Much mail has come in on the subject of Max Holland’s “The JFK Lawyers’ Conspiracy” [Feb. 20]. Below are letters from people who believe they, their organization or their views were unfairly represented by Holland and one from an eyewitness to some of the story. –The Editors
I’m the author of A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination and the Case That Should Have Changed History, my seventeenth book, whose credibility is attacked by Max Holland. Nation readers might give pause to Holland’s five-year campaign of outright falsehoods about the investigation into the Kennedy assassination by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that have appeared in a range of publications from The Wilson Quarterly, The Atlantic, New Orleans and the Washington Post to, now, The Nation.
Garrison focused on the clandestine service of the CIA as sponsor of the Kennedy assassination as a result of facts he discovered about Lee Harvey Oswald, specifically Oswald’s role as an FBI informant and low-level CIA agent sent to the Soviet Union by the CIA’s Chief of Counterintelligence, James Angleton, as part of a false defector program. What Garrison had not yet discovered was that Oswald also worked for the US Customs Service in New Orleans.
Contrary to Holland’s assertions of the innocence of Clay Shaw, the man Garrison indicted for participation in the murder of President Kennedy was indeed part of the implementation of the murder and was guilty of conspiracy. That Shaw was acquitted does not exonerate him for history. New documents indicate overwhelmingly that Shaw did favors for the CIA. On his deathbed he admitted as much. Shaw’s repeated appearances in Louisiana in the company of Oswald demonstrate that Shaw was part of the framing of Oswald for Kennedy’s murder. Shaw took Oswald to the East Louisiana State Hospital in an attempt to secure him a job there, one event among many never investigated by the Warren Commission or the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).
Holland’s assertion that Garrison based his conclusion that the CIA sponsored the assassination on a series of articles in an Italian newspaper is also incorrect. Garrison had focused on the CIA long before he learned that Shaw was on the board of directors of a CIA-funded phony trade front called Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC), based in Rome. Indeed, the newspaper Paese Sera broke the story of Shaw’s involvement after a six-month investigation into CIA interference in European electoral politics, only to discover that Garrison had indicted Shaw a few days before the first article was to appear. Moreover, the new documents reveal that CMC and its parent outfit, Permindex, were indeed CIA fronts.
The 1992 Assassinations Records and Review Act has disgorged dozens of documents showing that Shaw was a CIA operative. This is directly contrary to what Holland suggests–that Garrison was a willing victim of “the KGB’s wildest fantasy.” To cite one example, Shaw was cleared for a project dubbed QKENCHANT, which permitted him to recruit outsiders for CIA projects. Shaw was no mere businessman debriefed by the CIA. One document reveals that among those Shaw recruited in New Orleans was Guy Banister, former FBI Chicago Special Agent in Charge running an ersatz New Orleans detective agency whose side-door address (544 Camp Street) Oswald used on a set of his pro-Castro leaflets, until Banister stopped him.
The former editors of the now-defunct Paese Sera, whom I interviewed, from Jean-Franco Corsini to Edo Parpalione, insisted adamantly that neither the Italian Communist Party, nor the Soviet Communist Party, nor the KGB had any influence on the paper’s editorial policy. Outraged by Holland’s accusations, Corsini said that he despised the KGB and the CIA equally.
The roots of Holland’s charge that Garrison was a dupe of KGB propaganda may be traced to an April 4, 1967, CIA document titled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report.” In it the CIA suggests to its media assets that they accuse critics of the Warren Report of “Communist sympathies.” In April 1967 Garrison was at the height of his investigation: He is clearly the critic the CIA had in mind.
In 1961 Richard Helms had already developed the charge that Paese Sera was an outlet for the KGB and for Soviet propaganda. Helms was indignant, but the truth had appeared in Paese Sera: The attempted putsch against Charles de Gaulle by four Algerian-based generals had indeed been supported by the CIA. Holland has merely picked up where Helms, later to become a convicted perjurer, left off–repeating a scenario developed for him by Helms, with the addition of making the accusation of Soviet influence on Garrison.
My book is hardly a “hagiography of the DA,” as Holland states. I present a flawed man who exhibited great courage in facing down both the FBI and the CIA in his attempt to investigate the murder of the President. Indeed, Garrison family members were dismayed that I did not present him in a more idealized form. I depicted him as an ordinary man who rose to distinction because of his single-minded commitment to the investigation.
Among the many errors in Holland’s latest diatribe is that Shaw died “prematurely,” as if somehow Garrison’s prosecution hastened his end. In fact, Shaw was a lifelong chain smoker and died of lung cancer. Holland attacks Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the HSCA, for using acoustic evidence to suggest that there was a conspiracy in the Kennedy murder. In fact, the acoustic evidence of at least four shots being fired has been established scientifically by Donald Thomas in the British forensic journal Science and Justice (see also Thomas’s well-documented paper, available online, “Hear No Evil: The Acoustical Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination,” delivered November 17, 2001).
Blakey certainly can be criticized for his close relationship with the CIA throughout his HSCA investigation. His letters of agreement with the CIA are at the National Archives. The CIA decided how key witnesses were to be deposed, and Blakey acquiesced in all CIA demands and intrusions upon the investigation.
Before Blakey was hired, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg considered accepting the job as counsel. Knowing that the CIA had at the least covered up the facts of the assassination and at worst been involved, Goldberg telephoned CIA director Stansfield Turner and asked him whether, should he take the job, he would have full CIA cooperation. Silence emanated over the wires. Goldberg, naïve perhaps, asked Turner if he had heard the question. “I thought my silence was my answer,” Turner said. Goldberg declined the job. Blakey took it. It is no surprise that Holland, who has consistently defended the CIA, does not raise the issue of Blakey’s cooperation with the CIA during his HSCA tenure but focuses instead on Blakey’s conclusion, forced by the irrefutable acoustic evidence, that there was a conspiracy.
It is one thing for Holland to spread his disinformation in the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. It is quite another for The Nation to allow him continued access without debate to its pages to obfuscate, slander authors like myself and deny evidence fully established–in particular about Jim Garrison and how the new documents establish his credibility and reveal how close he came to the truth, and in general about the Kennedy assassination’s sponsors and accessories.
It began with a CIA document classified Top Secret. How do I know that? A decade after the assassination of President Kennedy, with the assistance of the ACLU, I won a precedent-setting lawsuit in the US District Court in Washington, DC, brought pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. The court ordered the police and spy organizations to provide to me many long-suppressed documents.
The CIA document stated that it was deeply troubled by my work in questioning the conclusions of the Warren Commission. The CIA had concluded that my book Rush to Judgment was difficult to answer; indeed, after a careful and thorough analysis of that work by CIA experts, the CIA was unable to find and cite a single error in the book. The CIA complained that almost half of the American people agreed with me and that “Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse, results.” This “trend of opinion,” the CIA stated, “is a matter of concern” to “our organization.” Therefore, the CIA concluded, steps must be taken.
The CIA directed that methods of attacking me should be discussed with “liaison and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors),” instructing them that “further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition.” The CIA stressed that their assets in the media should “point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists.” Further, their media contacts should “use their influence to discourage” what the CIA referred to as “unfounded and irresponsible speculation.” Rush to Judgment, then the New York Times number-one bestselling book, contained no speculation.
The CIA in its report instructed book reviewers and magazines that contained feature articles how to deal with me and others who raised doubts about the validity of the Warren Report. Magazines should, the CIA stated, “employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics,” adding that “feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.” The CIA instructed its media assets that “because of the standing of the members of the Warren Commission, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.” The CIA was referring to such distinguished gentlemen as Allen Dulles, the former director of the CIA; President Kennedy had fired Dulles from that position for having lied to him about the Bay of Pigs tragedy. Dulles was then appointed by Lyndon Johnson to the Warren Commission to tell the American people the truth about the assassination.
The purpose of the CIA was not in doubt. The CIA stated: “The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims” of those who doubted the Warren Report. The CIA stated that “background information” about me and others “is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.”
With this background we now turn to Max Holland’s Nation article, which states that there was a “JFK Lawyers’ Conspiracy” among four lawyers: former Senator Gary Hart; Professor Robert Blakey; Jim Garrison, the former District Attorney of New Orleans and later a state judge in Louisiana; and me.
Before I wrote Rush to Judgment I had never met any of the other three “co-conspirators.” I still have not had the pleasure of meeting Senator Hart, and I know of no work that he has done in this area. I met Professor Blakey only once; he had been appointed chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and at that meeting I told him that I was disappointed in his approach and methods. Not much of a lawyers’ conspiracy.
Each of the other statements as to alleged fact are false and defamatory. Holland states that I am not scrupulous, that I am dishonest and that I spread innuendo about the sinister delay in the Warren Commission investigation, an assertion not made by me but fabricated in its entirety by Holland. As a silent echo of his CIA associates Holland does not point to one assertion as to fact, of the thousands I have made about the facts surrounding the death of our President, that he claims is inaccurate.
Finally, Holland strikes pay dirt. He uncovers, are you ready for this, the fact that I had asserted that “the government was indifferent to the truth.” I confess. Is that now a crime under the Patriot Act? Isn’t that what The Nation is supposed to be asserting and proving?
Holland states that the KGB was secretly funding my work with a payment of “$12,500 (in 2005 dollars).” It was a secret all right. It never happened. Holland’s statement is an outright lie. Neither the KGB nor any person or organization associated with it ever made any contribution to my work. No one ever made a sizable contribution, with the exception of Corliss Lamont, who contributed enough for me to fly one time from New York to Dallas to interview eyewitnesses. The second-largest contribution was $50 given to me by Woody Allen. Have Corliss and Woody now joined Holland’s fanciful conspiracy?
Funds for the work of the Citizens Committee of Inquiry were raised by me. I lectured each night for more than a year in a Manhattan theater. The Times referred to the very well attended talks as one of the longest-running performances off Broadway. That was not a secret. I am surprised that Holland never came across that information, especially since he refers to what he calls “The Speech” in his diatribe.
Apparently, Holland did not fabricate the KGB story; his associates at the CIA did. There is proof for that assertion, but I fear that I have taken too much space already. For that information, contact me at email@example.com.
Am I being unfair when I suggest a connection between Holland and the CIA? Here is the CIA game plan: Fabricate a disinformation story. Hand it to a reporter with liberal credentials; for example, a Nation contributing editor. If the reporter cannot find a publication then have the CIA carry it on its own website under the byline of the reporter. Then the CIA can quote the reporter and state, ” according to…”
Holland writes regularly for the official CIA website. He publishes information there that he has been given by the CIA. The CIA, on its official website, then states, “According to Holland…” If you would like to look into this matter of disinformation laundering, enter into your computer “CIA.gov + Max Holland.” You will find on the first page alone numerous articles by Holland supporting and defending the CIA and attacking those who dare to disagree, as well as CIA statements attributing the information to Holland.
A question for The Nation. When Holland writes an article for you defending the CIA and attacking its critics, why do you describe him only as “a Nation contributing editor” and author? Is it not relevant to inform your readers that he also is a contributor to the official CIA website and then is quoted by the CIA regarding information that the agency gave him?
An old associate of mine, Adlai Stevenson, once stated to his political opponent, a man known as a stranger to the truth–if you stop telling lies about me I will stop telling the truth about you. I was prepared to adopt that attitude here. But I cannot. Your publication has defamed a good friend, Jim Garrison, after he died and could not defend himself against demonstrably false charges.
You have not served your readers by refusing to disclose Holland’s CIA association. The Nation and Holland have engaged in the type of attack journalism that recalls the bad old days. If I fought McCarthyism in the 1950s as a young lawyer, how can I avoid it now when it appears in a magazine that has sullied its own history? The article is filled with ad hominem attacks, name calling and fabrications, and it has done much mischief. I will hold you and Holland accountable for your misconduct. I can honorably adopt no other course.
To mitigate damages I require that you repudiate the article and apologize for publishing it. That you publish this letter as an unedited article in your next issue. That you do not publish a reply by Holland in which he adds to the defamation and the damage he has done, a method you have employed in the past. That you provide to me the mailing addresses of your contributing editors and members of your editorial board so that I may send this letter to them. I am confident that Gore Vidal and Bob Borosage, Tom Hayden and Marcus Raskin, all of whom I know, and many others such as Molly Ivins, John Leonard and Lani Guinier, who I do not know but who I respect and admire, would be interested in the practices of The Nation. In addition, I suggest that ethical journalism requires that in the future you fully identify your writers so that your readers may make an informed judgment about their potential bias.
If you have a genuine interest in the facts regarding the assassination you should know that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (the United States Congress) concluded that probably a conspiracy was responsible for the murder and that, therefore, the Warren Report that Holland defends so aggressively is probably wrong. In addition, the only jury to consider this question decided in a trial held in the US District Court in a defamation case that the newspaper did not defame E. Howard Hunt when it suggested that Hunt and the CIA had killed the President. The forewoman of the jury stated that the evidence proved that the CIA had been responsible for the assassination.
I have earned many friends in this long effort. Those who have supported my work include Lord Bertrand Russell, Arnold Toynbee, Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, Dr. Linus Pauling, Senator Richard Schweicker, Paul McCartney, Norman Mailer, Richard Sprague, Robert Tannenbaum and also members of the House of Representatives, including Don Edwards, Henry Gonzales, Andrew Young, Bella Abzug, Richardson Preyer, Christopher Dodd, Herman Badillo, Mervyn Dymally, Mario Biaggi and, above all, according to every national poll, the overwhelming majority of the American people. I have apparently earned a few adversaries along the way. Too bad that they operate from the shadows; that tends to remove the possibility of an open debate.
While many thought the 1979 report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations was the final word on President Kennedy’s murder, it wasn’t. In 1992 Congress passed the JFK Act. As a result, a huge volume of new materials are available for study.
One significant revelation is the extent to which the CIA was a focus of the committee’s probe. Another is the discovery by Jefferson Morley, a columnist for WashingtonPost.com, that the CIA corrupted the committee’s probe. The CIA brought former case officer George Joannides out of retirement to handle the committee’s inquiries about the relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and DRE, a CIA-funded Cuban exile organization. The CIA never told the committee that Joannides was DRE’s case officer when Oswald and DRE were in contact. Joannides then thwarted committee efforts to obtain CIA records about the DRE-Oswald relationship. Thus, the last official word on the assassination is that of a Congressional committee that was subverted by an agency that itself was a focus of the investigation.
These facts raise serious issues. The CIA’s conduct undermined democratic accountability and compromised the integrity of Congressional oversight on a matter of national security. Shouldn’t Congress now investigate to determine why the CIA sabotaged the probe? Was it because, as some former committee staffers have said, an element of the CIA was involved in the plot? Or is there some other explanation?
In 2004 and 2005 the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) held conferences to discuss the JFK assassination. On the issue of conspiracy, two scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discredited the last remaining basis for the single bullet theory (SBT), which theorized that both Kennedy and John Connally were hit by the same bullet, fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle–the sine qua non for the lone assassin theory. These eminent scientists said that due to scientific advances not only can the SBT not be substantiated but the fragments tested could have come from one–or as many as five–bullets, including a Remington or some other rifle. Holland mentions none of this.
Holland denounces the acoustics evidence proving there was a conspiracy. He misrepresents acoustics as being the only evidence the committee had of a conspiracy and mistakenly says that it is uncorroborated. In fact, the first acoustics panel was corroborated by the second. Both were further corroborated and strengthened by Donald Thomas’s study. Holland doesn’t mention Thomas, but does obliquely refer to the work of Richard Garwin.Thomas debated Garwin at the AARC conference. But as Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter George Lardner reported, Thomas “upstaged” Garwin, showing “how the noises coincided precisely with frames from the Zapruder film and echoes off buildings in Dealey Plaza reflecting the gunfire.” Lardner also noted that Garwin said he “had not studied the echoes.” Again, none of this is in Holland’s account.
Holland, winner of a CIA award for Studies in Intelligence, has been working on a book since 1993 defending the Warren Commission. In applying for an Anthony Lukas work-in-progress award in 2001, he said that as a result of his study “the Commission can emerge in a new light: battered somewhat but with its probity and the accuracy of its findings intact.” He also stressed that he had spent a full year researching “the remarkable effort of KGB disinformation on Garrison’s probe.” Holland debated this thesis with Gary Aguilar at the 2004 AARC conference. In my view, Holland lost hands down (a DVD of the conference is available through aarclibrary.org). In advancing his thesis, Holland relies on dubious materials, including the word of former CIA director Richard Helms, who was charged with perjury but copped a plea of withholding information from Congress.
Holland now uses the AARC’s 2005 conference to theorize that a vast conspiracy of lawyers “less scrupulous” than those at the Warren Commission spread KGB disinformation and convinced Congress and the American people that the Warren Report was wrong. This is a McCarthyite tactic for discrediting the AARC conferences and Warren Commission critics generally. It seems no one ever saw the Zapruder film showing JFK thrown violently to the left rear, no one ever looked at the Magic Bullet and concluded it was so undeformed it could not have done all the damage alleged. No, it was them bloody KGB disinformation lawyers that brainwashed them.
In 1967 the CIA directed its stations to tamp growing criticism of the Warren Report by discussing it with “liaison and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)” and “point out that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists.” The dispatch further instructs that stations “employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics,” saying that “book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.”
Holland’s piece on our conference looks as if it were written to specification. While I had not expected favorable coverage from Holland when I overrode the advice of friends and associates and honored The Nation‘s request that he be given journalistic privileges and courtesies, I hadn’t expected an attack of this character. The general opinion of attendees, repeatedly expressed to me personally, was that the 2005 conference was the best ever on the subject. Max Holland echoed this in an e-mail to me: “Having Garwin, Hart and Blakey give presentations made the conference superior to any I’ve attended. I’ll do my best to get an article in.”
JIM LESAR, president, AARC
Max Holland has engaged for years in propagating disinformation on behalf of the CIA concerning the investigation of its role in the official execution of John F. Kennedy. Holland’s Nation article expatiates upon his fabricated thesis that Jim Garrison’s evidence of the CIA’s role in the Kennedy murder derived from a series of articles in Paese Sera in 1967.
I sent those articles to Jim Garrison in my capacity as director of the Who Killed Kennedy? committee in London, whose members and supporters included Bertrand Russell, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Arnold Toynbee, Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinleck and Lord Boyd Orr. The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, of which I was then executive director, had conducted an extended investigation of the role of the CIA in fomenting and coordinating brutal repression, disappearances and assassinations, which culminated in a military putsch in Greece. Our Save Greece Now Committee unearthed concrete data regarding the role of the CIA and the Greek colonels that helped mobilize the movement for which Deputy Grigoris Lambrakis paid with his life. In the aftermath, our committee and its Greek leader, Michael Peristerakis, led a demonstration of more than 1 million that brought down the regime.
CIA activity across Europe led Paese Sera to undertake a six-month investigation into the role in Italy of the CIA, with its plans for a military coup. The CIA colonels’ coup in Greece unfolded shortly after Paese Sera‘s prescient series. Prominent writers and intellectuals, including Rossana Rossanda, K.S. Karol, Lelio Basso, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, supported Paese Sera.
This investigation was entirely unrelated to events in the United States or the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was fortuitous that the CIA front organizations in Italy that emerged from CIA plans to overthrow the Italian government included Centro Mondiale Commerciale and Permindex, of which Clay Shaw was a director in New Orleans.
Jim Garrison was well on the trail of Shaw and his role as a CIA handler of Lee Harvey Oswald before Paese Sera published its series of articles. When I sent them to Garrison, he had already charged Shaw in relation to the murder of Kennedy. Jim found the Paese Sera series confirmatory and important, but the articles were not admissible as evidence in court.
Holland has written repeatedly that Paese Sera was a “communist” paper and a conduit for KGB disinformation. In fact, Paese Sera was not unlike The Nation before Holland’s infiltration of it as a contributing editor (except Paese Sera was less inclined to defend the leaders of the Soviet Union than was The Nation during the decades since the 1930s). The Paese Sera fiction is real intelligence disinformation arising not from the KGB but from an April 7, 1967, directive by Helms to CIA media assets, “How To Respond to Critics of the Warren Report.”
What emerged from the investigative work of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and Paese Sera was the full evidence of the forty-year campaign of the CIA in Italy, now known as Operation Gladio, a campaign of terror that included the kidnapping and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro and the bombing of the Bologna railway station.
I worked with Jim Garrison for twenty years and sent him many documents, e.g., Secret Service Report 767, which cites the disclosure by Alan Sweat, chief of the criminal division of the Dallas Sheriff’s Office, of Lee Harvey Oswald’s FBI Informant Number S172 and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade’s citation of Oswald’s CIA number 110669.
Finally, Philip Zelikow, national security adviser to both Bush administrations and appointed by George W. Bush to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board immediately after the 9/11 attacks, has endorsed Holland’s specious charges in Foreign Affairs, even as he and Holland were colleagues at the Miller Institute. Zelikow, as head of the 9/11 Commission, has been a point man in covering up the role of US intelligence in the planning and implementation of the events of September 11.
It is fitting that the very individuals who protect the treason at the top that defines the official assassination of President Kennedy are performing that role in relation to the events of 9/11–a precise correlative to Operation Gladio, first exposed by the investigative work of Paese Sera, which linked the CIA murder apparatus in Italy to the one that murdered the head of state in America.
Holland seeks to present the investigators into official murder in America not as people of principle and daring but as disinformation tools of an intelligence service. When it comes to being a pimp for the imperium, Mr. Holland, Physician, heal thyself!
I commend The Nation for publishing Max Holland’s insightful article. In 1963 I worked in New Orleans as a cameraman for WDSU TV, and I met and talked with Lee Harvey Oswald on three occasions. I also knew Jim Garrison, and I knew the Cuban refugee Carlos Bringuier, who scuffled with Oswald on Canal Street on August 9, 1963. Three days later I photographed Oswald and Bringuier coming out of court after their “disturbing the peace” trial, and on August 16, I photographed Oswald handing out pro-Castro leaflets in front of the International Trade Mart on Camp Street.
In 1968 Garrison phoned me in San Francisco, where I was living, and asked if I would sell him a copy of my Oswald Trade Mart footage. I told him I’d gladly give him a copy. Then he went on to tell me a wild story about how the FBI was keeping WDSU and NBC News from providing him with a copy of the film because the bureau had had secret spies or agents with Oswald at the Trade Mart, directing his activities as part of a government “conspiracy.” Garrison said the Feds didn’t want him to see my film, since he might identify the government spooks with Oswald.
I was so shocked by that story that a day or so later I called a supervisor at the San Francisco FBI office and asked if he would call an appropriate person at the Washington headquarters to see if they would not want me to release the film to Garrison. I indicated that I might not release it if it involved “national security.” My objective was twofold: to find out if Garrison was wrong about the FBI trying to cover up my film, and to find out if he was right. If he was right, that was indeed a big story. But the supervisor called me back a day or two later and said that the guys in Washington didn’t care whether or not I gave Garrison the film. So I sent it to him, and after several months of studying it, the net result was that neither Garrison nor any of his investigators was able to turn up any FBI or other spooks with Oswald in the footage.
I worked and talked with Garrison many times when I was a news cameraman, and I always thought of him as an intelligent and sensible man. But after he began working on the JFK case and trying to invent bizarre government conspiracies about it, I came to realize the guy was going a bit bonkers and was apparently in the process of having a long, slow nervous breakdown.
Thirty-seven years after his phone call to me, a retired history professor found in some archives a copy of an FBI memo about my 1968 telephone call to the San Francisco FBI supervisor, and the professor fraudulently referred to it in his JFK conspiracy book as “documentation” that I had worked as an “FBI informant” in New Orleans in 1963!
Of course I had not, and the memo does not suggest in any way that I did. The professor’s story was simply fabricated, like hundreds of other phony JFK “conspiracy” stories. I was a young liberal/leftist in 1963, and I didn’t have any feelings of ill will toward Oswald at that time, nor did I have any contacts in the FBI. I thought Oswald was a little goofy and something of a crackpot to be handing out pro-Castro leaflets in a conservative Southern city just ten months after the Cuban missile crisis. But I learned in the news business long ago that crackpots do what crackpots think they need to do to modify the world in some way, and Oswald did what he thought he needed to do.
As I have carefully studied the JFK case myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that Oswald did act alone, and that President Kennedy might still be alive today if he had never made that trip to Dallas, or if Oswald had still lived in New Orleans on November 22, 1963. But the chance event of President Kennedy riding in an open limousine slowly down a street right in front of a building where a crackpot worked, especially a crackpot who owned a rifle with a telescopic sight, was just too much of an opportunity for the crackpot to pass up.
I’ve also come to realize that so many of these stupid, inaccurate and idiotic “conspiracy” stories are a waste of time and a distortion of history. Every minute wasted on pursuing a 1963 “conspiracy” while ignoring current important ongoing conspiracies is a minute lost.
And the conspiracy buffs who condemn honest, hard-working journalists like Holland remind me of the old 1950s film clips of Senator Joe McCarthy. I would hate to think that truth in historical reporting might be adversely influenced today by the use of such McCarthyite tactics against journalists like Holland who stick their necks out to report the truth about the JFK case and Jim Garrison’s ridiculous investigation of it.
Apparently, a word needs to be said about the article I wrote for Studies in Intelligence, a journal published by the CIA. The first iteration of this story, which exposed the impact of Soviet disinformation on Jim Garrison’s persecution of Clay Shaw, actually appeared in the Spring 2001 Wilson Quarterly. However, the Quarterly, like The Nation, does not run footnoted articles, and I wanted a fully documented version to appear, since I had conducted extensive interviews and research in Italy, and into CIA documents at the National Archives. There are only four English-language journals that print scholarly articles on intelligence (and if one is so inclined, it is a snap to “prove” they are all CIA-connected). Studies is the oldest, and I went there first. That’s the whole story, except that, yes, the article (available online) then also won an award.
Now to some brass tacks in the space I have available. Both Joan Mellen and Mark Lane make much of a CIA document that sounds very sinister–until you actually read it and put it into context. The document was written in April 1967, the height of the bout of madness otherwise known as the Garrison investigation. As one of the government agencies now being accused of complicity in the assassination, the CIA was very concerned about having such allegations gain widespread acceptance abroad in the midst of the cold war. “Innuendo of such seriousness affects…the whole reputation of the American government,” observed the CIA. So the agency launched a campaign, using its media assets abroad, to counter criticism of the Warren Report by the likes of Mellen, Lane and others. Is that really shocking?
Joan Mellen’s penchant for accuracy can be summed up in the fact that she cannot even bother to spell correctly (here or in her book) the names of Gianfranco Corsini and Edo Parpaglioni. Ordinarily, this would be nit-picking, but in this instance her elementary sloppiness is as good a window as any into the miasma of bald lies, misrepresentations and truthiness that she calls a book.
The claim that Paese Sera‘s lies about Shaw were the fortuitous result of a “six-month investigation” is a belated fiction embraced by Mellen and other Garrison acolytes. The co-author of the articles in question, Angelo Aver, claimed no such thing when interviewed in 2000, nor did any Paese Sera editors I contacted (including Corsini).
I find it illuminating that Lane has taken no legal action (not even in Britain!) against the authors (Christopher Andrew and KGB archivist-turned-defector Vasili Mitrokhin) and publishers of the 1999 volume that revealed “the [KGB’s] New York residency sent [Lane initially] 1,500 dollars to help finance his research” through an intermediary. That doesn’t necessarily mean it came in a lump sum. And neither Andrew/Mitrokhin nor I alleges that Lane was a witting recipient, just a useful one.
All the reliable forensic and scientific evidence developed around the JFK case either positively supports or does not negate the findings of the Warren Report. An explanation of the so-called acoustic evidence can be found at mcadams.posc.mu.edu/odell.
Jim Lesar has often attempted to impede The Nation‘s coverage of AARC conferences when I have been designated to cover them. On this go-round he hinted (before backing off) that a press credential would not be forthcoming unless The Nation guaranteed there would be an article. After the conference, impressed as I was by AARC’s ability to attract the likes of Dr. Richard Garwin, former Senator Hart and Professor Blakey, I wanted to assure Lesar that I would do my best to submit an article that the editors would deem worthwhile, even though it’s harder than ever to get into the magazine when writing about a largely historical subject. That didn’t mean, however, that I had checked my brains at the door.
An editing error in Gary Younge’s “Beneath the Radar” column in the last issue caused “collective-action lawsuit” to be rendered as “class-action lawsuit.” In the former, plaintiffs must opt in to the suit to be included; in the latter, all are included unless they opt out.