alexander being herd during this investigation, who is the assistant district attorney who asked that a jury give him the death sentence, to myself, who asked the jury to acquit him, his attorney.
HERNDON: May we proceed?
And they do, and no one leaves the room. From this point on, no doubt, it is absurd to think the polygraph could prove anything whatsoever. The atmosphere is demonstrably too unsettling; conditions are too controlled from the standpoint of forensic polygraphy to support any meaningful interpretation of Ruby’s responses. The test is being run purely to satisfy Ruby, and no one shows any intention of treating at as a serious probe for a difficult truth.
Finally comes the test proper, the long, emotionally grueling examination covering exactly those aspects of the event that Ruby specified, touching on such issues as the Cuban connection, the Syndicate connection, the Communist angle, and his intentions toward Oswald. Herndon first walks Ruby through each test series, adjusts the questions to make sure they are exactly the questions Ruby wants to answer and that ht understands them completely, then goes through them again with the polygraph switched on. The sixty-six pages of testimony are shot through with haunting and suggestive exchanges, such as the following, as Herndon reads through the question that comes closest to the heart of the premeditation issue:
HERNDON: Did you tell anyone you were thinking of shooting Oswald before you did it?
HERNDON: Is that question all right, do you understand it?
RUBY: Yes – I take that back. Sunday morning – I want to elaborate on that – before I left my apartment – it evidently didn’t register with the person [he may mean his roommate, George Senator] because of the way I said it. In other words, the whole basis of this whole thing was that Mrs. Kennedy would have to come back for trial.
Whereupon Tonahill’s partner, Fowler, stages a demonstration to stop Ruby from saying such a thing with his prosecutor present.
For the purposes of our summary, Ruby’s key statement in this lie-detector testimony is the following. It comes toward the end, when he is tired and seems to feel the situation slipping away.
RUBY: Let me put it this way: Here I run a nightclub. I run a nightclub and on Friday this tragic event happens, and I get carried away more so than anyone else. Why? Why was I so sick mentally or so carried away?
I immediately replace my newspaper ads so that I would be closed for those 3 days. This is the ironic part of it, that wouldn’t it be a tremendous hoax, or certain people would probably believe it that way, a that here’s a fellow that didn’t vote for the president, closes his clubs for 3 days, made a trip to Cuba, relayed a message from a person – from Ray Brantley – look at circumstantially how guilty I am. If you want to put these things together. Then I happen to be down there [the ramp], which is a million to one shot, that I should happen to be down there at that particular second when this man comes out of whatever it was, an elevator or whatever it was. All these things. Plus the fact of the post office box and some other rumors that they saw us together at the club. How can we give me the clearance that the ads I put in where authentic, my sincerity, my feeling of emotionalism were sincere; that that Sunday morning I got carried away after reading the article, a letter addressed to Caroline and then this little article that stated Mrs. Kenned might be requested to come back and face the ordeal of the trial.
Also, if there was a conspiracy, then this little girl that called me on the phone in Fort Worth then is part of the conspiracy. Do you follow me?
If I follow Ruby, he is giving us here a perfectly serious lead – who was “this little Fort Worth girl?” – as well as a powerful list of reasons why he should not be taken at his work about killing Oswald out of love for Kennedy and sympathy for the widow. (a) He was not a Kennedy man. (b) It was verifiable that he was in Cuba on Syndicate business just before the Revolution took power, and that he relayed an important Syndicate business message in 1959, i.e., Ruby was on the exact opposite side of the fence from the anti-Syndicate Kennedys. (c) It was a million-to-one shot that he should have been on the ramp just as Oswald appeared. (d) There are traces of a prior Ruby-Oswald-Tippit relationship, or of some such thickening of the story underneath. But this excited no great interest in the commission or Assistant Counsel Specter, who believed already that these were innocuous coincidences and acceptable doubts.
Three minutes after Ruby left the room, at 9:10, the commission reconvened to question Dr. William Robert Beavers, a psychiatrist who had been examining Ruby, on his reaction to Ruby’s behavior under the long questioning.
Specter was trying to get Beavers to say that Ruby was out of his mind, and technically at least Beavers does that. He says that when he first examined Ruby late in April, “he had briefly what I call a psychotic depression, that is, he had evidence of auditory hallucinations and a poorly defined but definite delusional system which waxed and waned during the time of the interview, and he had evidence of a severe degree of depression….”
Asked if he has now a different view in light of the interrogation just concluded, Beavers answers, “Yes, I do. I think that as I have seen him, the depressive element has diminished, and that the delusional system has become less open and obvious….”
What struck him as indicative of Ruby’s unsoundness of mind was “the relationship he has with his attorneys [Tonahill and Fowler]. There are certain kinds of actions and behavior in these two relationships which fit better in my opinion with the continuation of a covert delusional system concerning threats to his race, his family, based on his presumed activity in a conspiracy, than it would with rational realistic appreciation of the factors in his environment.”
A few lines later, Beavers backs a little closer to it:”….It seemed to me, because he was fairly certain in his answers during the trial run, and then following this during the actual run of the polygraph, there was so much hesitation and uncertainty which resulted in no answers, that we were seeing a good deal of internal struggle as to just was reality.
Then speculating on the possible reason for this “hesitation and uncertainty,” Beavers almost puts his finger on it: “It possibly could have been his trying to protect in some way an answer from the polygraph.”
Protect? Meaning to conceal? This Ruby who has given us a hundred tips that he is concealing something which he does not wish to conceal? An who could have concealed everything by simply not demanding this test at the top of his voice against the wishes of all the other parties?
Maybe on the contrary, Ruby was trying to say something. As he said when Herndon asked him why he closed his eyes in answering the questions, “I’m trying to be more emphatic with the truth when I close my eyes – more than the truth.”
The more Beavers goes on, the more he dissolves his own original picture of Ruby as a depressive- delusional psychotic. “In the greater proportion of the time that he answered the question,” he says, “I felt that he was aware of the question and that he understood them, and that he was giving answers based on an apprehension of reality.” And again: “In short, he seemed to behave like a man with a well-fixed delusional system in which whole areas of his thinking and his behavior are not strongly interfered with by the delusion.”
That is, Beavers thought Ruby was sane in all respects except his belief that there had been a conspiracy in Dallas.
But now Ruby’s hated attorney Joe Tonahill comes on and poses a preposterous but fascinating question. First he sums up what they have all seen about Ruby’s attitude towards himself and Alexander, the prosecuting attorney in his murder trial. Tonahill notes that Ruby has been consistently antagonistic to himself and yet has shown “tremendous faith and confidence in Mr. Alexander.” Now comes the question: “Have you an opinion as to what goes on with reference to Ruby’s mental illness that causes him to put faith in Mr. Alexander and no faith in me?”
Beavers first accepts the premise of that question, i.e., that Tonahill’s view of Ruby’s best interests is correct, and that if Ruby’s view does not coincide with this view, then Ruby must be crazy. But then Beavers starts to go beyond that assumption and comes as close as anyone I know of to the conception of Ruby I am working out here. Like Icarus he soars and then falls:
….in fact there is a considerable body of people, the district attorney’s office and district attorneys included, who do feel that he is party of a conspiracy, and that in fact either past, present and/or future actions toward loved ones and toward members of his race are going to be taken against these people because of this presumed conspiracy. If this were the case, then it would make extremely good sense that he would want Mr. Alexander here, and he would want him here very definitely, because…he is much more concerned with getting the truth out so that a whole host of terrible things won’t happen.
Ten days later, Specter interviewed Herndon on the interpretation of Ruby’s polygraph. Herndon took note of the others who had been present in the room, acknowledged the irregularity of that and the length of the test, and said outright that during the latter prat of the test Ruby’s fatigue had probably “desensitized” his reactions. Within that limit, Herndon’s general conclusion was, “if in fact Ruby was mentally competent and sane, that there was no indication of deception with regard to the specific relevant pertinent questions of this investigation.”
But then even under the incurious questioning of Specter, Herndon seemed to cast doubt on his own judgment, or more exactly, on the polygraph’s ability to support a solid interpretation of any kind.
For example, he says that Ruby’s negative answer to the question, “Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?” could be interpreted [as suggesting] that there was no physiological response to the stimulus of the question,” and yet when Specter asks him what he means by “could be interpreted,” it develops that the polygraph showed “a slight impact of the GSR” (galvanic skin response) to that question. Or again, to the question, “Between the assassination and the shooting, did anybody you know tell you they knew Oswald?” Herndon says Ruby answered with “a noticeable change in the pneumograph pattern,” but waves it off as owing to the relatively long length of this particular question.” Then consider Herndon’s explanation of Ruby’s response pattern to one of the most significant sequences of questions:
HERNDON: This particular series, 3a [Exhobit 4], was what would be called a modified peak of tension series [i.e., all questions are “significant” and not interspersed with insignificant ones]. Ruby was carefully instructed prior to the series that four relevant questions were going to be asked in a consecutive order.
Question No. 3: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald on Friday night?” He responded “No.”
Question No. 4: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Saturday morning?” He responded “No.”
Question No. 5: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Saturday night?”. He responded “No.”
Question No. 6: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Sunday morning?” He responded “Yes.”
These are the only relevant questions in this series. A review of the chart with regard to his responses in this series reveals that the Ruby’s blood pressure continually rose from the question No. 3 until it reached a peak just as question No. 6 was asked. In addition it was noted that there was a rather noticeable change in his breathing pattern as question No. 6 was approached. There is a slight impact in the GSR tracing as question No. 6 was approached. This would mean to me in interpreting the chart that Ruby reached a peak of tension as the question No. 6 was about to be asked in which he responded “Yes” to “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Sunday morning?” This particular type of series cannot be interpreted with regard to whether or not there was any deception, but it does indicate that Ruby built up a physiological peak of tension to the time of Sunday morning with regard to his shooting Oswald.
SPECTER: Is there any correlation between the building up of a peak of tension and the accurate answer to the series?
HERNDON: In normal usage of polygraph technique where a peak of tension is used, if the series is effective, the party will usually respond to a particular item which happens to be the most pertinent with regard to the offense. In this case it appears that Ruby projected his entire thoughts and built up a physiological peak of tension at the point of Sunday morning.
SPECTER: Are there any other significant readings on Exhibit No. 4?
HERNDON: There is no other significant reading on series 4.
Decoded and straightened out, what Ruby was trying to say to Warren comes down to the following main points:
Because of threats against his family emanating from the Dallas Police Department primarily, he could not tell his story in Dallas or indeed to anyone not powerful enough to secure his family once he did talk.
Failing in his plan to escape to Washington with Warren, Ruby opts for the shrewd but naïve strategy of telling his lie to a lie detector. But thanks to Herndon, that didn’t work either.
His story is a long way yet from reconstruction, but he gives us leads and fragments, the most spectacular of which is a whole rich set of suggestions tying him variously into high-level Syndicate figures operating in pre-revolutionary Cuba, and as we know today, involved later in attempts against the Castro government in covert operations connected with elements of the CIA and stemming from the Bay of Pigs, operations which Kennedy used force to extirpate two months before his death. This makes the Ruby case totally of a piece with the over-all affair of the Bay of Pigs/Dallas reactions. The world of Ruby, of the Carousel, and of the Dallas cops was also the world of the Bay of Pigs and of the secret staging bases outside Miami and New Orleans.
Ruby asks us as directly as he can to entertain the hypothesis that he was a member of the JFK assassination cabal, that his purpose in liquidating Oswald was to satisfy the cabal’s need to keep the patsy from standing trial, and that something happened to him in the Dallas jail between the time he killed Oswald and the time he began demanding to come before Warren, something to change his mind. Of course I don not press this speculation, but I do say that it better fits the few facts we have than the Warren theory that Ruby too was just another lone nut of Dallas. Thanks to the providential bust at Watergate, we are now too ferociously educated about our government to dismiss as inherently crazy Ruby’s fear of covert reprisals from the police or his warnings that “a whole new form of government” was being installed as a result of Dallas.
For this is indeed the direction in which our current discoveries and insights about the assassination and its cover-up are propelling us, namely, that what happened in Dealey Plaza was a coup d’etat. The motive of this coup no one could have foreseen at the time without access to the innermost closets of the group that engineered it. As Johnson began shouldering Yankee advisers aside (see the Pentagon Papers), meanwhile mystifying his relationship to Kennedy to make himself seem merely the continuation of Kennedy by other means, it was hard for many to see the coming of a radically new war policy in Vietnam, though the big war was very soon upon us (two-hundred thousand troops by the time of the first national March on Washington against the war in April 1965). As we have noted, Johnson also set in motion plans to carry out a for-good invasion of Cuba, the so-called Second Naval Guerrilla, abandoned only because of the outbreak of the Dominican revolt in early 1965 and Johnson’s decision to suppress it with the invasion forces assembled originally for Cuba. Now we see these under-the-table moves quite clearly and see them as radical departures from Frontier Camelot policy lines, not as the continuations which Johnson and Nixon and all the other chauvinists found it convenient to pretend they were. The Johnson administration was not the fulfillment of Kennedy policy; it was its defeat and reversal.
Among the witnesses who testified to Warren, few more than Ruby make us feel the presence of these momentous themes. He is garbled, murky, incomplete, and as his friend and roommate George Senator says, apolitical in any conventional sense. Yet something about what happened to him after killing Oswald makes him more fully in touch with the situation’s underlying realities than anyone else who testified – or who listened from the bench.
In late 1965, Washington post columnist Dorothy Killgallen interviewed Ruby at length in the Dallas jail. She came out to tell a few friends that on the basis of this interview she was “about to blow the JFK case sky high.” Within a few days, however, before she had a chance to do that, she died of a massive overdose of barbiturates, ruled a suicide. Her New York apartment was found in a shambles. Her notes from the Ruby interview never turned up.
Sick with cancer (he claimed he was being poisoned), Ruby died in his cell of a stroke early in 1967.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
The conclusion of chapter four will be forthcoming.
Clandestine America: Three Sources
What is actually possible on the stage of American politics? Can presidents be assassinated by conspirators who go free and win out in the end? Are events which the media soberly report on often little more than play shows contrived by Machiavellian power elites for the manipulation of mass consciousness?
Even after Watergate, the idea that there may be a clandestine American state vastly predating Nixon’s arrival in the White House, transcending Nixon and lingering beyond him, will seem too wild, will seem “to go too far,” unless we come upon it as the wind and the rain fashioned the thing itself, bit by bit. The following three stories about how that happened could be followed by thirty more rather like them; I am not trying to be definitive or exhaustive, only to exemplify the steps taken, now well behind us, that pointed us down the path toward Dallas and Watergate, toward COINTELPRO, Chaos, Garden Plot, and the secret state:
1. The long-term penetration of the American foreign ¬policy bureaucracy by a secret group of Anglophiles operating worldwide as the “Round Table.”
2. The so-called “Operation: Underworld” of the World War II years, a secret but evidently formal and binding compact linking the federal police apparatus and the crime syndicate of Meyer Lansky.
3. The secret submission of the U.S. World War II command to the astonishing demands of Nazi Germany’s top spymaster, General Reinhard Gehlen, who leapt from Hitler’s sinking general staff to become unrivalled chief of American, West German and NATO intelligence systems in the Cold War years.
But as these narratives will be appreciated better in view of their distance from standard ideas, we will first take up two other responses to this question, one by a conservative CIA sophisticate, Miles Copeland, a retired CIA official, and the other by his liberal counterpart, Andrew St. George, a journalist specializing in CIA themes. The Copeland piece appeared in the October 1973 issue of William Buckley’s I National Review. St. George’s piece came out a month later in Harper’s. Both articles were cited in the report of Senator Howard Baker’s special Watergate subcommittee looking into the CIA’s role at Watergate.’ Both writers were questioned in secret by Congressional investigators. And as we shall see, despite their conservative-liberal opposition, the men are ideological bookends. Both assure us-I almost said reassure-that in terms of Big Brotherism and the police state, things will be getting worse.
Copeland opens his explanation of clandestinism in U.S. politics by setting out a picture of concatenating world-scale disasters mounting over the coming years and battering with cumulative force against the foundations of human society everywhere. He sees this process of breakdown as leading inevitably to the world-wide escalation of left-wing terrorism. In response to this forthcoming contagion, the governments of the world one after the other will be forced to the use of totalitarian methods of social control. Watergate gives us, he says, a slice-of-life look at the way these forces were developing (i.e., shows us that Nixon was provoked to the police state by those who opposed him). The inevitability of terror in a collapsing situation culminates in the inevitability of a Gestapo response. “The only answer to the problem [of terror],” Copeland writes, “seems to be to keep whole communities under surveillance. ‘This means we are subscribing to police-state methods,’ says Mother, `but what else can we do?”‘
Copeland does not stop to consider that for some of us this might not be a self-answering question, or whether, person for person, it might not be braver and better for a people and a society to endure terror, if that is indeed the only alternative, than to countenance tyranny. The point he is in a rush to make is that, for the ruling classes with whom he identifies, it is better to impose a police state than to suffer a revolution. He is also saying that even in the United States, the people will tolerate or welcome this police state as the only, _alternative to revolution. “With intelligence on the `people’s war’ pouring in as it presently is,” he writes, “even the most liberal-minded CIA officers feel that they have no choice but to do whatever is necessary to deal with it.”
They believe that, sooner rather than later, the public will swing over to sharing the alarm, and will become suddenly unsqueamish about police-state methods or whatever it takes to give them a good night’s sleep: The CIA, the FBI, and other security agencies had better be prepared. They had better have in readiness methods of “community surveillance” which have in them only such invasions of privacy as are absolutely necessary, and which ensure that the invasions are handled with such discretion and delicacy that even the most ardent liberal can’t object to them.
These still-to-be-demonstrated “methods,” as Copeland airily calls them, are at the same time, so he assures, essentially benign, in some respects benevolent, and efficient in implementation. “The FBI has a comparatively simple problem,” he writes. “Provided it can be assured of freedom from political influences, it can easily administer a system of community surveillance which will be pervasive enough to check terrorist influences in the United States yet not constitute more than a minor departure from our traditional ways of doing things.”
Thanks to the Seymour Hersh/New York Times disclosures of Christmas 1974, showing a vast CIA-run domestic-intelligence activity, we now understand of course that the presumptively futuristic scenes promoted by Copeland, wherein the CIA enters massively into domestic intelligence operations to stop some future crescendo of terrorism, were already old hat when he was writing. “Intelligence leans toward keeping discreet track of terrorist groups and neutralizing them quietly while policemen think in terms of evidence that will stand up in court,” he writes. “In the future, these distinctions will become less and less important-and extra-legal (i.e., intelligence) actions against terrorism will be closely coordinated with legal (police) actions against them.”
Nothing futuristic about all this at all, as it turned out. All ancient history. Witness the Hoover memos of May 1968 inaugurating a massive program of FBI aggression against the antiwar and civil-rights movement – not against “terrorism,” by the way, but against “dissent,” against a rival political standpoint. Witness the Huston Plan and Operation Gemstone and Octopus and all the rest that came with the succession of Nixon to the Johnson throne. We have a concrete sequence of repression, of the use of police-state methods, exactly along Copeland’s lines, undertaken exactly with his kind of self-flattering and historically ignorant posturings about keeping order and giving people “a good night’s sleep,” as though that were a fit image of a self-governing people, a nation asleep.
A current failure of Buckleyite conservatism as a serious political philosophy is that it refuses to dissociate itself from this anticonstitutional mania for the state-financed subversion of political dissent and radical-popular movements of reform. It has no values to propose other than the one single flattened-out value of the total security of the state. The more traditional and substantial conservative values of republicanism, limits, and constitutionality are all reduced in the National Review to the one imperious demand for
order, silence, sleep.
Tyranny was never a remedy for terror. Tyranny is terror. Tyranny and terror promote and multiply each other so well because each is the other’s only possible “legitimation.” But if they are actually the same, as any Socrates could show, then they cannot “legitimate” each other. The choice between terror and totalitarianism is a choice that can only be made-can-only be identified as a choice-by terrorists ‘ and tyrants. The democrat, the republican, and the independent among us will not be so quick to see terror and tyranny as opposite alternatives, but only as two sides of one coin, a single composite choice against liberty and humanity. The authentic rejection of terror mandates the rejection of tyranny. The authentic rejection of tyranny mandates the rejection of terror. There is no way to defend the democracy by the use of anti-democratic means. There is no anti-republican method corresponding to a republican purpose. There is no furtherance of national and personal, political and social independence through submission to national police controls. The state cannot at the same time uphold the law and trample it underfoot.
The liberal survey of the same forces, however, is disquietingly similar. As Copeland finds totalitarianism necessary, Andrew St. George finds it irresistible. Too enlightened to fall back on Copeland’s all-vindicating menace of Red terror as the legitimating raison d’etre of the clandestine American police state, St. George rather sees a monster he calls technofascism as emerging from the material conditions of ultramodern production, from the computerization of everyday fife. His position is sociologically sophisticated. He borrows knowledgeably from the Weberian literature and incorporates the pessimism of current observers like Jacques Ellul and Hannah Arendt without a trace of unconfidence.
St. George calls Watergate “the poisonous afterbirth of Vietnam…. An end to external conflict, the inward-turning of the nation’s aggressions, the unmistakable first step toward genuine convergence with our erstwhile totalitarian opponents.” He quotes Patrick McGarvey’s 1972 work, The CIA: The Myth and the Madness, “United States intelligence is now turning inward on the citizens of this country…. The next logical step would be for an administration to do exactly what its people suspect it of doing start mounting intelligence operations against citizen groups and assemblies.”
“Richard Nixon and John Mitchell,” continues St. George, “may have been instinctively, if not consciously, motivated toward Watergate by an intuitive sense that the era of foreign intervention was drawing to a close. [He is writing before the CIA-Chile exposures.] From now on America would have to generate the climate of defactualization and policeness [St. George finds the Hannah Arendt coinage useful] right at home if it wanted continued progress toward fully achieved, seamlessly engineered, cybernetically controlled techno-totalitarianism.”
Taking as his given the rapid growth in funds and prestige technology available to the national security complex, St. George asks how this complex arose, where it came from, and “what history is trying to tell us” about it. He writes, “Technological society is a matter of internal controls. The very concept of national security has changed; its focus is no longer on spies and seditionists, but on the bureaucracy’s internal power arrangements and hierarchical structures.” How has this transformation come about?
“Within a year of the Bay of Pigs,” he writes, “the CIA curiously and inexplicably began to grow, to branch out, to gather more and more responsibility for ‘the Cuban problem’ etc…. By the time of the 1965 U.S. military intervention in the Dominican Republic both the good guys and the bad guys – i.e., the ‘radical’ civilian politicos and the ‘conservative’ generals-turned out to have been financed by La Compania…. Owing largely to the Bay of Pigs, the CIA ceased-being an invisible government: it became an empire.”
Now he approaches a mysterious question. “The Agency had become a tireless data digger and interviewer and fact collector about the smallest details of life in Cuba under Castro-until the landing preparations began in earnest in early 1961. Then intelligence collection began to drop off: the `operators’ took over. It seemed that when the operational side of the Agency cut in, the intelligence side cut out. It was baffling…. The real question was: Why?”
Why did CIA-Intelligence “cut out” of the Bay of Pigs invasion at roughly the moment Kennedy was inaugurated, and why did CIA-Operations then “cut in”? To go to the heart of it, what seems strange on the assumption that the CIA is an integrated bureaucratic entity ceases to seem strange on the assumption-our assumption-that it is a house divided against itself. St. George might have been about to lay this important distinction bare. But he goes wrong. He chooses the path of “psychohistorical analysis” over the path of political criticism.
Arming himself pretentiously with Arendt’s “magisterial” concept of “defactualization” (information deteriorates upwards through bureaucracies), he sets out to treat the problem of clandestinism as a syndrome belonging to the domain of psychological aberration. St. George knows or surmises that a conflict shoots through the CIA, through the presidency, through the entire executive system, and that effective presidential command and control are the more deeply in doubt the deeper one goes into the heart of the national defense and security establishments. Then why try to explain breakdowns, when they occur, as though they were the result of “turning away from reality, from empirical data, provable facts, rational truth, toward image-making and self-deception.”? Why ignore the overwhelming differ¬entials of policy and faction at play in these breakdowns?
It is not Nixon himself, the Joint Chiefs, or the CIA whom Nixon, the Chiefs, and the CIA are deceiving, it is only ordinary people. Nixon knew he was secretly bombing Cambodia. The Joint Chiefs knew they were secretly bombing exempted targets in North Vietnam. The defense and security establishment knew that “peace with honor” was a slogan with a hatch in the bottom, and that the “peace” mandate Nixon would secure with it was prestructured for easy transmutation into a war mandate. Watergate cannot be reduced to a question of Nixon’s personal psychology. He was not deceiving himself, only others. He was not deceiving his class.
St. George lets the fashion for psychohistory guide him to the belief that the hero of the story will turn out to have been J. Edgar Hoover. St. George says Hoover distrusted and hated the CIA.
He thought of it as a viperine lair of liars and high-domed intellectuals, of insolent Yalies who sneered at Fordham’s finest, of rich young ne’er-do-wells who dabbled in spy work because they could not be trusted to run the family business, of wily “Princeton Ought-Ought” himself, “Dickie” Helms, who spun his tweedy web from an ultramodern, electronically secured enclave up the river in Virginia…. Hoover realized that inevitably, disastrously, the CIA’s tainted ways were seeping back home to America; there is a vengeful law of historic osmosis about these things.
“Hoover was proven fatally right,” St. George continues, blithely putting his own ideas into the dead director’s mind and altogether overlooking the fact that it was the director himself who already launched in May 1968 a concerted, all out FBI “counterintelligence” campaign “to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents” Certainly Hoover struggled with the CIA about domestic intelligence, just as he opposed the Huston Plan, but that was because he saw the CIA and the White House as rivals to the FBI, as rival power bases, not because he had suddenly grown sentimental about the Constitution and democracy.
Yet St. George’s larger point about the growth of the national-security complex stands up. Estimating the CIA staff at 150,000 and the total national security budget at $10 billion a year, he confronts the meanings of this with honest emotions: “One should pause to absorb this in its full… innovative enormity,” he writes, “a United States Senator tapped and trailed on his legislative rounds by American Army agents but there are facts and figures to back up the claim: Senator Ervin’s other investigating committee, the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, ‘revealed last year, in a report that went largely unnoticed, that by 1969 the Army-not the Defense Department [and not the CIA], just the Army-had built up a massive system’ for keeping watch on U.S. politics…. The simple fact is that as the Sixties turned into the Seventies, America became a nation under surveillance.” Say it with trumpets. Blow the alarm. This did not stop with Watergate.
No doubt, as Copeland’s example teaches, the persistence of left-wing terror in the world scene will make an easy excuse for totalitarian-minded persons. No doubt, as St. George’s example teaches, the computerization of everyday life will seem to embody an irresistibly transcendent force. But let us remember that we are actually looking back on the certain knowledge of a clandestine America which these writers can still pretend to see as a future threat. We are trying to understand the onset of an achieved, not merely a prognosticated, predicament. So we may not be so abstract. We must find the concrete mechanisms. The way into the blind snarls of clandestinism was not led by pious elders seeking to quiet the public sleep or by robots programmed with a contempt for democracy. The way was taken step by step by ordinary human beings acting under the burden of ordinary human motives. The following three examples will bear out the importance of this innocuous reminder.
The Round Table
The John Birch Society maintains that linked up with, if not actually behind, the International Communist Conspiracy is a higher-level super cabal of internationalists of the United States and Western Europe, led here by the Rockefeller-Morgan group and there by the Rothschilds, whose purpose is to create a unified world political order. “This myth,” writes its most temperate and only first-hand historian, Carroll Quigley (Tragedy and Hope, Macmillan, 1966), “like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, the way the radical right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups [e.g., as we see below, the Nazis] and frequently does so.”
Quigley studied the operations of the Round Table first hand for twenty years and for two years during the early 1960s was permitted access to its papers and secret records. He objects to a few of its policies (e.g., its conception of England as an Atlantic rather than a European power), but says his chief complaint about the Round Table is its secrecy a secrecy which he comes forward to break. “The American branch of this organization, sometimes called `The Eastern Establishment,’ has played a very significant role in the history of the United States in the last generation,” he writes “and I believe its role in history is significant enough to bi known.”
The Round Table Groups, by Quigley’s detailed report, are semi-covert policy and action groups formed at the turn of the first decade of this century on the initiatives of the Rhodes Trust and its dominant Trustee of the 1905-1925 period, Lord Milner. Their original political aim was federation of the English-speaking world along lines laid down by Cecil Rhodes.
By 1915, Round Table Groups were functioning in England and in six outposts of the Empire-South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the United States. The U.S. group included George Louis Beer, Walter Lippmann, Frank Aydelotte, Whitney Shepardson, Thomas W. Lamont, Jerome D. Greene, and Erwin D. Canham of the Christian Science Monitor, a Yankee bouquet.
The organization was originally financed by the associates and followers of Cecil Rhodes, chiefly from the Rhodes Trust itself, but since 1925, according to Quigley, substantial contributions have come from wealthy individuals, foundations, and firms associated with the international banking fraternity, especially the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, and other organizations associated with J. P. Morgan, the Rockefeller and Whitney families, and the associates of Lazard Brothers and of Morgan, Grenfell, and Company. The chief link-up in this organization was once that of the Morgan Bank in New York to a group of international financiers in London led by Lazard Brothers, but at the end of the war of 1914, the organization was greatly extended. In England and in each dominion a group was set up to function as a cover for the existing local Round Table Group.
In London, this front was the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which had as its secret nucleus the existing Round Table Group. The New York group was the Council on Foreign Relations. The Morgan men who dominated the CFR went to the Paris Peace Conference and there became close to a similar group of English experts recruited by Milner. There thus grew up “a power structure” linking London and New York banks and deeply penetrating “university life, the press, and the practice of foreign policy.”
The founding aims of this elaborate, semisecret organization were “to coordinate the international activities and outlooks of all the English-speaking world into one … to work to maintain peace; to help backward, colonial, and underdeveloped areas to advance toward stability, law, and order and prosperity, along lines somehow similar to those taught at Oxford and the University of London….” These aims were pursued by “gracious and cultured gentlemen of somewhat limited social experience…. If their failures now loom larger than their successes, this should not be allowed to conceal the high motives in which they attempted both.”
Quigley calls this relationship between London and New York financial circles “one of the most powerful influences in twentieth-century American and world history. The two ends of this English-speaking axis have sometimes been called, perhaps facetiously, the English and American Establishments. There is, however, a considerable degree of truth behind the joke, a truth which reflects a very real power structure. It is this power structure which the Radical Right in the United States has been attacking for years in the belief that they are attacking the Communists.”
Am I borrowing on Quigley then to say with the far right that this one conspiracy rules the world? The arguments for a conspiracy theory are indeed often dismissed on the grounds that no one conspiracy could possibly control everything. But that is not what this theory sets out to show. Quigley is not saying that modern history is the invention of an esoteric cabal designing events omnipotently to suit its ends. The implicit claim, on the contrary, is that a multitude of conspiracies contend in the night. Clandestinism is not the usage of a handful of rogues, it is a formalized practice of an entire class in which a thousand hands spontaneously join. Conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means.
What we behold in the Round Table, functioning in the United States through its cover organization, the Council on’ Foreign Relations, is one focal point among many of one among many conspiracies. The whole thrust of the Yankee/ Cowboy interpretation in fact is set dead against the omnipotent-cabal interpretation favored by Gary Allen and others of the John Birch Society, basically in the respect that it posits and divided social-historical American order,’ conflict-wracked and dialectical rather than serene and hierarchical, in which results constantly elude every faction’s intentions because all conspire against each and each against all.
This point arose in a seminar I was once in with a handful of businessmen and a former ambassador or two in 1970 at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. The question of – conspiracy in government came up. I advanced the theory that government is intrinsically conspiratorial. Blank incredulous stares around the table. “Surely you don’t propose there is conspiracy at the top levels?” But only turn the tables and ask how much conspiring these men of the world do in the conduct of their own affairs, and the atmosphere changes altogether. Now they are all unbuttoned and full of stories, this one telling how he got his competitor’s price list, that one how he found out whom to bribe, the other one how he gathered secret intelligence on his own top staff. Routinely, these businessmen all operated in some respects covertly, they all made sure to acquire and hold the power to do so, they saw nothing irregular in it, they saw it as part of the duty, a submerged part of the job description. Only with respect to the higher levels of power, around the national presidency, even though they saw their own corporate brothers skulking about there, were they unwilling to concede the prevalence of clandestine practice. Conspiratorial play is a universal of power politics, and where there is no limit to power, there is no limit to conspiracy.
The Round Table is not the only source of American clandestinism. As we are to see, there are other main roads to the self-same city. I call attention to it because it is precisely the kind of semi-hidden organization that standard consciousness does not recognize as a force in the flow of events, and yet whose influence is vast. When I read in Quigley’s account of the Round Table that it was “concerned only to bring the English-speaking world into a single power unit, chiefly by getting the United States and Great Britain to support common policies,” I suffer a painful shock of recognition: How much of what we most take for granted about the political world, how much of standard thought, is the artifact of Yankee bankers?
The Derivation of Kennedy
John Kennedy was not by personal heritage a Round Tabler any more than his family was by type or beginnings an Establishment Yankee family. On the contrary. He was the great-grandson of an emigrant Irish cooper and the grandson of a ward-heeling East Boston saloonkeeper. His father Joseph, the founder of the dynasty (if indeed the family is to prove dynastic), was an operator, speculator, wheeler-dealer and Prohibition-era smuggler whose drive for wealth, power and social status was easily worthy of any new-rich Cowboy, and who was in fact often snubbed by the Boston brahminate.
According to Quigley, JFK’s “introduction to the Establishment arose from his support of Britain in opposition to his father [FDR’s ambassador to the Court of St. James and an ardent anti-interventionist] in the critical days at the American Embassy in London in 1938-40. His acceptance into the English Establishment opened its American branch as well” (p. 1245). But maybe this rounds off .the corners too much. At that time, JFK was a mere Harvard stripling, and according to his father’s biographer, Richard J. Whalen (The Founding Father, New American Library-World, 1964), he was wholly influenced by his father’s political views. According to Whalen (p. 294), JFK’s senior thesis, published in 1940 as Why England Slept, “was almost a carbon copy of his father’s position.” JFK followed his father in excusing Munich, defending Chamberlain, and blaming Britain’s military unpreparedness for World War II on “the slowness of the British democracy to change from a` disarmament policy.”
How could the Founder have so misread the situation of ‘ European spirit? Whalen says (p. 348) that Joseph “might have muddled through-except for one failing. He identified himself with the `top people’ in England and moved to embrace their views. But these men and women of lofty rank and distinguished lineage belonged to a dying England. Dazzled, charmed, delighting in his acceptance, Kennedy spent little time at other levels of society, in the company of men holding radically different (though not necessarily `radical’) opinion, who would lead England’s struggle and revive her spirit in the days of supreme trial. The intimate of those who first lost their function, then their faith in ‘ themselves and in their country, Kennedy rode high and handsome at their side, and shared their fall.”
Thus, a rather more likely explanation of the British Establishment’s initial interest in seeing the Kennedys elevated socially and thus politically in the United States is that the aristocrats in whom the arriviste ambassador took such delight were themselves mesmerized by Hitler’s military power and spiritually incapable of challenging it.
German U-boats had already been sinking defenseless U.S. merchants within sight of East Coast beaches when a string of sabotage incidents on the East Coast docks climaxed in 1942 in the burning of the French liner Normandie, just on the eve of its rechristening as an Allied freighter. The event showed Roosevelt how easily Mussolini’s saboteurs could strike at the base of U.S. shipping.
Meyer Lansky, meanwhile, chief minister of organized crime, was troubled because certain Mafia families were proving reluctant to join the larger Syndicate which he had been building since Prohibition under the yellow and black colors of Lucky Luciano. Luciano had been jailed in 1937 by New York D.A. Thomas Dewey, and Lansky had been operating since as his top man in the world of the other capos, where his main problem was how to persuade the Sicilian holdouts to accept the executive leadership of a Jew.
Different students of organized crime in America interpret Lansky’s role in different ways. The perceptive and original Alfred McCoy, for example; in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), treats Luciano himself, not Lansky, as the first wholly modern executive of crime and attributes to him, not Lansky, the insights that led to the current federation of previously autonomous criminal groups around particular rackets and particular cities.
But Hank Messick, who develops the point in a string of unique books of crime reportage, notably Lansky (1971) and John Edgar Hoover (1972), thinks Luciano’s greatest genius lay in his grasp of Lansky’s greater genius, and that Lansky was always the main strategist in bringing big crime to accept the standpoint of the Harvard Business School and the necessity of monopoly-style business rationalization. McCoy would agree that Lansky at least became the top boss after Luciano’s sudden death by heart attack in a Naples airport in 1962. I follow Messick on the point if only because Lansky was Luciano’s front man in the real world during the nearly ten years Luciano was imprisoned and carried out the concrete tasks that actually brought the new super-corporate organization, “the Syndicate,” into existence.
But this difference matters little for the current point. Whether it was Lansky’s or Luciano’s doing or the doing of “social forces” pushing towards “multicorporatism” in every sphere of exchange, in business and politics as well as in crime, in Hughes’s and Rockefeller’s and Nixon’s worlds as well as Lansky’s, the fact of expansion and integration, of the centralizing of business authority in an unimpeachable bureaucracy, is the main fact of organized crime’s inner life from Prohibition on, and it seems appropriate to associate this general movement with the long period of Lansky’s preeminence.
Roosevelt’s problem then was how to guarantee the security of the docks against Fascist sabotage. Lansky’s problem was how to complete the organization of the Syndicate. What artist of the possible saw the convergence of these two problems in a common solution?
The precise origins of “Operation Underworld” are not public knowledge. Both McCoy and Messick fasten upon a Brooklyn shipyards office of U.S. Naval Intelligence. That would not mean the initiative was necessarily federal or the Navy’s. The idea could have been dropped there by any messenger. In any case, it came down to a straightforward proposition. Lansky first turns to the reluctant capo and says: What if I can free thy leader, Luciano? Then he turns to the anxious Roosevelt and says: What if I can secure thy docks against sabotage?
The offer Lansky made in particular was simply for Roosevelt to intervene in the Luciano matter, although from the prosperity enjoyed by organized crime during World War II, it may appear to imply that the deal went much further and actually entailed federal protection for certain areas of Syndicate wartime acfivity, e.g., smuggling.
Luciano was moved right away from the remote Dannemora Prison to the more comfortable and spacious Great Meadow Prison north of Albany. His accessibilities thus improved, he lived out the war years in a style befitting the prisoner who is also the jailer’s benefactor and a party to a larger arrangement with the throne. Promptly on V-E Day, his lawyer filed the papers that opened the doors for his release and deportation to Sicily. He would shortly return to his Godfatherly duties in the exile capital Lansky had been preparing all the while in Havana. Lansky delivered Luciano and won federal protection. The Syndicate was made. But that only began it. Syndicate collaboration with the American war effort went much further.
The Sicilian Mafia, for example, had been all but wiped out by Mussolini in fascism’s long violent rise to power. The Mafia was a power rival and Mussolini crushed it bloodily. But when General George Patton landed on Sicily with the Seventh Army’s Third Division in 1943, he came with instructions to fly Luciano’s black and yellow scarf along with the Stars and Stripes and to seek out the tactical support of local Mafiosi, who would offer themselves as guides and informants. This support may or may not have been of measurable military value. The Kefauver Committee theorized later that it was too slight to have justified the release of Luciano on patriotic grounds. But what Patton’s tanks meant to the Mafia was purely and simply its restoration to power in Sicily.
Then in 1944 Roosevelt wanted Batista to step aside in Cuba. The most persuasive confidential ambassador he could think of, the best man for delivering such a message to Batista, Messick reports, was Lansky himself. Whom else would Batista listen to?
Lansky and Batista had first met ten years before in the year of Repeal, 1934. Lansky had seen that the coming legalization of liquor might give an enormous business opportunity to those who had run it when it was illegal. So as Repeal drew nearer, he started shopping for raw material sources, for all the world like a run-of-the-mill corporate-imperial businessman.
He got to Havana in 1934 shortly after Batista first won power. The two men found themselves in deep harmony. Lansky stayed three weeks and worked out with Batista the arrangements that would bring molasses from Cuban cane to Syndicate-controlled distilleries and set up Havana as a major gaming capital of the Western hemisphere.
From these beginnings, the Lansky-Batista association prospered greatly over the next decade. No one better than Lansky could have carried Roosevelt’s message, nor could Batista have wiled away his exile period in a more appropriate or comfortable setting than the Palm Springs mansion which Lansky made available. When the wind changed yet another time in the early 1950s and it was time for Batista to go back to Cuba and resume command, it was again Lansky who gave Batista the word to move.
In France, too, the forces of crime were integrated into U.S. efforts to establish anti-Communist postwar governments, notably at Marseilles, where the World War II CIA (OSS) employed Corsican Syndicate goon-squads to break the French Communist Party’s control of the docks. It was another twisted situation. The main serious wartime resistance to European fascism was that of European Communists. Their resistance was militarily and therefore politically significant. Beyond Communist Party activity, resistance to Nazi Germany had been fragmentary or weak willed and ineffectual. The non-Communist left (e.g., the groups around Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus) had prestige but little combat or political-organizational capability. The rest of the country collaborated.
With no interference from outside, the natural result of this disposition of factors in postwar Europe might easily have been the immediate rise of the Communist Party to great power if not dominance in French affairs.
The same thing was threatening to happen all across Europe. Given that American policy was committed to the achievement of a non-Communist postwar Western Europe, there was possibly no way for the pacification effort to have avoided collusion with crime. Besides the Corsican Syndicate, there was no other group sufficiently organized and ‘disciplined to challenge the French CP for control of the Marseilles docks. A result is that Marseilles became within a few years the heroin-manufacturing capital of the Western world and the production base of the Lansky-Luciano-Trafficanto heroin traffic into the American ghetto.
The integration of the forces of law with the forces of organized crime extends from the municipal to the federal level. It takes in vast reaches of the law-enforcement and security establishment: police, military, paramilitary, and private alike. It constitutes a burden of corruption possibly already too heavy to be thrown off.
When we look back from Watergate to find the causes of it all, the Yankee wartime leadership’s amazing opportunism looms large. With Operation Underworld, Roosevelt made the Mafiosi all but official masters of the U.S. East Coast docks and gave implicit protection to their activities everywhere. With his instructions to Patton in 1943, he restored the Mafia to power in Sicily. When he sent Lansky to Batista in 1944, he paved the way for the spread of Syndicate influence throughout the Caribbean and Central America. When he directed the CIA to use Syndicate thugs at Marseilles in 1945, he licensed the heroin factories that would be feeding the American habit into a contagion virtually unchecked over the years of the Cold War.
One can easily enough sympathize with Roosevelt’s desire to strike at the Axis powers with whatever weapons came to hand, and especially to do something to protect the docks. But we must also judge his acts by their longer-term consequences. Certainly we cannot say it is all Nixon’s fault if during his novice and formative years in political administration, when he and Rebozo may have found themselves in a relationship around black market tires in wartime Miami (see below), he should have come upon the idea, FDR-sponsored, that some crooks were patriotic, and the patriotic ones were okay to do business with, just as though a few purchased gestures of patriotism could make crime itself legitimate. Fine word, legitimate. Operation Underworld is one of the roots of Operation Gemstone. Roosevelt is one of the authors of Watergate.
The Derivation of Nixon
Tricky is perhaps the most despicable President this nation has ever had. He was a cheat, a liar and a crook, and he brought my country, which I love, into disrepute. Even worse than abusing his office, he abused the American people. -Earl Warren
Nixon is commonly supposed to have been introduced to Bebe Rebozo by Richard Danner, the courier and connecter who left the FBI to become city manager of Miami Beach at. a time when it was under the all-but-open control of the Mob. Danner first met Nixon at a party thrown in Washington in 1947 by another newly elected congressman, George Smathers. Smathers was by that time already an intimate friend and business partner of Rebozo and a friend of Batista. When Nixon vacationed in Havana after his 1952 election to the vice-presidency, Syndicate-wise Danner used his clout with Lansky’s man Norman “Roughhouse” Rothman to get gambling credit at the Sans Souci for Nixon’s traveling companion, Dana Smith. We recall Dana , Smith as the manager of the secret slush fund set up to finance Pat Nixon’s cloth coats, the exposure of which led to the famous Checkers TV speech during the 1952 campaign. Smith dropped a bundle at the Sans Souci and left Cuba: without paying it back. Safe in the States, he repudiated the debt. That infuriated Rothman. Nixon was forced to ask the State Department to intervene in Smith’s behalf.
It is poetically satisfying to imagine Nixon and Rebozo meeting through Danner. When Danner reenters in the next to last act of Watergate with the $100,000 from Hughes which only he seems to have been able to deliver, we may sense a wheel coming full circle. But there is the possibility also that Rebozo and Nixon actually connected in Miami in 1942, and it is almost certain that they knew of each other then, as will emerge.
Here are the fragments with which we reconstruct Rebozo: (1) he is associated with the anti-Castro Cuban exile community in Florida; (2) an all-Cuban shopping center in Miami is constructed for him by Polizzi Construction Co., headed by Cleveland Mafioso Al “The Owl” Polizzi, listed by the McClellan crime committee as one of “the most influential members of the underworld in. the United States”; (3) his Key Biscayne Bank was involved in the E. F. Hutton stock theft, in which the Mafia fenced stolen securities through his bank.
Rebozo’s will to power appears to have developed during the war, when he made it big in the “used-tire” and “retread” business. Used-tire distributors all over the country; of course, were willingly and unwillingly turned into fences of Mafia black market tires during the war. Rebozo could have been used and still not know it.
He was born in 1912 in Florida to a family of poor Cuban immigrants, was ambitious, and by 1935 had his first gas station. By the time the war was over, his lucrative retread business had turned him into a capitalist and he was buying up Florida land. Before long he was buying vast amounts of it in partnership with Smathers and spreading thence into the small-loans business, sometimes called loan-sharking. From lending he went to insuring. He and Smathers insured each other’s business operations. His successes soon carried him to the sphere of principalities and powers the likes of W. Clement Stone of Chicago and the aerosol king Robert Abplanalp, both of whom met Nixon through him. Also during the war, Rebozo was navigator in a part-time Military Air Transport Command crew that flew military transports to Europe full and back empty, which some find a Minderbinderesque detail.
During the first year of the war, before going into the Navy, Nixon worked in the interpretations unit of the legal section of the tire-rationing branch of the Office of Price Administration. Investigator Jeff Gerth has discovered that three weeks after Nixon began this job, his close friend-to-be, George Smathers, came to federal court for the defendant in this case, United States vs. Standard Oil of Kansas. U.S. Customs had confiscated a load of American-made tires reentering the country through Cuba in an “attempt to circumvent national tire rationing,” i.e., bootleg tires. Smathers wanted to speed up the case for his client, and so wrote to the OPA for a ruling. His letter must have come to Nixon, who, OPA records show, was responsible for all correspondence on tire rationing questions. It was therefore Nixon’s business to answer Smathers. Especially since this was the first knock on the door, it would be nice to know what Nixon said and how the matter was disposed of. “Unfortunately,” reports Gerth, “most OPA records were destroyed after the war. The court file for this case is supposed to be in the Atlanta Records Center, but a written request submitted to the clerk of the civil court on July 6, 1972, has not been honored, despite the usual one week response time. Written questions submitted to President Nixon and Bebe Robozo have also gone unanswered. Among the relevant questions is whether Miami was one of the regional offices Nixon set up.
Was this the bending of the twig? And if Rebozo and Nixon actually did meet then, even if only through bureaucratic transactions around the flow of tires, then they met within the sphere of intense Syndicate activity at a time when Roosevelt’s Operation Underworld had conferred immense prestige and freedom of movement on Syndicate activities. Could the Nixon-Rebozo relationship escape being affected by FDR’s truce between law arid crime?
Let us spell out this theory of Nixon’s beginnings in A-B-C simplicity.
Prohibition: Organized crime takes over the distilleries industry.
Repeal: Bootlegging goes legit, the Syndicate thereby expanding into the sphere of “legal” operations. This is the first big foothold of organized crime in the operations of the state.
Cuba/Batista: Lansky goes to Cuba in 1934 in search of a molasses source, meets and courts the newly ascendant strongman Batista, stays three weeks and lays plans for developing Havana into the major off-shore freezone of State-side organized crime, Cuba playing the role in the Caribbean of Sicily and Corsica in the Mediterranean.
World War II: In despair of otherwise securing the physical security of the docks against sabotage which may or may not have been Fascist-inspired, Roosevelt accepts a secret arrangement with organized crime. He comforts Luciano in prison and agrees to release him to exile at the end of the war. He generates an atmosphere of coalition with crime for the duration. In that atmosphere, Syndicate projects prosper. But one of the smugglers, Kansas Standard, gets too brazen and is caught, perhaps, by naive customs officials. Smathers takes the case for the defendant and thus comes into contact with Nixon.
Noting Gerth’s discovery that the records of this case have inexplicably disappeared from the files, noting Rebozo’s involvement in the tire business and his rapid enrichment during World War II, and noting Smathers’s well-known affection for Cuban associations, we generalize to the straight-forward hypothesis that Nixon may have been fused to the Syndicate already in 1942. Was his 1944 stint in the Navy a sheep-dipping? Look at this rise: 1946: Nixon for Congress; 1948: Nixon for Congress (II); 1950: Nixon for Senate; 1952: a heartbeat away.
So it is another Dr. Frankenstein story. The Yankees beget in sheer expediency and offhandedness the forces that will later grow strong enough to challenge them for leadership. Operation Underworld was the supreme pioneering joint effort of crime and the state, the first major direct step taken toward their ultimate covert integration in the Dallas-Watergate decade.
The Gehlen Organization
Recall two generals of World War II. First, General Andrei Vlassov, a Red Army officer secretly working with an extensive anti-Bolshevist spy ring. He joined up his forces with the advancing Germans during the invasion of the Ukraine, where the Bolsheviks had collected. Vlassov commanded the co-called Army of Liberation, a full division of more or less well equipped troops fighting under the flag of Great White Russian reaction for the restoration of the Czar.
And second, General Reinhard Gehlen, the famous “superspy” of the same war, master of Hitler’s powerful Soviet intelligence apparatus. The practical basis of the great success of Gehlen’s Soviet intelligence system was his relationship to Vlassov. Through Vlassov, Gehlen had access to the Russian anti-Bolshevist underground network that had long since penetrated if not captured key departments of the Soviet regime. At a moment in their invasion when the Nazis still though themselves on the brink of triumph, Gehlen proposed to Hitler that Vlassov be made the head of the forthcoming provisional government. Hitler declined, presumably out of respect for Vlassov’s power, but the relationship between Gehlen and Vlassov and their spy systems remained intact, even after the defeat of the Wehrmacht in the Battle of Stalingrad, winter of 1942-43.
By Christmas 1944 Gehlen had reached the belief that Germany’s cause was hopeless. Against the certainty of national defeat, he decided that his only personal choice lay between surrender to the Russians and surrender to the Americans.
In April 1945, with the Russian army closing on Berlin, Gehlen gathered together with his top aides in a hotel room in Bad Elster, Sazony, to begin the decisive and most dangerous step of their decision. They stripped their archives of the intelligence information that would be most useful to them in subsequent negotiations. Burning tons of other documents, they stored their basic intelligence cache in fifty-two crates and with elaborate security measures moved these crates south into the Bavarian Redoubt and buried them in a high mountain field called Misery Meador, overlooked by the chalet which Gehlen’s foresight had long before provisioned. Safe there with his forty top aides and his buried spy treasures, Gehlen settled down to await the Americans.
By May Day 1945 the Red Army was in Berlin and Hitler was dead. Three weeks later, columns of the 101st Airborne moved up the valley below Gehlen’s mountain fortress. Gehlen’s aides descended from the upper slopes to present themselves for capture and arrange an appointment for the capture of their commander, the highest-ranking German officer and Hitler’s only staff general yet to make his way to safety in American hands.
No ceremonies were slighted. One interview followed another. Captured in May, Gehlen arrived in Washington three months later, August 22, 1945, in the uniform of a general of the United States Army, flown there in the command transport of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. In a series of secret meetings with Allen Dulles and Wild Bill Donovan of the OSS, he laid out in detail the proposal – the surrender conditions, essentially – which he was offering the Americans.
Postwar Europe, he pointed out, as everyone knew, was certain to become the arena of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union ultimately even greater than the confrontation just ending between the victorious Allies and the vanquished Axis powers. The Soviets, he said, were well prepared for this new confrontation from an intelligence standpoint, as who better than he could say, and the Americans were not. The Russians had a crack spy network in West Europe and America, but the Americans did not have a spy network of any kind or quality in East Europe and Russia. Did that not put the Americans at an important disadvantage in the forthcoming stuggles?
Then where and how could the Americans procure the needed capability? Recruiting and training a corps of Russian and Central European intelligence agents and building a network of reliable sources and experts nearly from scratch could take years, generations. The Americans agreed with Gehlen that they did not have that much time.
Very well, Gehlen had a practical solution to this very problem. His own intelligence apparatus was still intact within the collapsing Hitler government. It was as capable as ever of delivering large masses of high-quality intelligence data on all aspects of Soviet life. Hitler had never taken advantage of this capability, Gehlen explained. Hitler had ignored Gehlen’s organization and had gone on to ruin. Still it was there. It might have been put to better use. It still could be, should the Americans accept his offer.
Gehlen’s offer was for the Americans to pick up his organization bodily and bolt it into the empty space of their own intelligence system, as though it were one of the spoils of the war. Gehlen could plausibly guarantee his network’s unmatched and unbending loyalty to the cause of anti-Bolshevism and the fifty-two crates he had buried in Misery Meadow were tangible proofs of his power and a foretaste of secret knowledge to come.
All the Americans had to do was to meet Gehlen’s four conditions. First, Gehlen was to have complete autonomy within his organization and total control over its activities. The Americans would tell him what they wanted and they would get it, satisfaction guaranteed, but they would have to know nothing about the process by which Gehlen got it to give them; that knowledge was Gehlen’s own. He even reserved the right to approve U.S. liason officers assigned to him. Second, the Americans would agree to use Gehlen only against the USSR and the East European satellites. Third, when a new German government was set up, the Americans would constitutionally install the Gehlen organization in it as its official central intelligence agency and cancel automatically all outstanding Gehlen commitments to the United States. Fourth, the Americans would never require Gehlen to do anything he considered against German national interests.
In the long and the short, our guys fell for it. Even as the United States was publicly proclaiming a policy of unconditional German surrender, Gehlen’s incredible conditions were met and his organization was being established at the very core and seat of the American system of foreign intelligence under the responsibility of Allen Dulles’s Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS. By the time of the transformation of the OSS into the CIA in 1948, Gehlen had grown tight with Dulles and his organization had become in effect the CIA’s department of Russian and East European affairs. Soon after the formation of NATO, it became the official NATO intelligence organization. And as per Gehlen’s third condition, his organization was installed as the core and he as the director of the West German CIA, the Bundesnachtendienst (BND).
We need to go no further into the exploits of this last long improbable phase of Gehlen’s career, save to note that it spans the Cold War, that it was current as of Watergate, and that Gehlen had to be pried out of a spy’s “retirement” in 1974 to testify in the sensational West German spy scandal that brought down Willy Brandt. Look what power the victors conceded the vanquished. Exclusive purveyor of intelligence on the Soviet Union and East Europe to the United States, West Germany, and NATO, Gehlen and the spirit kept alive in him and his staff had more power over the official American perceptions in the postwar than even a German victory could have given them. The Gehlen-Vlassov intelligence system had become a main source and fountain of official American consciousness.
Behold the span of this concatenation. First in the time of Trotsky there is General Vlassov and his anti-Bolshevist army and spy ring. The Vlassove apparatus is then at a certain later point assimilated to the Gehlen apparatus. Then just as the White Russian spies jumped to the Nazis when their own army went down, so now the German Nazi and Russian Czarist spies together jumped to the American army as the Wehrmacht was falling. Vlassov first became a department of Gehlen, then Gehlen became a department of Allen Dulles.
This is how it came to pass that a Czarist spy ring inside a Nazi spy ring took up the inner seats in the American foreign intelligence apparatus at the precise moment that this apparatus was starting to come forward as a major player in the great policy wars of Washington and the world. This is how it came to pass that everything official Washington would know about the Soviet Union and East Europe on the most believable report, everything about the enemy our policymakers would most confidently believe, would come by way of Czarists and Nazis installed at the center of our national intelligence system. That was a buzzard that would come home to roost again and again.
Clandestinism is a disease of republican twilight. Its coming bespeaks the degeneration of the constitutional republic into the military empire. It worsens when the empire shakes, as in the Vietnam war America was shaken. In the American case, it does not arise from the mere accident of the Round Table’s domination of the foreign service or of FDR’s ready capitulation to Syndicate extortion or the ideological gullibility of America’s wartime espionage elite before the rational blandishments of a Nazi superspy. Rather, such accidents themselves were given significance by the larger transformation taking place around them: the dissolution of the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union and the crystallizing in its place of the Cold War conflict between them. But one must always return to the specific events in which these larger forces unveiled themselves. Otherwise we repeat the conservative’s error of assuming that the state clandestinism results from the struggle against subversive terror instead of the struggle to maintain illegitimate state power, and the liberal’s error of thinking that fascism is a result of the high-technology era instead of the domination of this era by the activities of self-serving power elites.