Man on the Grassy Knoll

December 20, 2009

This is a sketch of the Man on the Grassy Knoll by Houston PD Lois Gibson as described by witnesses Malcolm Summers.

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Malcolm Summers ran to the knoll moments after the shooting. He related the following in the 1988 documentary Who Murdered JFK?:

“I ran across the–Elm Street to right there toward the knoll. It was there [pointing to a spot on the knoll]–and we were stopped by a man in a suit and he had an overcoat–over his arm and he, he, I saw a gun under that overcoat. And he–his comment was, “Don’t you all come up here any further, you could get shot, or killed,” one of those words. A few months later, they told me they didn’t have an FBI man in that area. If they didn’t have anybody, it’s a good question who it was. ” (Anderson 14)

Michael T. Griffith, 1996

JFK Assassination Witness Summers Dies at 80
Mon Oct 18, 2004
DALLAS (Reuters) – Malcolm Summers, one of the closest eyewitnesses to
the John F. Kennedy assassination, has died of a heart ailment at age
of 80, a funeral home said on Monday.

Summers heard Jacqueline Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally scream
from the presidential limousine as it rolled through Dealey Plaza in
Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Summers, who was just a few yards from the incident, can be seen on the
famous movie of JFK assassination shot by amateur photographer Abraham
Zapruder as the man diving to the ground as the shots rang out.

“I heard Connally say, ‘They’re going to kill us all!” or ‘shoot us
all!’ I’m not sure which one on that deal. And then, I heard Jackie
Kennedy scream out, ‘Oh, God! No, no, no!’ And it was a shrill. It was
very sad to hear that when you think back,” Summers said in an oral
history recorded by the Sixth Floor Museum — a Dallas museum dedicated
to the JFK assassination.

Summers told police in a deposition at the time of the assassination he
thought someone had set off a firecracker and hit the ground when he
realized shots were being fired.

Conspiracy theorists, who do not believe accused presidential assassin
Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, have cited Summers as saying he saw
suspicious characters in the Dealey Plaza area.

Summers was born in Dallas and died on Oct. 8.


Chicago Mobster Charles Nicoletti

December 20, 2009
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Ruth Paine’s Garage

December 20, 2009
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Bill Kelly’s Review of Thomas Mallon’s “Mrs. Paine’s Garage.”

The Ghosts in the Attic, the Skeletons in the Closet and the Best of What’s Left Out of Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the Assassination of President Kennedy by Thomas Mallon (Pantheon Books – Random House, 2001) By Bill Kelly.

The answers to the most outstanding questions concerning the crime of the last century aren’t in Thomas Mallon’s book, Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the Assassination of President Kennedy, though they say that the primary evidence and the main suspect were at one time lodged in her house, where there’s still ghosts in the attic and skeletons in the closet.

The first question that comes to mind is why Ruth and Michael Paine – the patrons and sponsors of the family of the man accused of killing President Kennedy, – how come they weren’t primary witnesses before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) or the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB)? Certainly their testimony under oath should be on the public record, and the public shouldn’t be left with their lame Warren Commission testimony and now this book by a would-be novelist on a foundation scholarship who got his facts right but the story wrong.

Mallon wanted to write this book as a fictional novel, and while some literature often comes closer to the truth than the most factually detailed history, this isn’t one of them. It is to Mrs. Paine’s credit that in order to obtain her cooperation she insisted he write non-fiction, but somebody should have explained to Mallon that in writing such a thing he should use footnotes, document his sources and include an index.

While Mallon is more comfortable writing fiction, this case is not myth or legend, nor even history yet, as in the lifetime of living contemporaries it remains an unsolved homicide, and the contents of the Paine’s garage are not historical artifacts but are legally considered to be evidence in a murder case.

What became of the evidence and the contents of the garage is interesting and that the major questions still go unasked, let alone unanswered is typical of the perverted view exhibited by Mallon, who divides the world into two camps – the Conspiracy Theorists (CTs) and the Lone Nuts (LNs). Mallon is a LN, along with Ruth and Michael Paine, so he has sympathy with their plight, which is mitigated by the general belief that if there was a conspiracy, they too must have been involved.

That the ratio of those who know there was a conspiracy to those who believe in the Lone Nut thesis is 80% – 20% in favor of conspiracy doesn’t make this truth a democratic decision. Mallon’s book may be comforting to the LNs who want to believe Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy on a “spur of the moment decision,” as Mrs. Paine puts it, but the evidence is supportive not only of the understanding of most rational people that there was a conspiracy, but that the assassination was a well planned and successfully executed coup d’etat.

Alas, the world is not so simple as to be divided into just two camps, as there is also a third group that includes those who keep an open mind about such things as who is responsible for shooting the President of the United States in the head, and they try to approach the case as a homicide detective would. As with the assassination of civil rights activist Medger Evers, whose killer was convicted over thirty years after the crime, and the Birmingham bombings, the Mississippi Freedom Rider murders, the York, Pennsylvania race riot killings and other political crimes of the 1960s, the murder of President Kennedy will eventually receive belated but necessary justice.

When the authorities came to her house with a search warrant, Mrs. Paine did what every red blooded American housewife would have done, she went shopping while the cops rooted through her garage and bedroom.

If Mrs. Paine was subjected to the same justice that the Military Tribunal dished out to those who assisted John W. Booth in his flight from Ford’s Theater after shooting President Lincoln, she would have been hanged whether she was part of the conspiracy or not. Indeed, as Philadelphia attorney Vincent Salandria has said, if there was true justice in this case, Ruth and Michael Paine would be indicted rather than treated as victims, and truth, if not justice, will be better served.

In the pursuit of justice, Mallon’s book adds little other than what it doesn’t tell us, which if examined closely, leads us closer to the truth for those that want to go there. Hopefully, justice will eventually follow. While most of the facts in “Mrs. Paine’s Garage” are correct, the best parts are left out, and the Big Lie is the Big Picture that portrays the alleged assassin’s family being taken care of by the generosity of Ruth Paine the Quaker, whose role as a Good Samaritan to the mad killer’s family was a coincidental accident of history.

The lie is laid out clearly in the dusk jacket notes: “Nearly forty years have passed since Mrs. Ruth Hyde Paine, a Quaker housewife in suburban Dallas, offered shelter and assistance to a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife Marina….Mrs. Paine’s Garage is the tragic story of a well-intentioned women who found Oswald the job that put him six floors above Dealey Plaza – into which, on November 22, he fired a rifle he kept inside Mrs. Paine’s house. But this is also a tale of survival and resiliency: the story of a devote, open-hearted women who weathered a whirlwind of investigation, suspicion, and betrayal, and who refused to allow her enmeshment in the calamity of that November to crush her own life. Thomas Mallon gives us a disturbing account of generosity and secrets, of suppressed memories and tragic might-have-beens, of coincidences more errie than conspiracy theory…”

The entire premise of this book rests on the assumption that Lee Harvey Oswald is the assassin of the President. But what if it can be convincingly demonstrated that Oswald didn’t shoot anybody that day, and the alleged murder weapon was purposely left at the scene to implicate him in the crime? It doesn’t make any sense for him, as many LNs contend, that he killed the President to make a name for himself in history, but then deny the deed. When the evidence is looked at more closely than Mallon sees it, it is more than likely that Oswald was framed for the crime and was exactly what he claimed to be – “a patsy.”

But rather than take away the importance of Mrs. Paine’s role in the affair, “The Patsy’s Garage” makes its contents even more significant, as only your friends can set you up and frame you for a crime you didn’t commit. Which brings us back to Michael and Ruth Paine, at whose home the accused assassin spent the night before the murder, and where the rifle said have been used in the crime was kept in the garage, even though no one has yet admitted to ever actually seeing it there.

Although George Lardner of the Washington Post said in his review of Mallon’s book that the Paines weren’t questioned by the HSCA and ARRB because everyone was “satisfied with their Warren Commission testimony,” literally dozens of major issues remain unresolved, and the most frequent question the public asks Judge John Tunheim, the former chairman of the defunct Assassination Records Review Board is why the Paines weren’t deposed and questioned under oath. Both Tunheim and Mallon try to answer this question, Tunheim’s being that the ARRB, like the HSCA, just didn’t have the time, while the real answer is that the government doesn’t have the institutional willingness to ask the questions that it doesn’t want answered.

That doesn’t prevent us from asking them however, and the list of questionable issues regarding the Paines is long, but one day they may be answered.

For beginners, to believe the Lone Nut thesis, you must assume that Oswald killed the President by himself for his own perverted psychological reasons, that Oswald and his Russian wife met the Paines quite coincidently at a social party, that the Paines agreed to let Oswald’s family move into the Paine home and obtain room and board and driving lessons in exchange for Russian language lessons, that Ruth and Michael Paine never knew anything about a rifle even though Ruth transported the gun in her car from Texas to New Orleans and back again and Michael packed and unpacked the car on both occasions, and that Oswald got the job at the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) quite innocently through Mrs. Paine’s morning neighborhood coffee klatch.

Of course the entire Lone Nut scenario falls apart if any one of these “coincidences” can be shown not to be so coincidental, and in fact all of them can be proven to be contrived. In order to address the most important issues I’ve set them up as Serials and placed them in the chronological order in which they occurred so we can better understand what is at stake, which is the bare bones, basic nature of democracy, truth and justice in America.

You would think that the first question would be how the Oswalds met the Paines [Serial #1], which was at a February, 1962 party first suggested by George DeMohrnschildts to Volkmar Schmidt [Neither of whom appear in “Mrs. Paine’s Garage”]. They thought that it would be interesting for Lee Harvey Oswald to meet Michael Paine, both of whom were interested in discussing “ideology.”

DeMohrnschildt, Oswald’s friend, and Schmidt, were both oil geologists with an interest in politics and psychology. Schmidt worked for Magnolia Oil Co., as did most of those who attended the party at Schmidt’s house, which he shared with Everett Glover and two other men – son of a director of Radio Free Europe Norman Fredricksen and Richard Pierce, both of whom worked for Magnolia Oil and are also missing from Mallon’s “Garage.” [Nor would Mallon be expected to know the interesting tidbit that the widow of the founder of Magnolia Oil married Jim Braden’s best friend and Braden would be taken into custody as a suspicious person at Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination].

The odd thing about the party is that the host, Schmidt, and one of the guests of honor, Michael Paine, were no-shows, but Ruth Paine met Marina Oswald and they enjoyed talking together in Russian, setting up their relationship.

But there are two instances on record suggesting that there was a connection between Ruth Hyde Paine and Oswald before they met at this party, the first being Ohio police reports of Oswald attempting to enroll at Ruth Paine’s alma mater Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio [Serial #2- Antioch], before he had a high school diploma and before he joined the Marines. Yellow Springs is where Ruth Paine’s brother, a doctor, still lives, yet unquestioned about these things. The second instance is the Russian pen pal program that Ruth participated in [Serial #3 – Pen Pal], a program that was monitored by the intelligence agencies and is said to have included others participants that knew of Oswald’s defection to Russia after he was discharged from the Marines.

But it really isn’t Mrs. Paine we should be interested in, it’s her husband Michael, who owned the house and garage and is the principle character worth writing a book about.

Since Michael Paine didn’t meet Oswald at the previously arranged party, Ruth set up a dinner engagement for them to get acquainted, and since Oswald didn’t have a car, Michael drove from Irving to the Oswald’s apartment in Oak Cliff, Dallas, to pick them up. Although he didn’t mention it to the Warren Commission, a major bone of contention, Michael Paine did admit on a CBS TV special and to Mallon that he knew about the rifle from the first day he met Oswald because Oswald showed him the famous photo [Serial #4 Back Yard Photo] – later found in the Paine garage, of Oswald with the rifle, pistol and two communist publications, one The Worker, the official publication of the Trotskite Socialist Workers Party.

Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Bolshevick revolution and the Communist Party in Russia, was exiled to Mexico City and executed there by Soviet trained assassin Ramon Mercader.

When Oswald and Michael Paine discussed this “Trotskite” publication, Paine quoted Oswald as saying, “You have to read between the lines to understand what they want you do.” Well you have to read between the lines of Mallon’s book too, if you want to learn the truth, as I will try to fill in the blanks he leaves out.

That Michael Paine and Lee Oswald would talk about communist ideology is a given, yet, it is inconceivable to me, that while talking about such “ideology,” as George DeMohrenschildt and Volkmar Schmidt expected them to do, [Serial #5 – Lyman Paine] Paine didn’t bother to tell Oswald, the self-proclaimed “Trotskite,” that his father – Lyman Paine was the founder of the Trotskite political party in the United States.

Both DeMohrenschiltd and Volkmar Schmidt, who met Oswald at another Magnolia Oil party, and Michael Paine, talked to Oswald [Serial #6 – Walker Shooting] about shooting General Walker, Schmidt before and DeMohrenschildt and Paine shortly after someone – ostensibly Oswald, took a pot shot and barely missed killing Walker.

After that incident Oswald decided to relocate back to his hometown New Orleans. When Mrs. Paine drove the family to the Dallas bus station, Mrs. Paine suddenly suggested that Marina and the baby stay with her until Oswald got settled with an apartment and a job and then she would drive them there, which was quickly agreed upon. [Serial #6 – Rifle Movement] Because Oswald didn’t take the rifle on the bus with him, Mrs. Paine must have drove the rifle to New Orleans, and then back again the following October, when she drove Marina, the baby and the belongings, including the rifle to Texas, while Oswald went to Mexico City.

Michael Paine packed the car for the trip to New Orleans and unpacked it when they returned, yet testified he didn’t know there was a rifle among the effects, saying that he suspected the gun wrapped in a blanket was “camping equipment,” which was kept stored in the garage.

Mallon’s book has one photo – on the dust cover jacket – of Mrs. Paine, Marina Oswald and her two children and Oswald’s mother Margarete in the Paine kitchen, while a non-published photo of the Paine garage shows how cluttered it was. One of the Paine’s three cars, a 1956 Chevy station wagon with a luggage rack on the roof, was kept parked in the driveway in front of the garage. [Serial #7- Oswald’s Driving]. Although it is often claimed Oswald didn’t drive, Mrs. Paine’s Warren Commission testimony is quite clear on this – she gave him lessons, he knew how to drive, he knew where she kept the keys to the car and he did drive, much to Mrs. Paine horror, sans insurance.

Among the other evidence found in the garage was [Serial #8 Blanket] the blanket that that rifle was supposedly kept wrapped in, another photo of Oswald with the guns and magazines, and [Serial #9 – Minox Cameras] a Minox camera, which Michael Paine later claimed as his own. In the house were other items of evidence, including a [Serial #10] typewriter that Oswald used to write a letter to the Soviet Embassy, a book that contained [Serial #11 – Letter] a letter Oswald wrote to Marina with instructions on what to do if he was caught after the Walker shooting incident, and one of three of [Serial #12 – Wallets] Oswald’s wallets.

Then there’s what Mallon appropriately calls “The Limbo Hour,” between the time of the assassination and the apprehension of Oswald, shortly after which Michael Paine is overheard talking on the telephone with either his father or his wife, and someone says that they know Oswald didn’t do it and know who is REALLY responsible, but we are left in the dark as to who that responsible party is.

In a review of the evidence against Oswald, it’s apparent that it comes down to the rifle.

Although no one has said that they actually saw the rifle in the garage, the blanket the gun was supposedly wrapped in was mentioned by Michael Paine, Ruth Paine and Marina, but for some reason that should catch the attention of homicide investigators, the well oiled and greased gun that was wrapped in the blanket not only didn’t have any clear fingerprints, but it didn’t have any microscopic fibers from the blanket, a practical impossibility.

If you read the Warren Report on the fiber evidence, they found ONE single fiber on the stock of the rifle that DID NOT match the blanket, even in color, but the FBI forensic lab specialist testified COULD HAVE come from the shirt Oswald had on at the time of his arrest. It’s just a shame he changed his shirt after the shooting so that wasn’t the shirt that he had on when JFK was shot. To me, that’s a plant, as the FBI didn’t know
Oswald changed his shirt at the time.

While the photo of Oswald, the rifle, blanket, photos and Oswald letters to Marina and the Soviet Embassy are discussed in Mallon’s book, the Minox cameras, multiple wallets and other questionable points are ignored completely.

Nor does Mallon bring out the full character in the slew of interesting characters that populate this story, beginning with Ruth and Michael Paine, Michael Paine’s father Lyman Paine and mother – Ruth Forbes Paine Young, her friend and traveling companion Mary Bancroft, Michael’s main mentor, step-father and Bell Helicopter inventor Arthur Young, Marina’s biographer Priscilla Johnson McMillan, and their joint association with the World Federalists, whose founder Cord Meyer, Jr., was head of the CIA’s domestic contacts division and later International Organizations Division chief under Alan Dulles.

The bottom line is that if JFK was killed by a lone, deranged nut case, then the President’s death would be an accidental, unconnected anomaly and unrelated to the policies, politics and character of the man or the office of the Presidency. We have such killers in our history – such as Howard Unruh, who snapped and killed 13 neighbors in a killing spree, but Oswald isn’t one of those type of killers, as Ruth and Michael Paine and practically everyone who knew him has acknowledged.

If the accused assassin is Lee Harvey Oswald – the former Civil Air Patrol cadet, USMC radar operator, trained in electronics, interrogation techniques and the Russian language, owned a Minox camera, the guy who defected to Soviet Russia, lived there for two years and returned with a Russian wife, went to Mexico City and knew exposed covert operators like David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, George DeMohrenschildt, Volkmar Schmidt, Ruth and Michael Paine and took a pot shot at General Walker, all before he was 24 years old, then the assassination MO – modus operandi was that of a clear and clean cut covert operation conducted by an state controlled intelligence network. If Oswald had anything at all to do with the assassination, he fits the Operational Profile and could not and did not commit the assassination on his own, as all intelligence analysists knew from the moment they knew his background.

As Ruth Paine herself briefly suspected, as she testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald didn’t “live” on Neeley Street, but that, like an agent, he was “operating from a base at 214 Neeley Street,” and posed the question herself: “I may say, also, I wondered, as I had already indicated to the Commission, I had wondered, from time to time, whether this (Lee Harvey Oswald) was a man who was working as a spy or in any way (was) a threat to the nation, and this thought,…I am interested to know if this is a real thing or something unreal. And I waited to see if I would learn anymore about it. But this thought crossed my mind.”

I too am interested to know if this is a real thing or something unreal, and would like to learn more about it, as this same thought has crossed my mind, and I look forward to having Michael and Ruth Paine help answer the important outstanding questions. But since the answers aren’t in Mallon’s book, we’ll have to look for the truth somewhere else.

JFK Bust on Atlantic City Boardwalk

December 20, 2009
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The 1929 Atlantic City Convention of Organized Crime – Bill Kelly

Atlantic City has been known as a convention town for a long time, but the most significant convention the city has ever hosted didn’t meet at Convention Hall or even conventionally, and certainly didn’t abide by Roberts Rules of Order.

The May, 1929 meeting of organized crime bosses in Atlantic City was probably the most significant ever held, not only because of it’s effect on the future development of the town, but because of the national impact the decisions made there had on society, not only then, but over time, up to and including today.

At the time Atlantic City was considered “wide open,” a place where gangsters could go to make private, if sometimes illegal investments and for sit-down mob meetings, as were a few other cities – Miami, Las Vegas and Old Havana. Atlantic City was run however, by one man – Enoch “Nuckey” Johnson , the local political boss who ran the town as his private domain. Like “Commodore” Lou Kinley had before him. Nuckey got a percentage of practically every business in Atlantic City, especially illegal businesses, and as it was during Prohibition, the most lucrative business at the time was the importation of smuggled liquor.

Lonnie Zwillman of North Jersey controlled most of the bootleg market once the cases of booze from the Caribbean and Canada were transferred at sea from mother ship transports to small Chirs Craft speedboats. Once brought ashore the booze was put on waiting trucks to be transported the goods throughout the rest of the country. It was later estimated, by the Kefauver Committee that Zwillman’s outfit had a 65% market share of all illegal booze in North America.

But there were also illegal casinos in Atlantic City at the time, all operating openly and open to the public. And Big Time confidence men like Charlie Gondorff (of The Sting fame) were allowed to run Big Store Con games, as long as long as they only hit on transients and didn’t take any local citizens for Marks.

Booze, casino gambling, the boardwalk and beach, it didn’t even seem like there was a Depression going on. Things appeared quite normal on May 12th, 1929 when newlyweds Meyer and Anna Citron Lansky checked into one of the city’s finer boardwalk hotels. They were assigned the Honeymoon Penthouse with it’s panoramic view of the ocean and boardwalk.

Which hotel they checked into is not recorded for history, but you can be sure it was one owned by Jewish businessmen, as all the first class hotels at the time were owned by Jews or Quakers, and each served a different clientele. That’s a fact that came into play the very next day when Alphonese “Scarface” Capone stepped off a train and took a cab to one of the city’s classier hotels. Although he entered town unnoticed, and he signed into the hotel under an assumed name, his cover would soon be blown, the city of Atlantic City would be shaken upside down and the nation would rattle with the aftereffects for decades.

Snickering to his lieutenants as he signed the fictitious name to the register, Capone got a smile from Frank Nitti, Murry Humphries, Jake Guzik and Frank Rioi, but the joke quickly turned sour when the somewhat naive and strictly formal desk clerk looked at the name and politely informed Capone that, “I’m sorry sir, but this hotel does not serve those of your persuasion. My I suggest you try the hotel just down the street.”

This was Atlantic City, New Jersey, probably the only place in America where “Scarface” Al Capone could mingle with the masses and go unrecognized. He did however, have a friend in his old pal Nuckey Johnson. Capone had been Johnson’s gracious host two years earlier when Nuckey went to Chicago and was supplied with ringside seats to the Jack Dempsy-Gene Tunney heavyweight fight – the famous battle of the “long count’ bout.

Now Capone was in Atlantic City to meet with Meyer Lansky and other mob bosses. They came to Atlantic City because Nuckey Johnson controlled the town and they were assured they wouldn’t be subjected to the police hassles the Sicilian Mafia guys were subjected to in Cleveland a few weeks earlier.

Although Nuckey Johnson couldn’t protect Capone from some ethnic embarrassment, he did have such tight control over all facets of the city’s operations that, unless they robbed a bank or made a scene, known gangsters from out of town didn’t have to worry about being picked up for questioning by the police. Capone made a scene.

Told by a hotel clerk that he couldn’t check in because he signed his name under a wrong ethnic persuasion, Capone’s famous temper flared, and after a burst of obscenities and the trashing of some lobby furniture, Nuckey Johnson quickly learned that Al Capone was in town. Moving quickly to meet him, Capone and his entourage were heading south on Pacific Avenue when they were intercepted by Johnson’s convoy of dull, black limos heading the other way. They met in the middle of the street, blocked traffic for a few minutes as Capone emerged from his cab, cigar in hand, and gave Nuckey an obscenity laced public verbal lashing, letting off steam from the hotel desk incident.

Once appeased by Johnson, always the gracious host, they hugged and patted each other on the back and adjourned to the back of Nuckey’s limo. After seeing that Capone and his people had proper accommodations at the right hotel, Johnson and Capone were later seen taking in the tourists sights together and strolling down the world famous boardwalk.

Johnson and Capone then had dinner in the Italian “Ducktown” neighborhood, not far from the recently completed Convention Hall – the new auditorium which was then the largest of its kind in the world, with the biggest stage and the largest pipe organ as well. While it established Atlantic City as a major convention town on the East Coast, it’s facilities were not to be used by the guys who started checking in behind Lansky and Capone.

From Cleveland came Al “the Owl” Polizzi, one of the Sicilians hassled by cops at the earlier regional sit-down a few weeks earlier. Also from Cleveland was Moe Dalitz of the Mayfield Road Gang and his bootleg companions, Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker and Louis Rothkopft. Other gangsters who have been identified as having attended the Atlantic City meeting include Charles “King” Solomon from Boston, Joe Bernstein from Detroit, and Joe Lanza from Kansas City, all of whom came with their henchmen in tow.

From North Jersey there was Abner “Longie” Zwillman, who controlled most of the New Jersey bootleg shipments. Philadelphia was well represented by Harry “Nig Rosen” Stromberg, Max “Boo Boo” Huff, Sam Lezar and Charles Schwarts. By far, the biggest delegation came down from New York, and consisted of Frank Costello, Author “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Joe Adonis, Salvadore “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky.

Anne Citron Lansky got angry the next morning when she read in the morning newspaper that Al Capone was in town, and knew that it had to more than just a coincidence. Her new husband couldn’t even go on his honeymoon without having business to take care of.

Born Maier Suchowljansky in Grodno, Poland in 1902, young Meyer came to the United States in 1911 with his mother, sister and younger, but bigger brother Jake. Like so many other arrivals, his birthdate was noted by immigration officials as July 4th, and he took quickly to the American dream.

Later telling Israeli journalists Uri Dan that he took to gambling early, relating an incident that occurred when he was a young boy walking down Delancy Street in Manhatten on an errand for his mother. Coming across a sidewalk craps game he quickly lost his mother’s nickel, an event that had a profound affect on his life. “What troubled me more than anything else,” Lansky said, “was that I had been a loser, and that night….I swore to myself that one day I would be a winner.”

Going back to the sidewalk craps game young Lansky watched and studied the gamblers intently, and learned when to place his bet with a sure winner. “Then I began to notice,” he said, “that the men who actually ran the dice games were only pawns…of other well dressed and prosperous men,” who he also noticed seemed to be all Italians who in turn were “servant” who were “collecting the money for somebody bigger. So it must be a very big business, gambling with nickels and dimes on the sidewalks of the Lower East Side.”

After graduating from Public School #34 in 1917, Lansky worked as an auto mechanic, and first came to the attention of the police when he was arrested for fighting with Charles Luciana and Benjamen Siegel. That was the first time he was known to have officially used the name Lansky, and after the judge listened to their story, he decided that the boys had “bugs in their heads,” which temporarily gave Lansky the nickname “Meyer the Bug,” but Siegel could never shake the name “Bugsy.”

The three boys became fast friends and developed business associations, while Luciana rose in the ranks of the Italian Mafia allied under Joe “the Boss” Masseria. They were perennially at war with another New York gang run by Salvatore Maranzano, whose henchmen picked up Luciano and took him for a ride to Statin Island where they shot him a number of times and left for dead. Luciano miraculously survived, earning him the nickname “Lucky” Luciano.

Lansky, Siegel and Luciano formed a life-long alliance with each other and established themselves on the Lower East Side as a competent and efficient guns-for-hire entrepreneurs that became known as “The Bugs and Meyer Mob,” which also included Joseph “Doc” Stacher, Joe Adonis, Abner “Longie” Zwillmen and Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer. They either escorted Zwillmen’s bootleg liquor or they hijacked any competitors who tried to muscle in on their rackets in their territory.

Philadelphia gangster “Waxy” Gordon was especially upset at the Bug and Meyer Mob for hijacking some of his truck shipments and, as with the Capone-Moran feud in Chicago, there was tension between gangs. Since Capone actually controlled only certain sections of Chicago, other Chicago gangsters also came in to the Atlantic City meeting, including Joe “Polock” Saltis and Frank “Machine Gun” McEarlane, complete with violin cases under their arms.

Other than Capone, these were mostly new names and faces in the underworld of 1929, but before long they would make their mark and become household names. The old-guard “Mustache Petes” who ran the big city rackets for the previous few decades, referred to these new, young gangsters as “The Young Turks,” but they in turn, were considered too old fashioned, narrow-minded and set in their ways to mingle with the gangsters of other nationalities and neighborhoods. The “Petes” were not even invited to this meeting.

To some, Luciano was thought to represent the New York capo de capi Guseppi “Joe the Boss” Masseria, but in retrospect, Luciano had Masseria murdered and replaced him after the protracted war that was wagged between Masseria and the other New York rackets boss Salvadore Maranzano. Masseria and Maranzano were from the Old Order and were on the way out, and The Young Turks knew it.

One member of the old school who was invited and did attend the Atlantic City conclave was John Torrio, who was born in Naples and was one of the first immigrants to leave the notorious “Five Points” section of Brooklyn to go to Chicago, where he ran his uncle’s whorehouse. After killing his uncle and setting up his own numbers racket, Torrio brought in Al Capone from the old neighborhood to be his enforcer.

Torrio, who didn’t drink or smoke, was Capone’s mentor and one of the oldest and wisest of the delegates at the Atlantic City convention. He would play a significant role by making key policy decisions concerning the promotion of other vices, most notably gambling.

While there would be other, more notorious meetings of mobsters – Havana, 1946, the 1957 Apalachin, New York meeting that was broken up by local police, a New York restaurant sit down that was also busted by the cops, the 1929 meeting in Atlantic City was most significant because it established a new policy of inter-city-gang cooperation on a nationwide basis.

It was not a question of who was at Atlantic City, but who was not there. Besides the Mustache Petes from the Old Order of things, Bugs Moran was the most notable big name absentee. He was left back in Chicago to lick his wounds and regroup his forces after the disastrous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

As the most blatant gangland mass murder in history, the massacre called attention to the mobsters and put pressure on them from the public, the press, politicians and the police. It became the most influential factor in persuading the factional mob leaders of the necessity for a meeting to hash things out. Rather than let the situation get completely out of hand and reach a level of violence that would force the authorities to take action, the gangsters decided to sit down at the same table for the first time, discuss their mutual problems and arrange for an agreeable solution like normal businessmen.

Although most of the published sources place the main gathering of gangsters at the President Hotel on the Boardwalk, the large number of delegates made it necessary for them to meet in smaller caucus to discuss the topics on the agenda. Pushed along the boardwalk in wicker-rolling chairs, they didn’t talk in front of the push cart operators, but at the end of the boardwalk, like other tourists in from the big city, they took off their shoes and socks, rolled up the cuffs of their pants and waded in the shallow surf like any normal day-tripper. With their conversations muffled by the sounds of the surf breaking, the mobsters plotted strategy and began the long term planning that would control organized crime activities for the next fifty years.

Since minutes of the meetings were not transcribed for posterity, legend has it that the order of business was basically two fold. For one, they had to agree on an amiable solution to the conflicts that erupted into mob warfare, primarily geographic turf battles. Secondly, since by then it was obvious that Prohibition would not last forever, they had to get involved in legitimate businesses as well as devise an alternative source of illegal income once Prohibition ended.

As for mob warfare, since such violence hurt everyone’s business, they decided to end such conflicts by adhering strictly to the territorial spheres of influence, with each gang controlling particular rackets in each area. They also agreed to work together in setting prices, sharing warehouse space and coordinating the wholesale distribution of liquor.

The Atlantic City accords were a radical departure from pervious mob practices because they also agreed to form an executive committee to oversee and arbitrate all disputes, denote the degree of punishment to all violators and to set policy for the governing of all future illegal operations.

The creation of the Board of Directors of the National Syndicate of Organized Crime was as big as the founding of the United Nations. Although it’s very existence would be kept hidden from the public for decades, and spy novelist Ian Fleming would ridicule them with his fictional Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – SPECTRE, it would become generally known as “The Commission.”

As for the second item on the agenda, they decided to explore gambling as a replacement for the lucrative illegal liquor profits after prohibition. With the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933, gambling became the main preoccupation of the local mobs until 1946, when, after the Havana meeting, the French Connection became the primary source of the drugs and narcotics that would become the Syndicate’s primary source of revenue other than gambling.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics concluded, from information provided from undercover informants, that the Atlantic City convention established the basis for the Syndicate that carved the nation into specific territories, developed a system of kangaroo courts that provided the gangsters with their own quasi-judicial system, and protected the hierarchy of the local mafia families.

Arrangements were also made to invest in a multi-million dollar slush fund to bribe law enforcement officials, ensure the election of certain politicians, hire the best attorneys and pay for the educational development of promising young men who could serve their interests in the future.

The hallmark of the meeting in Atlantic City was the centralizing of particular powers with an executive committee, like the board of directors of a blue chip industry, an exceptional and extraordinary concept that was not immediately acceptable to many of the ethnic oriented gangsters like Massaria and Marrassano, who were dinosaurs that had to go the way of the buffalo.

The dissentions of the still primarily ethnically Italian gangsters was overcome in a power-play move when Lansky nominated the Mafia’s own Johnny Torrio as Chairman of the Board, a motion that quickly won the endorsement of most of the mobsters present. Torrio was also the only one who could take care of Capone, whose violent ways were causing problems for all of them.

With the Commission in charge, Torrio at the helm and business completed, the final item on the agenda was Capone, and what to do with him. While the Chicago rackets were combined, and Capone was the nominal boss, he had to take a vacation, or he was going to be thrown to the wolves. He was given the option of dieing right then, or taking a sabbatical from the business for a while. The newspapers had all reported that Capone was in town and one of the William Randolph Hurst newspapers even ran a faked composite photograph of Capone, Knucky Johnson and Meyer Lansky walking down the boardwalk, all of which had the pubic clamoring for Capone to be busted for something.

Although they put an APB – All Points Bulletin out for the man who was seen all over town – throwing chairs in a hotel lobby, screaming obscenities on Pacific Avenue, having dinner in Ducktown, riding in a wicker-walker and strolling down the boardwalk with Johnson, suddenly, Capone couldn’t be found anywhere.

According to local legend, when the heat was turned on, Capone slipped out of Atlantic City and retreated to a local private country club, either the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield or Seaview in Absecon, where he played bad golf and good cards until the heat was off a few days later.

On May 16, 1929, a week after Lansky’s wedding, Capone showed up at the train station but missed the train by minutes. With a police motorcycle escort to the edge of town, Capone’s entourage drove to Philadelphia, where he again just missed a train to Chicago. Going to a movie on Market Street with his bodyguard Frank Rio, Capone emerged from the theater to be confronted by Philadelphia Police Detective James “Shooey” Malone.

Malone flashed his badge, they talked quietly for a moment and Capone calmly volunteered his .38 caliber revolver and was promptly arrested by Malone. Rio momentarily balked, but Capone smiled and urged him to surrender his weapon too.

Philadelphia’s Director of Public Safety Major Lemel B. Schoefield accepted praise for the arrest of the nation’s number one crime czar, though it later became apparent that Det. Malone had met Capone the year before at Hialeah racetrack in Florida, and Capone had arranged for his own arrest. Besides taking the heat off the rest of the Syndicate, in the secure hands of the law he also acquired sanctuary from a vengeful Bugs Moran.

In the custody of the Philadelphia authorities, Capone was forthcoming about the Atlantic City Sit Down, emphasizing the decision to end mob warfare. “I told them,” Capone said, reciting a line from one of Lansky’s lectures, “there is enough business to make us all rich, and it’s time to stop the killing and look on our own business as other men look on theirs.”

When asked about the purpose of the meeting, Capone said, “It is with the idea of making peace among the gangsters that I spent the week in Atlantic City and got the word of each leader that there will be no more shooting.”

But Capone also told them he, “…had to hide from the rest of the racketeers,” who weren’t at the meeting. They had a vendetta against him. It seems that there comes a point in every gangster’s career when, despite all the power and money they have accumulated, life is suddenly vulnerable to one professional contract killer. John Torrio thought that prison was the safest place, Sam Giancana, who would later take over the Chicago mob, fled to Mexico and South America, Joe Bonnano had himself kidnapped. Capone chose jail.

Philadelphia Criminal Court Judge John E. Wash sentenced Capone harshly for such a petty crime of being a suspicious person and carrying a concealed deadly weapon, the maximum of one year at Holmesburg Penitentiary. After a short stint there however, Capone was transferred to the more relaxed confines of Eastern Pen, where he served out the duration of his sentence under the lenient warden Herbert B. Smith, who furnished Capone’s cell with lamps, a library, radio console and lounge chair and gave him access to his private office telephone.

With Capone in jail, the Syndicate began the process of getting rid of the old Mustache Petes and preparing to engage in Big Time gambling activities on a very large scale.

In Hoboken, New Jersey, Lansky’s new father-in-law permitted him to use his Molaska Inc. as a front for a number of his illegal businesses, one of which was the largest distillery in the state. Molaska took its name from molasses chips, a necessary ingredient for the making of rum, which became more profitable than smuggling it.

Molaska rum business took Lansky to Cuba, where he met with Sgt. Fugencio Batista, the strong-arm coup leader who twice took over the reins of Cuba. The first time he was in power Lansky made a deal with Batista to allow him to open a legal casino in Cuba, much like the illegal casinos he operated in Florida, New York and New Jersey. In order for the Syndicate to control casinos in Havana, it was arranged for casinos to operate in hotels with 500 rooms or more, and since the Syndicate controlled Hotel National was the only hotel in Havana with 500 rooms, the Lansky mob owned the only casino in Cuba.

The second Havana hotel to qualify for a casino was owned by Santo Traficante, who hired Atlantic City native John Martino to run his electronics and security operations.

Two weeks before Castro came to power Lansky and the Syndicate sold the National Hotel-Casino to Mike McLaney and Carroll Rosenbloom, both of whom would loose their shirts in the deal. While Mike McLaney’s brother William owned the land near New Orleans where anti-Castro Cuban commandos trained – and reportedly the Magazine Street house where Lee Harvey Oswald lived, Lyndon Baines Johnson would be Rossenbloom’s houseguest in Atlantic City during the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

In 1976 New Jersey law allowed for legal casinos in Atlantic City hotels that had 500 rooms or more, – the Havana model, with only one hotel in the entire city that qualified – Resorts International, a Lansky-Syndicate controlled company. The second and third Atlantic City casinos – Bally and Caesars, were also Syndicate controlled companies, following the policies, delineating the strategies and continuing the traditions laid out at the 1929 Convention.

The federal government did not officially recognize the existence of the syndicate until May 1, 1951 when Estes Kefauver, Chairman of the Senate Crim Investigating Committee, visited Atlantic City, New Orleans, Chicago and New York before determining and reporting that, “a nationwide crime syndicate does exist in the United States,…and behind the local mobs which make up the national crime syndicate is a shadowy, international criminal organization known as the Mafia.”

Even after that, the FBI refused to place a priority on the Mafia or organized crime until years later, when local police broke up a major mob meeting in upstate New York.

The records of Kefauver’s investigation were then promptly and routinely locked away for 50 years as “Congressional Records,” which are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

In 1998, the Assassination Records Review Board refused to release the records of the Kefauver Committee investigation by declaring them “assassination records” because they claimed they were not related to or considered relevant to the assassination of President Kennedy, even though the second chief counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) believes that the President may have been the victim of a mob hit.

The Kefauver Committee records were scheduled for release in 2001, but are being systematically released after being reviewed by request.


FBI JFK Assassination Files

December 20, 2009

FBI JFK Assassination records – at least the ones they released. They left the best parts out.

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When I came across The Assassinations, an anthology of articles edited by Paul Hoch and Peter Dale Scott, I was so glad that there were people out there thinking in those terms.

When things got hot, Paul’s reports were brief, informative and right on the money.

Thanks Paul

Paul Hoch on Assassination Research
Winnowing the Wheat and the Chaff

Unlike high-profile conspiracy authors such as Mark Lane, Robert Groden, and David Lifton, Paul Hoch is essentially unknown to the American public. But among the small fraternity of assassination researchers, he is a highly respected figure.

In 1993 he was invited to the Second Annual Midwest Symposium on Assassination Politics in Chicago to share his thoughts on JFK assassination research. The following are his comments.

Good morning; thank you for coming. I’m pleased that I was invited to be on this panel; for one thing, I am not very active as a researcher now. I try to help other researchers, and I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing some of you in person for the first time. I help mainly by being an informed skeptic. I understand that raising questions about other people’s work is relatively easy, but I know from experience how difficult it is to understand the available record and to get into the hidden record.

I am at a disadvantage talking this early in the symposium, but I intend to be frank about where I stand after nearly thirty years, off and on, of research. Primarily, I want to make a point to non-buffs and to new buffs in the audience: There is a lot of diversity and uncertainty among the critics.

If anyone wants to set up, as a test, the denunciation of Clay Shaw or of the Single Bullet Theory or of Burt Griffin, I won’t pass it. And I know there are many other buffs who share some of my doubts about what seems to be the new orthodoxy.
Doug Carlson suggested that this panel include a review of the public record, in the context of the science of independent research. Thinking of the state of the case in the public mind, my first reaction was, what’s research got to do with it? The success of Oliver Stone’s film and the subsequent movement to “free the files,” was built on facts and the work of many researchers, but it seems to really be about issues that go far beyond the events of November 22 — the nature of the press, of the government, of our society.

In this context, my key point about documentary research is that it may not be able to solve the case, but it certainly can make wrong solutions go away. There are plenty of allegations floating around which would not stand up to scrutiny based on the existing public record. One complication, of course, is that I’m not sure which of the allegations would go away. But I am confident that many would.

What results can we expect? Burt Griffin made a good point in his House Committee testimony in 1978: “consider the possible reality that under the American system of civil liberties and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that it is virtually impossible to prosecute or uncover a well-conceived and well-executed conspiracy.” (5 HSCA 480) So the ambitions of documentary research — which is just one of the tools of such an inquiry — probably should be quite modest.

I think that the most promising areas for research — in the existing files as well as the new ones — are the facts of the shooting (particularly the medical evidence), Oswald (especially what the agencies knew about him), and the political context (particularly Cuba).

First, keep an eye out for the innocent explanation; then test it. Remember, sources make mistakes, FBI agents make mistakes, even researchers make mistakes. And some sources lie.

I hope we will make some progress this weekend in planning to deal with new material. Of course I would like to have everything on indexed CD ROM’s. But we learned in 1978, from the work of Carl Oglesby and his AIB colleagues on the FBI files, that selection of interesting documents is a key step. Mark Zaid has put together some ideas along these lines. We’re in the position of paleontologists coming across an enormous find which might consist of real bones. There is a lot of junk in the files.

Tips for analyzing documents: First, keep an eye out for the innocent explanation; then test it. Remember, sources make mistakes, FBI agents make mistakes, even researchers make mistakes. And some sources lie.

Things that are deleted may not be important. Not everything put in an assassination file is relevant to the assassination. For example: Mark Lane said that Priscilla Johnson was a suspect in the assassination, no doubt referring to a certain document where, if the case caption is undeleted, it is clear that she was a suspect in a case of potential KGB recruitment. Years ago, it became clear than many people, such as Igor Vaganov, were involved in shady activities in Dallas that probably had nothing to do with the assassination.

In short, most of the apparent evidence will turn out not to be true, even if it is not obviously false. That is certainly the typical experience of those of us who have worked as scientists.

Anyone who spends time in the FBI files develops his own filters for detecting probable junk. For example, letters from citizens which are typed in all capitals — single spaced, with no margins — or handwritten with about ten words per page. I suspect that a useful measure of the plausibility of an allegation could be derived from the percentage of well-known names. If a source claims to have met with David Ferrie, Allen Dulles, and Fidel Castro in Jack Ruby’s nightclub, I’ll go on to the next document. Any post-Garrison story with Clay Shaw in it starts with a heavy burden of skepticism to overcome. I now put Roscoe White in the same category.

Suggestions on assessing the credibility of physical evidence: Most important, remember that only one thing happened.

It is no longer enough to just come up with leads and say they are interesting or should be investigated. I used to do that a lot myself. We need to filter out charges that don’t hold up, as much as we can.

The technical work of the House Committee had quite an impact on me. The key fact is that specific items of Dealey Plaza conspiracy evidence have tended to get weaker over the years. This has been a surprise, naturally underappreciated — especially by newer buffs and non-technical buffs.

I suspect that a useful measure of the plausibility of an allegation could be derived from the percentage of well-known names. If a source claims to have met with David Ferrie, Allen Dulles, and Fidel Castro in Jack Ruby’s nightclub, I’ll go on to the next document.

The big arguable exception is the medical and autopsy evidence, and I could never fully accept the official version of the shots until the anomalies in this area are more adequately dealt with.

We could argue at length about the imperfections in the House Committee’s work, and in the work of the National Academy of Sciences panel which rebutted the acoustics. As some of you know, I’ve done my share, particularly on the acoustics.
But the fact remains that the House Committee took a stab at the tests the critics wanted — not completely, and not perfectly, but we expected that any one of the tests would demolish the WC reconstruction — neutron activation analysis, trajectory analysis. And they didn’t.

Many people seem to agree with John Judge, who has said that we know where the shots came from, they came from the Pentagon. I don’t think we know nearly enough about Dealey Plaza to make a jump like that.

The single bullet theory is not a joke. Despite its well-known flaws, the Warren Commission/House Committee reconstruction may be in better shape than any other single detailed reconstruction. At least, it has to be taken seriously.
To me, a key lesson from the state of the physical evidence is that much of the other conspiracy evidence would be weakened if subject to comparable scrutiny.
Wallace Milam has said that we have identified twelve of the three gunmen. We need to think what this means about our collective methodology. Are we the men who know too much?

On interviewing witnesses: I don’t have any experience worth mentioning, so I’ll make just one point: Watch out for principals who have become buffs, and are basing conclusions on information outside their areas of direct knowledge or expertise. If John Rosselli, for example, knew there was a shot from the knoll, it might not have been from inside knowledge, but because some of his friends, like many others, heard Mark Lane’s stump speech. It seemed very significant that Dr. George Burkley said he thought there was a conspiracy, but the most I could find out was that he thought Oswald had more money than could be accounted for. One of the Dallas doctors, as I recall, thinks the head snap and simple physics constitute irrefutable proof of a shot from the front. They don’t.

Suggestions on assessing the credibility of verbal testimony: I’ll offer a corollary to Griffin’s statement: If you recognize that conspiracies do happen but don’t have a good methodology, you will end up believing in a big conspiracy behind any major political crime.

Watch out for principals who have become buffs, and are basing conclusions on information outside their areas of direct knowledge or expertise. If John Rosselli, for example, knew there was a shot from the knoll, it might not have been from inside knowledge, but because some of his friends, like many others, heard Mark Lane’s stump speech.

Do I know what constitutes a good methodology? Not really. A couple of obvious points: Go to primary sources whenever possible. Many books are unreliable on details. For an example, again I’ll pick on Mark Lane since he’s not here: Lane accurately quotes a memo by Melvin Eisenberg as saying that Warren said that LBJ “convinced him that this was an occasion on which actual conditions had to override general principles.” But it is obvious from the memo that the general principle being set aside is not Warren’s “belief system and his sense of justice,” as Lane says, but the principle that a sitting Supreme Court justice should not take an outside job like this. When people misinterpret documents that are readily available, how can you trust them on sources that are not easily checkable?

What about pitfalls? Watch out for allegations which look too good to throw out, for example because they seem to make the connection between Kennedy’s enemies and the assassination — that is, to provide the closure everyone hopes to find. For example, some people latched on to the FBI document mentioning George Bush of the CIA without considering if the George Bush would be referred to in that fashion, and whether the contact described was that important or sinister anyhow.

David Lifton pointed out to me that it has gotten hard to pin researchers down about sloppy analysis, now that their fallback position can be that what they are looking for is a metaphor or a myth.

Sometimes it seems that the stories which catch on in the public mind are those with particular value as metaphor, or those which are pushed vigorously by some buffs. Don’t assume that the best leads are the ones which have been waved around most prominently.

An example of a story which never caught on: I discovered that the lawyer who sent a telegram to Oswald in jail, offering to represent him, came from a civil-libertarian law firm here in Chicago which had defended Sam Giancana against alleged FBI harassment. I learned this quite by accident; the lawyer mentioned it to me. When I circulated this story, I played this connection down. But someone else could easily have picked it up and made a big deal of it, and then it would be one of those things that everyone knows is important.

Be careful not to give evidence a value proportional to the difficulty you had in finding it. Not everything being withheld is relevant. Realize how hard it is to discard as unimportant something you’ve spent many hours to get, but that’s what good journalists and scientists have to do all the time.

Partial confirmation can be misleading. For example, Henry Hurt confirmed — with some difficulty — that a fire described by Robert Easterling had occurred, which may have made Hurt too inclined to believe Easterling’s fantastic stories about the assassination.

Of course, one problem with concentrating on these pitfalls is that you might miss good allegations that look bad. For example, when I got the Sibert-O’Neill report from the Archives in 1966 and circulated it, Lifton was perhaps the only person not to discard the strange reference to “surgery of the head area.” I don’t know what it all means but I think he was right not to pass over it as obviously an FBI reporting error.

Watch out for allegations which look too good to throw out, for example because they seem to make the connection between Kennedy’s enemies and the assassination — that is, to provide the closure everyone hopes to find.

You may recall the story in John Davis’ book about the mayor of Darien, Georgia, who said he saw Oswald getting money in what turned out to be a mob-linked restaurant. I sent that document to John to show him that another allegation we were discussing was not that persuasive to me, because such stories were so common. But this one turned out to get better, not worse, as you looked into it.

One funny story: I remember Robert Ranftel doing a late-night radio talk show and telling several conspiracy-minded callers that their favorite stories had been discredited, or didn’t make sense anyhow. Then one caller started talking about his aunt having photographed Oswald in Russia, and got the same treatment; I was rolling my eyes and hoping that Robert would remember that, yes, some tourist did photograph Oswald.

Are we critics or researchers or skeptics or what? Being critical used to mean questioning the Warren Report.

At first, document research was easy — check out their footnotes, ask for the Sibert-O’Neill report. It’s harder now to ask tough questions about the beliefs of the anti-Warren Report majority and about the work of those who are building on the momentum of 29 years of research.

The critical community may be at a crossroads. Will the revived public interest in the case turn our research effort into something that belongs on shows like “Hard Copy,” along with UFO abductions?

I expect interesting discussions this weekend on unity among the buffs. Avoiding divisiveness on tactical grounds makes more sense for a minority movement than for people taking a view which is endorsed by an overwhelming percentage of the public.

We are not guaranteed progress towards the truth by adhering to the standards of science, or journalism, or law — certainly not law.

But those standards have justifications and are certainly more applicable than the standards of political activism or filmmaking in getting at what actually happened.

Do we want to reach people who are not already “pro-conspiracy” (particularly reporters, academics, people in government)?

I personally do.


My gut feeling is to make it clear that they don’t have to pick between two sides: a flat no-conspiracy viewpoint and a unified community of conspiratorialists (the most vocal of whom appear to be preaching to the choir).

I would emphasize that the no-conspiracy side is not where you find most of the people who are seriously asking valid questions. If there is a basis for unity, it is a skeptical methodology, not any particular conclusions or interpretations of the evidence.

Man in the Window

December 20, 2009

Man in the window. It’s Gerald Ford.

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Former President Gerald Ford on the Larry King Show, TNN:

Larry King: You are the last member of the Warren Commission.

Ford: That is correct.

King: Ever had a doubt that there was anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was involved?

Ford: I reiterate, that we, as a seven member board – commission, we said that Lee Harvey Oswald committed the assassination, and we as a commission, found no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic. We agreed on that unanimously. I think today, I have the same strong feeling.

King: So you haven’t wavered?

Ford: Not a bit.

King: Were you rushed? Some say that President Johnson put a rush on you to get this all done.

Ford: It was desirable to get it completed prior to the elections of 1964. We had 13 months to do it, to carry out our responsibilities as a commission, so I think we had ample time Larry, but the elections coming up really did not interfere with our judgements.

King: One of the reasons conspiracy theorists hold force is that it’s hard to accept that one lone man could change the world.

Ford: Let me say this Larry, there are critics, cynics as to who killed Abraham Lincoln.

King: Correct.

Ford: And that’s over 100 years ago. So I’m sure you are going to have people in addition to Oliver Stone and some other people in the years ahead who will say the same thing, but the truth is, I have seen no, new credible evidence that will change my mind.

Braden’s Camden Arrest Report

December 20, 2009
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VOLUNTARY STATEMENT. Not Under Arrest Form No. 86

Before me, the undersigned authority, on this the 22 day of November A.D. 1963 personally appeared Jim Braden, Address 621 S. Barrington Drive Apt 6 Los Angeles Calf. Office 215 S. La Cienega Blvd. Beverly Hills, California, Age 49 , Phone No. 4725301 Home
Deposes and says:

I am here on business (oil business) and was walking down Elm Street trying to get a cab and there wasn’t any. I heard people talking saying “My God the President has been shot.” Police cars were passing me coming down toward the triple underpass and I walked up among many other people all watching them. I moved on up to the building across the street from the building that was surrounded and I ask [sic] one of the girls if there was a telephone that I could use and she said “Yes, there is one on the third floor of the building where I work”. I walked through a passage to the elevator they were all getting on (freight elevator) and I got off on the third floor with all the other people and there was a lady using the pay telephone and I ask [sic] her if I could use it when she hung up and she said it was out of order and I tried to use it but with no success. I ask [sic] her how I can get out of this building and she said that there is an exit right there and then she said wait a minute here is the elevator now. I got on the elevator and returned to the ground floor and the colored man who ran the elevator said you are a stranger in this building and I am was [sic] notsuppose [sic] to let you up and he ran outside to an officer and said to the officer that he [sic] had just taken me up and down in the elevator and the officer said for me to identify myself and I presented him with a credit card and he said well we have to check out everything and took me to his superior and said for me to wait and we will check it out. I was then taken to the Sheriffs office and interrogated.

/s/ Jim Braden

Subscribed and sworn to before me on this the 22nd day of Nov A. D. 1963

/s/ Evelyn Cox
Notary Public, Dallas County, Texas

“Legacy of Doubt” by Peter Noyes was published in 1973 (Pinnacle Books, Oct. 1973) in a pulp paperback with a cover that screamed “A JOURNALISTIC BOMBSHELL! – Startling new evidence about the JFK and RFK deaths!”

Noyes, a veteran CBS TV producer and journalist wrote, “The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, left a legacy of doubt in the minds of every American who lived through those horrifying moments in Dealey Plaza. For a time, the very structure of the Republic seemed threatened…”

Noyes book reads like an old fashioned Sam Spade detective novel, complete with gangsters, dames and cops on the take, as he describes meeting former FBI agent Bill Turner, who unsuccessfully tries to get Noyes and CBS to air his bootleg copy of the Zapruder film. On his way out the door, Turner throws Noyes a bone – check out this guy – Jim Braden, who reportedly lived in Beverly Hills and was taken into custody at Dealey Plaza.

Noyes went to the official records and discovered that on September 10, 1963, Eugene Hale Brading notified the motor vehicle department that he changed his name to Jim Braden and requested new identification under that name.

When Noyes asked then LAPD Chief of Detectives Bob Houghton about Eugene Hale Brading, and he asked the FBI (File #799431), they learned that EH Brading was a member of the La Costa Country Club and was in the vicinity of the Ambassador Hotel when RFK was murdered, besides being at Dealey Plaza.

As Noyes reports in his book, “Houghton,…eventually satisfied himself after several thousand man-hours of investigation that Eugene Hale Brading was not connected with the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy. Shortly after Houghton began working on the RFK case, he signed a contract with Random House to write a book about the assassination called ‘Special Unit Senator.’ That was the name Houghton had given the investigating task force looking into Robert Kennedy’s murder. In the police department, the task force was better known as the SUS detail…”

“The SUS task force compiled a comprehensive report on Gene Brading,” wrote Noyes, “then turned it over to the FBI. The investigators who made the report stressed to me that they regarded it as a matter of great importance and fully anticipated it would be turned over to U.S. Attorney Matt Byrne. Their paramount interest, or so they told me, was in the possible role organized crime might have played in the JFK assassination. By coincidence, at that time Matt Byrne’s office was conducting an extensive investigation of the Mafia. And I was quite interested in Byrne’s decision to subpoena one of the most powerful figures in the Cosa Nostra, the tough and vicious Carlos Marcello, of New Orleans, who had made no secret of his contempt and hatred for both John and Robert Kennedy.”

“But Byrne always insisted to me that he was never given the SUS report on Brading by the FBI…..” note Noyes. “Despite the official roadblocks set up by the FBI there was a great body of information available.”

From various sources, Noyes pieced together some basic background: “Eugene Hale Brading was one of three sons born to Charles and Millie Brading, a relatively poor but hard-working couple from the plains of Kansas. It was a closely knit family, and many years later, when Brading acquired a degree of affluence, he purchased a retirement home for his parents in the coastal cit of Santa Barbara, California.”

“Brading was only nineteen when hew as first sentenced to prison in Kansas for burglary in 1934…paroled…in 1938, (he) proceeded to moved to a much faster paced environment in Miami, Florida, where he quickly became associated with the hoodlum element. On February 24, 1941 he was arrested in Miami for running a gambling house. He was fined $200 after being convicted of bookmaking, and was given a suspended six-month jail sentence. On three different occasions he was arrested in Florida for selling World War II gasoline-ration coupons on the black market. The third time he was sentenced to one year in jail.”

“Intelligence information indicted that Brading was slowly weaving his way into the mob’s hierarchy and that he was a man who was going places. In 1948 while using the alias of Harry Eugene Bradley, he was arrested in Camden, New Jersey, as a material witness in a criminal case. (Camden police have since refused to divulge any details concerning that arrest, but it must be noted that there was considerable organized crime in the Camden area at the time, and Brading’s sudden appearance there came as no surprise to investigators who have studied his background.)…” [Legacy of Doubt, p. 40]

On reading that last passage, I gave Noyes’ book to my father, then a Lieutenant in the Camden, N.J. Police Department. While today Camden is recognized as America’s “most dangerous” city, it was not so then – in 1948, though organized crime and the Syndicate were getting organized. The Philadelphia “family,” later to be led by Angelo Bruno, was in 1948 headed by Marco Riginelli, who lived in the Walt Whitman Hotel in Camden. Then a close-knit operation, gambling, booze, prostitution and drugs were the main interests in a geographic area that encompassed Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, from Trenton to Atlantic City.

The next day my father handed me the 1948 Camden PD arrest file on “Harry Eugene Bradley” also known as Eugene Hale Brading, including a front and side mug shot, details of the arrest and a three page rap sheet of previous arrests, and an attachment from the FBI requesting they be notified of any information about this individual.

Like he would be at Dealey Plaza as Jim Braden, Brading was taken into custody as a material witness, though in the Camden incident, he wouldn’t be asked to just make a statement and be released on his own recognizance, but would be mug shot, fingerprinted and held as a witness in a gambling operation of Dominic Mattia. I recognized the name of the arresting officer – Mr. Bobiac, who also ran a TV repair shop, but he had since past away.

Curious, I looked up Dominic Mattia in the phone book and found he lived in a new development in nearby Cherry Hill. Unabashed, I drover over and knocked on his door. When Mattia answered, and I asked him if he recalled the 1948 arrest in Camden, he did. Mattia explained that there was a card game going, a high stakes card game that was raided, and Mattia and Brading were just two of the guys in the room at the time. “It was a coincidence we were together,” Mattia said.

I was in my early 20s at the time and it was one of my first forays into the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy.

Making copies of Jim Braden’s Camden arrest file, I sent one to Peter Noyes, another to the Assassination Archives and Research Center in DC and others to a few independent researchers who I knew were interested. Later, in 1977, I hand delivered a copy to the Philadelphia law office of Richard Sprague, when he was appointed the first chief counsel to the HSCA, and I learned that he had his staff read Noyes’ book.

I knew Jim Braden’s testimony before the HSCA would be important, mainly because of his movements, residency at the Cabana Hotel and sharing an office in New Orleans on the same floor in the same building (Pere Marquette) as G. Ray Gill. Since Jim Garrison obtained the phone records of Gill’s office, and knew about some phone calls that established a pattern of evidence, I mistakenly believed that it would be properly investigated.

After Richard Sprague was forced out of the HSCA and G. Robert Blakely was appointed chief counsel, I thought Blakely’s academic background in the study of organized crime at Cornell, and his development of the RICO Act as a prosecution tool, that the Braden angle would be investigated.

When Braden was finally called to testify before the HSCA, he did so in executive session, for two days, even though, as a reading of his testimony shows, he wanted his story to be told so he could be publicly exonerated. Instead, when the HSCA concluded its business, it published a series of reports and exhibits, like the Warren Commission, but then sealed the rest of its records for 50 years as Congressional Records.

According to House Rule 36, all Congressional Records are sealed for 50 years, and Congress, unlike the CIA and every other branch of government, exempted itself from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

After the HSCA folded up its tent and sealed its records, I got a phone call from Michael Ewing, who worked with Blakely at the HSCA and was co-authoring a book with Blakely on how JFK was killed by the mob. I respected Ewing from his previous book, “Coincidence Or Conspiracy,” profiles of the major players in the JFK assassination, including one on Jim Braden, a book that he co-authored with Bernie Festerwald, Esq., founder of the Assassination Archives and Research Center.

Ewing had been talking with Peter Noyes and learned that I had obtained Jim Braden’s 1948 arrest report from the Camden, NJ PD, and wanted a copy.

I explained I had given a copy to Sprague and the HSCA, but Ewing said that Sprague didn’t turn over all his files to Blakely when he left, and I said I was glad he didn’t because they would now be locked away for 50 years. I did send him a copy, but made him aware of my anger at the records being sealed.

Although Blakley said that he was content to “Rest on the judgment of historians in 50 years,” others were not, and the JFK Act was passed in 1992 that ordered the release to the public of all government records related to the assassination of President Kennedy. The HSCA records of their investigation of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which included evidence of conspiracy, continues to be withheld from the public.

In his testimony before the HSCA, Braden made it quite clear that he wanted his story to be told in public, but his DC attorney at the time does not know what became of him.

When I was in California, I checked in at La Costa Country Club, which was open to the public, and the golf pro recalled Braden but didn’t know where he went after being booted from the club. The address in Atlanta where he was living when he testified before the HSCA was no longer valid. The “Jim Braden” whose name and phone number are listed in the LA phone book, is a black guy who is not the Jim Braden from Dealey Plaza.

If Jim Braden is still alive, he would be in his upper 80s, probably living near a golf course, possibly near Atlanta, or close to Santa Barbara, California, where his mother was last known to be living.

It would be greatly appreciated if anyone could put me in contact with Jim Braden, aka Edgar Eugene Brading, aka Harry Eugene Bradley, as I am anxious to get his story out.

William Kelly
Feb. 1, 2006
Browns Mills, N.J.

When Jim Braden checked into the Cabana Hotel in Dallas, Texas on November 21, 1963, there was no indication that anything spectacular was going to happen. Braden and his associates were in the oil business and had an appointment the next day with oil Texas oil baron H. L. Hunt, but Braden would miss the meeting. Destiny would intervene.

On Thursday, November 21, 1963, the same night Braden and friends checked in, Lawrence Meyers and Jean Aase (aka Jean West) were sitting at a table in the Bon Vivant Room of the same hotel, along with Meyers brother Ed and his wife. Ed Meyers was a Pepsi Cola soft drink bottler from New York and was in Dallas for a convention. They exchanged small talk, ostensibly ignorant of the cataclysmic events that would overtake them the next day.

Shortly before midnight Jack Ruby joined them for a short time. Ruby had earlier had a steak dinner with Meyers at the Egyptian Lounge, and Ruby knew Jean Aase, having met her earlier in the day at his Carousel Club.

Both Ruby and Larry Meyers were from Chicago, and they later said that was the basis of their friendship. Ruby had brought a “twist” exercise board with him and demonstrated it to Larry Meyers, who sold sporting goods equipment to department stores. Ruby was trying to convince Larry Meyers to market the devise for a friend of his.

Since Jim Braden used a credit card to pay for his drinks, it was later determined that Braden and his associates had a few drinks at the same Bon Vivant bar room, though he later claimed not to know Ruby or either of the Meyers brothers.

Jim Braden was there on oil business, Larry Meyers was mixing business and pleasure, Ed Meyers was there for the convention, and Ruby was just being his flamboyant self.

The next day, while Larry Meyers played golf, Ed Meyers went to his convention, Jean Aase went shopping with one of Ruby’s dancers, Betty McDonald, but Braden would miss the meeting his associates had with H.L. Hunt. Instead, Braden was taken into custody as a suspect in the murder of President John F. Kennedy.

Larry Meyers had a few conversations with his friend from the old neighborhood, Jack Ruby, who then proceeded to stalk, shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin, while the suspect was in the custody of the Dallas police.

Ed Meyers and his wife, who had been to Mexico City, where they had visited Larry’s son Ralph Meyers, returned to New York, while Larry Meyers flew back to Chicago with Jean Aase, who would never be seen, questioned or even located by government investigators who looked for her. Larry Meyers and Jack Ruby gave innocent explanations for their meeting at the Cabana the night before the assassination, and Jim Braden would be released by the police after making a simple statement.

Braden was never questioned by the Warren Commission or other investigations until the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) took his testimony over two days, and then locked it away for 50 years.

Jim Braden’s actions before and after the assassination are indeed suspicious, and even Braden, as he expressed in his HSCA testimony, was himself anxious to clear the record and his name.

In 1970, California television producer Peter Noyes came across Braden’s statement among the 26 volumes of Warren Commission Exhibits,
[See: Braden Statement of 11/22/63] which reads:

“I am here on business (oil business) and was walking down Elm Street trying to get a cab and there wasn’t any. I heard people talking, saying, ‘My God, the President’s has been shot.’ Police cars were passing me coming down the triple underpass and I was walking up among other people and this building was surrounded by police officers with guns and we were watching them.”

“I moved up to the building across the street from the building which was surrounded and I asked one of the girls if there was a telephone that I could use and she said, ‘Yes, there is one on the third floor of the building where I work.’ I walked through a passage to the elevator where they were getting on (the freight elevator) and I got off on the third floor of the building with all the other people and there was a lady using the pay phone and I asked her if I could use it when she hung up and she said it was out of order and I tried to use it with no success. I ask(ed) her how I can get out of the building and she said that there is an exit right there and then she said wait a minute here is the elevator now. I got on the elevator and returned to the ground floor and the colored man who ran the elevator said you are a stranger in this building and I was not suppose to let you up and he ran outside to an officer and said to this office that he had just taken me up and down in the elevator and the officer said for me to identify myself and I presented him with a credit card and he said well we have to check out everything and took me to his superior and said for me to wait and we will check it out. I was then taken to the Sheriff’s office and interrogated.”

Signed by Jim Braden, on Form 86, a Sheriff’s Department Voluntary Statement which noted, “Not Under Arrest.” Braden listed his age as 49, and home address as 621 S. Barrington Dr., Apt. 6, Los Angeles, California, and his office as 215 S. La Cienega, Blvd., Beverly Hills, California. His home phone was 472-5301.

Seven years later Peter Noyes, the television producer, tried to locate Braden as a potential witness, and tried to obtain his then current address by contacting the California Division of Motor Vehicles, who told Noyes that six weeks before the assassination, in September, 1963, Eugene Hale Brading legally changed his name to Jim Braden and had requested a new drivers license bearing that name.

The Los Angeles Police Department then told Noyes that Eugene Hale Brading, now also known as Jim Braden, had numerous arrests and was associated with organized crime activities. Born in Kansas and sent to a reformatory from school, he had been arrested on dozens of charges throughout his career, and was suspected of being a money courier for the Meyer Lansky syndicate.

Once, in Dallas, Braden was charged with embezzlement for bilking rich widows by marrying them and taking their money. The newspapers had branded him and his partner “the Honeymooners,” and Braden was literally run out of Dallas by Sheriff Bill Decker, who charged Braden for being a vagrant for living with the widow of the founder of Magnolia Oil Company. It would be Decker’s deputy “Lummie” Lewis who had taken Braden into custody at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.

Contacting Braden’s parole officer, Noyes found that Braden had stayed at the Cabana Hotel in Dallas, where Jack Ruby was known to have visited the night before the assassination. Noyes also discovered that Braden and his two associates had an appointment at the offices of H.L. Hunt at the same time Jack Ruby was there, dropping off a young women who applied for a job with Hunt’s company.

While Braden was not at the meeting, his associates did sign the register at Hunt’s building and kept the appointment.

Not just such circumstantial evidence, which could be coincidence or happenstance, Noyes also found that Braden’s movements were suspicious because they matched some third-party records, specifically some telephone records.

After Braden made his statement in Dallas and the police released him, Braden returned to the Cabana, where he learned that his associates had already checked out and flew to Houston on their private plane. Braden flew to Houston on a commercial flight, met his associates in Houston, checked out a West Texas oil opportunity and then Braden went to New Orleans. In New Orleans Braden worked with oil geologist Vernon Main, Jr., who maintained an office where Braden often visited and received mail on the 17th floor of the Pierre Marquette office building.

Both the Pinkerton Detective Agency and attorney G. Wray Gill also had offices on the 17th floor of the Pierre Marquette building. In 1963 Gill represented New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello in his deportation case, which was resolved on November 22, 1963. David Ferrie, who was the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s Civil Air Patrol officer years earler, worked as a private investigator for Gill on the Marcello case and worked out of Gill’s office.

In 1968 New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison obtained the telephone records of Gill’s office in connection with his investigation of David Ferrie, and Ferrie’s suspected involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. Gill furnished Garrison with his office phone records, complaining that Ferrie made many of the calls, some unauthorized.

A former Eastern airlines pilot and soldier of fortune, David Ferrie reportedly flew Marcello back into the United States after Marcello had been deported to Guatemala by attorney general Robert Kennedy. Ferrie also trained anti-Castro Cuban pilots for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in Guatemala and had been Oswald’s Captain in the Civil Air Patrol before Oswald enlisted in the Marines. Ferrie and Oswald were also seen together with World Trade Mart executive Clay Shaw in Clinton, Louisiana, where Oswald tried to register to vote and applied for a job at a mental hospital.

The Warran Commission investigators examined Jack Ruby’s phone records and some of his associates, including Larry Meyers, among whose phone records Jim Garrison discovered a phone number in Chicago also called by someone from Gill’s office in New Orleans.

It was assumed by Garrison and others that Ferrie made the call from Gill’s office on the 17th floor of the Pierre Marquette in New Orleans to the Chicago number used by Jean Aase (aka West), the women who accompanied Larry Meyers to Dallas from Chicago on the weekend of the assassination.

The phone number Chicago Whitehall 4 – 4970, was listed as Jean Aase’s address, 20 East Delaware Avenue, a hotel-apartment building owned by a Russian family and managed by Les Barker, a friend and business partner of Larry Meyers.

The call to that number from Gill’s office in New Orleans was made on September 24, 1963, the day Lee Harvey Oswald left his Magazine Street apartment for Mexico City.

A few weeks after that call, in October 1963, Les Barker introduced Larry Meyers to Jean Aase, who lived in one of the hotel room apartments. Originally from Minnesotta, Aase was referred to by Meyers as “Miss West,” and characterized as “a party girl, playgirl, a dumb but accommodating broad and semi-professional hooker.”

Three days before the assassination Meyers and Aase flew to Dallas and stayed at the Ramada Inn near the airport. The next day they moved to the Cabana Motor Hotel, where Meyers had previously stayed on other occasions, including the gala grand opening.

Jim Braden and his associates from California were also registered at the Cabana at the time.

The Warren Report reads: “On Thursday, November 21, 1963 Ruby conversed for about an hour with Lawrence Meyers, a Chicago businessman. Between 9:45 and 10:45 p.m., Ruby had dinner with his financial backer Ralph Paul,….(then) about midnight Ruby rejoined Meyers at the Bon Vivant Room of the Dallas Cabana where they met Meyers’ brother and sister-in-law.”

By the end of the weekend the President was dead, Braden had been taken into custody and Ruby had killed the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Braden then left Dallas and went to the same floor of the same office building where Oswald’s former CAP Captain David Ferrie worked and a phone call was made to Jean Aase’s Chicago apartment before the assassination. The trail comes full circle. Chicago-Dallas-New Orleans – Chicago.

Robert F. Kennedy, in his book The Enemy Within, explained how such third-party telephone records are important evidence in gaining organized crime conspiracy convictions. “We find out who is in touch with whom and on what dates,” Kennedy wrote. “Say that A calls B; we get B’s calls; find that two minutes after he hung up from talking to A, he called C. Then we find from canceled checks, money going from A to C. Gangsters in Chicago all call the same barber shop in Miami Beach that gangsters in Detroit call – its being used as a syndicate message center. Records are far more important than witnesses.”

Peter Noyes, the California television producer who first uncovered Jim Braden’s name change and criminal records, wrote a book published in paperback, A Legacy of Doubt (Pinnacle Press, 1973), which details Braden’s background, associations with organized crime and possible involvement in the assassination. Shortly after Kennedy’s murder, in 1964, Braden became a charter member in the La Costa Country Club, near San Diego, California.

From Braden’s rap sheet of previous arrests, Noyes developed a profile of Braden, and knew that he had been arrested in Camden, New Jersey, in 1948. In his book Noyes reports that, “The Camden police have since refused to divulge any details concerning that arrest, but it must be noted that there was considerable organized crime activity in the Camden area at the time.”

Since my father was a Lieutenant in the Camden Police Department at the time (1973), I showed him this reference in Noyes’ book, and shortly thereafter he handed me the original 1948 Camden arrest report [C.P.D. # 5648 – 9837] for Harry Eugene Bradley, as a material witness in the gambling case of Dominic Mattia.

Including front and side view mug shot, the report notes he is a White, Mail, 6 foot 1 inch in height, 175 pounds, of medium build, hazel eyes and brown hair. His date and place of birth is noted as 11/30/14 and Fort Worth, Texas (Sic, actually Kansas). His occupation, Salesman. FBI # 799431 and SBI # 381026. FPC 23 1 A 10 14 – 1 A 10 18.

A small card details that on May 5, 1948, Harry Bradley, of 24 Benson St., Camden, N.J. an American, White, Mail, Salesman, age 33, not married, can read, condition-sober, was arrested by Detectives Conley, Bobiak and Trout as material witness in the case of Dominic Mattia, at 3:40 PM in the 4th Ward, and was lodged in Cell No. 2-N, as received by Sgt. Stanton. He was later released by “Carson” with the disposition of the case being dismissed on 5/7/48.

The FBI Record SB # 381026 is two pages long, listing the 14 times Eugene Hale Bradley (aka Eugene H. Brading) was arrested and fingerprinted before May 1948. The first was on 5-15-34 for burglary, while others were for running a gambling house, auto theft and war powers act, for selling Office of Price Administration (OPA) gas ration books, mainly in Miami, Florida.

There is also a note: “#4287-N USN, Miami, Fla., 1-7-43 Black Market gas coupons, 12-7-45 probation revoked. Taken into custody 12-7-45 for service of sentence originally imposed – 1 year in institution of penitentiary type.”

The Camden arrest record was kept in files in the basement. Rather than because the Camden PD was controlled by organized crime, as Peter Noyes suggested in his book, the reason he was never given the records is because the secretaries who received his request didn’t want to get dirty in the dingy basement records room. When my father attempted to obtain a current arrest report on Braden however, they FBI refused his request, something he said never happened before.

In the clipping morgue of the Camden Courier Post newspaper I located a small news report of the 1948 gambling arrest, and another larger story from many years later that mentioned Dominic Mattia’s involvement in a bankruptcy scheme. I obtained Mattia’s address from the public phone directory and visited him at his suburban Camden home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey [on Monday, June 2, 1975].

Mattia told me that he had been arrested for gambling with some friends and that Braden just happened to be in the store where they were raided at the time. “I remember the him,” Mattia said, “but I only knew the guy for one day. He was a drifter. It was just a coincidence that he was there at the time. He then left town and I never saw him again.”

It seems that Jim Braden has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his book Noyes also notes that Jim Braden was in Los Angeles on the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

In 1977 Congress officially reopened the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy by convening the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). When former Philadelphia prosecutor Richard Sprague was appointed chief counsel of the committee, I hand delivered a photo copy of the Braden file from the Camden PD to Sprague’s law office in Philadelphia, just across the Delaware River from Camden.

Sprague, who had successfully prosecuted the political assassination of a United Mine Workers union official, was not buying the lone-nut scenario for Kennedy’s murder and was quoted in the papers as saying, “I am not interested in whether Oswald was fed at his mother’s breast, my approach to motive is more direct.”

When it became apparent that Sprague was going to conduct a serious homicide investigation he was directly removed from his post in a political move that also led to the resignation of the HSCA chairman Rep. Henry Gonzalas (D. Tex.), also a witness to the assassination.

The Second Chief Counsel to the HSCA, G. Robert Blakey, was a former laweyer in RFK’s Justice Department, had founded the Cornell University Institute on Organized Crime and authored much of the RICO statutes that gave the government gang busting powers to attack organized crime.

Blakey cut back on the HSCA staff and scope of the investigation, failed to review any significant leads that implicated the intelligence agencies, relied on inconclusive scientific evidence and shifted the inquiry towards organized crime.

As an expert witness on organized crime, Blakey had previously testified in court in California [La Costa vs. Penthouse Magazine] that Moe Daltz, who with Jim Braden, was a co-founder of the La Costa Country Club, was NOT involved in organized crime activity. Former FBI agent William Turner said, “How he could do that with all that is known about Dalitz, I don’t know.”

After two years of conducting hearings and interviews, including two days of secret, closed door testimony of Jim Braden, Blakey’s HSCA issued a report that concluded there is evidence of conspiracy in the assassination, and disbanded.

Blakely insured that the HSCA records, including Braden’s testimony, would be sealed from the public by classifying it as “Congressional Material,” which under rule #36, ensures that the records were locked away for 50 years, or until 2029. While all other branches of government must comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Congress exempted itself from the law, and Blakey was quoted as saying he’s okay with that and, “I’ll rest on the judgment of historians in 50 years.”

Six months after the release of the HSCA “Final Report,” I received a telephone call from G. Robert Blakey’s assistant Michael Ewing, who was working with Blakey on a book about the assassination. I knew Ewing from his co-authorship of a previous book on the assassination, the appropriately titled Conspiracy or Coincidence?, which profiles many of the witnesses and suspects involved in the JFK assassination drama.

Ewing said he had been talking with Peter Noyes, the California television producer, who mentioned that I had obtained Jim Braden’s Camden, N.J. arrest record, and wanted a copy of it.

I told him that I had given Sprague a copy when he first took the job, but Ewing said that Sprague didn’t share all of his records with Blakey.

I said that I was glad he didn’t because if I had given Sprague the original record, and he had passed it on, Blakey would have locked it away for 50 years so nobody would have it.

When I asked Ewing why he was interested in the Braden file now, after the committee had concluded its investigation, issued its report and disbanded, and failed to even mention Braden in its Final Report, Ewing replied that, “The most important evidence was not published in the report or publicly released and is locked away.”

“We expect the Justice Department to officially reopen the case,” Ewing said, “and we didn’t want to tip our hand by releasing the most incriminating evidence.”

This contradicts the statements of Rep. Lewis Stokes, the third chairman of the HSCA, who said that they did not lock away any evidence of conspiracy.

While Blakey did not want the records of the HSCA released to the public, he did use material he obtained there to write, with former Life magazine editor Richard Billings, a book The Plot To Kill The President (Times Books, 1981), which concludes President Kennedy was killed by an organized crime conspiracy involving the Mafia.

The plot to kill President Kennedy was most certainly an organized crime, and did include members of the mob, the Mafia didn’t engage in a psychological warfare campaign to blame the assassination on Fidel Castro, thwart the Secret Service, control the Dallas Police investigation, cover up the criminal and conspiratorial aspects of the crime, prevent a forensic autopsy of the victims and lock up the most significant evidence for 50 years.

The JFK ACT of 1992 released most of the HSCA records, including Jim Braden’s two days of executive testimony, a transcript of which was obtained and shared by Peter Noyes.

William Kelly
June, 2006

By Bill Kelly ( )

Jim Braden appeared anxious to testify in Executive Session before the JFK Sub-Committee of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). He finally got the opportunity on Tuesday, May 16, 1978 at 11:30 a.m. in room 1310 of the Longworth House Office Building. The Honorable Richard Prior, chairman of the JFK subcommittee presided.

Representatives Dodd and Pithian were also present, as well as Michael Ewing, Gary Cornwall, Richard Billings and a half-dozen other staff members. The room was cleared of unauthorized personnel and the proceedings were recorded by a stenographer. Mr. Braden was represented by DC attorney Kenneth M. Trombly.

The recordings of what transpired at that session, and another subsequent sworn deoposition with Mr. Braden, were then locked away at the National Archives for 50 years from the termination of the committee in 1979. The second chief counsel to the committee, G. Robert Blakey, when asked about the secrecy, replied, “I’ll rest on the judgment of historians in 50 years.”

The American people did not however, and after intense pressure was placed on Congress, the JFK Assassinations Records Review Act was passed in 1993, which called for the release of all official records related to the assassination of President Kennedy. Among these records were the transcripts of the testimony that should have been public knowledge in 1978.

In 1978 Braden said his address was 3234 Peachtree Road, Northeast, Atlanta, Georgia, and his occupation was, “Pursuing the clearing of my name of the associations that have been made about me in books, magazines and newspapers.”

Among the accusations Braden had to explain was how he came to officially change his name shortly before he was taken into custody as a suspicious person at the scene of the murder of President Kennedy.

At that time, Braden was on parole and working in Los Angeles as an independent oil operator. Among the corporations he owned were the Matador Corporation of Texas and California. His main associate at the time was Roger Bowman, of Dallas.

He was on parole for violation of the Mail Fraud Act and the National Stolen Property Act. Braden explained, “This concerned a check that was transported from Texas to California by the bank. When the check went through the mails that was mail fraud. If the check was for more than $5,000, that constituted National Stolen Property Act.” The case was prosecuted in El Paso, Texas Federal Court.

In September of 1963 Braden said that he requested permission from his Los Angeles parole officer, Mr. Samuel Barrett, to travel to Houston for five days to discuss business. He was in Houston on September 16, 1963 when he left a note for the parole office there. He was to discuss business with Mr. D.D. Ford of the Tidewater Oil Company, but did not meet with him as planned, although Bauman may have met with Ford. Braden said he may have met with his production engineers, Paul Montgomery and Alan Hardy, who were with the Dixon Management Co., some oil geologists from Lafayette, La., and Vernon Main, Jr., an oil geologist from New Orleans. This mid-September trip to Texas was interrupted by a hurricane.

According to a letter to Braden dated November 18, 1963 from parole officer Barrett [Entered into the record as JFK Exhibit No. 109], Braden planned to return to Houston on October 27, 1963, but this trip was delayed to November 21. “It is understood that you will depart from Los Angeles via airlines on Wed. Nov. 20, 1963, and will travel directly to Dallas where you will remain until Monday, Nov. 21, (Sic Nov. 25) when you will continue your flight on to Houston, Texas, where you will remain until about Nov. 26th before continuing on to Opelousas, Louisiana. You are hearby instructed to contact the Probation Offices in Dallas and Houston, Texas after your arrival in those different cities and to follow any instructions given you in those cities….”

All the best plans sometimes go astray, and it just wasn’t going to play out that way. Braden recalls arriving in Dallas on Thursday, the 21st of November, though there is some discrepancy as to whether he took a commercial flight or private plane. Braden remembers the private plane. He traveled from Los Angeles with Mr. Morgan Brown, Mr. Duane Nowlan and Mr. Myron Routt. Brown was an oil consultant, and friend of Braden who gave him a job when he got out of the penitentiary. Nowlan owned and piloted the private air plane, and Routt was a wealthy, political investor.

At noon, shortly after checking in at the Dallas Cabana Moter-Hotel, Braden checked in with the Dallas probation office in the federal building. Mr. Robert Carroll sent a letter that day to Mr. Joseph N. Shore, Parole Executive at the U.S. Boar of Parole, First and D Streets, N.W. Washington, D.C., “as per Barrett’s instructions, Brading reported to this office at noon today stating that he planned to see Lamar Hunt and other speculators while here…Brading promised to notify us of his departure from Dallas…” [JKK Exhibit 110]. That Thursday, November 21, Brading and his associates had dinner at an Italian restaurant.

Braden recalled his interlude with Sheriff Bill Decker when he briefly lived in Dallas in 1952. While a guest at the home of Mrs. Lee Little, the widow of the founder of Magnolia Oil Co., and her husband, Braden’s good friend Victor Perrera, the Chief of the University Park police called Braden and asked him to come to the station. He was locked up for vagrancy, taken downtown “to see the sheriff,” fingerprinted, photographed, booked for vagrancy and locked in a broom closet until bailed out by Mr. Perrera. Sheriff Decker ordered Braden out of town, and he was photographed by news photographers while leaving.

On November 22, 1963 Braden recalled being taken into custody by one of Sheriff Decker’s deputies. Braden had breakfast with Bauman, Brown, Nowlin and Rout somewhere in a little café in downtown Dallas. Although they intended to stay another day, they decided to leave for Houston that afternoon instead. Braden then ad to inform the parole office of his change in itinerary and early departure. He did not however, tell his associates he had to do this.

“I ate breakfast and went over to see my probation officer,” Braden explained. He did not recall making or receiving any telephone calls while at the Cabana, nor did he see Mr. Hunt, as expected. Braden went to see his parole officer while the others went to see Hunt.

Walking to the federal parole office, Braden said, “…the street that the President’s motorcade was coming down was completely lined with people. I walked across the street and stood in front of the Tiches Department Store. There was a little ledge higher than the street. I stood on that. I watched the motorcade as it went by me…. I saw it in the papers, heard it on TV. It was well known he was going to be there.” But he said he did not intentionally plan his visit downtown so that he could see the President’s motorcade.

Braden made a sketch of downtown Dallas and mapped out his walk. [JFK Exhibit No.111 was entered into the record.] It is a sketch of downtown Dallas, making the points where Braden was at various times during the hour of the assassination. Recreating his walk, Braden said that after leaving the restaurant where he had breakfast with his associates, he stopped on the steps of Titches Department Store to watch the motorcade approaching. “The streets were completely lined with people waiting for the motorcade to come through. I crossed the street. While I was there I waited to see the President’s motorcade….I watched the motorcade come by ( and then proceeded to the Federal Building).”

“While I arrived, I cannot recall what floor the Probation Department is on, but as I arrived a the door the Chief Probation Officer, Mr. Roger Carroll had his keys out and was going to open the door, his receptionist standing there and me – this was the three of us. And he opened the door and I went in, signed the registry and went into his office and we sat there and discussed the motorcade momentarily and the President….I advised him I was leaving and going to Houston. We passed the time of day. He said good bye and I left.” They did not discuss whether or not Braden had seen Hunt.

Braden was asked about his interview years later with Los Angeles Detective Manuel Guterres, who attempted to obtain a photograph of Braden from his ex-wife, Mrs. Bauman of Palm Springs, California. (No one asks if she was also related to Braden’s associate Duane Bauman.) Guterres wanted to know how Braden came to be in Dealey Plaza when JFK was killed and was in LA when RFK was murdered. At the time RFK was killed, Braden said, “I was in bed with my wife (at the Century Plaza Hotel) at the time. We were watching television and saw Bobby Kennedy shot.”

When Guterries asked him where he was when President Kennedy was shot, Braden replied, “I was in the United States Probation Office checking in with Mr. Flowers…As I recall there wasn’t any Mr. Flowers….I had…forgotten Mr. Roger Carroll’s name. It could have been an honest mistake. I did not intentionally do it.”

So after visiting Mr. Carroll at the Probation office, Braden said, “I walked out, started down the street. I stopped, as I recall and got a sandwich, I believe at a little restaurant there. When I left there I was walking, I was looking for a taxi cab and these people were running up the street towards me…I distinctly recall this fellow had a camera over his shoulder saying, “My God, they have shot the President.”

Walking further on he came across Dallas Police cars with their doors open, and he could hear the police radio, “They were telling on the radio, everybody get to that building….I walked along the edge of what I later learned was the Texas School Book Depository Building. I recall the railroad tracks ran off this way and up to the edge of the building where all the people were there with the officers completely circling the building I was looking across the street. [The Sheriff’s report, Braden’s 11/22/63 statement is entered into the records as JFK Exhibit No. 112].

Braden continued, “I walked up alongside this building which is now known as the Dal-Tex Building. I was peeking around the corner, I asked somebody what is happening. They said they have somebody up there who shot the President and these officers had their guns up there pointing to this building….As I proceeded along – there were crowds of people on the sidewalk and I asked one of the ladies who was walking along in my direction, I said, ‘Is there a telephone in the area?’ She said, ‘ There is one in my building on the third floor’ and we passed through this walkway to a freight elevator.”

Asked whom he wanted to call, Braden said, “My family in Santa Barbara, my mother and father. I thought this was quite a news events to call and tell them what occurred in Dallas. And I went up to the third floor. There was a women standing there who tried to use the telephone. She hung up. I started using it. She said, ‘It is out of order.’ I turned around. ‘How do I get out of here?’ She says, ‘There is an exit right over there.’ Because I didn’t know where I was in this building I was looking for an exit. I came up in a freight elevator. I was looking for an exit. I was on the third floor….She says, ‘There is a freight elevator there now.’ With this I went over and got back on and started to descend. This was at the time when this old gentleman who was steering the elevator began to look at me a little askance. He had a radio there in the elevator and it was blaring the Kennedy matter out and whatnot. He became more concerned as we were riding this elevator down. I no more than got on the ground floor, he ran back up this runway to an office in uniform and I am following the fellow right along because what can I do? I could not run away. If I ran away they would probably shoot me on the spot.”

“I just took this man up and down in the elevator,” Braden quoted the elevator operator as saying. “With this, the officer says, “Well, we have to check out everything.” With this the officer takes me and we walk out in the center of this area here where there were all these vacant areas where all these policeman were surrounding the building. I definitely recall at the time that I looked over and I could see men coming out. They had a gun on a string or a rope or something. Whatever time that was, I don’t know…about thirty minutes (after he left the Federal Building).”

When the Sheriff’s Deputies asked him for identification Braden first showed them some credit cards. “I pulled out the first thing that was in my wallet. I had my driver’s license too…We went over to the Sheriff’s Office…There we walked into this room where there were many other people sitting around. I sat down,….told two detectives what happened….Then I saw for…say three or four hours. Two Secret Service agents asked me how I was to get home. They asked if I signed a statement…With this I went to a girl who had a typewriter in the desk. She typed it out as I spoke and I signed it…As I understand it they told me they were Secret Service Agents. That is how I knew that…It was pretty hectic time in the Sheriff’s office, people running in and out of there all the time.” The two Secret Service Agents then gave him a ride back to the Cabana Motor Hotel, where he found his associates had already checked out, so he caught a commercial flight to Houston to catch up with them.

As for Braden’s early life, he told the HSCA he was born in Kansas, left home at nineteen, spent time in a reformatory. His parents moved to California during WWII. He bought them a house in Santa Barbara in 1960, and calls home every Sunday.

His mother once asked him, “Is it true, son, what these people say about you, about all this bad notoriety that came out?”

“Even my own mother questioned me, and that hurt,” Braden said, acknowledging that he never did call her that day.

As for Braden’s associates, “I saw them the next day in Houston at the Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel. We all gathered there. They asked what happened and I didn’t tell them anything because it was embarrassing to me.”

Braden reiterates that they all flew to Dallas from LA on Nowlin’s plane and not by commercial airline (a fact disputed by Brown). Braden flew by commercial airline to Houston while the others left earlier on Nowlin’s plane (possibly out of Redbird AP). From Houston they flew to West Texas, possibly San Angelo to meet an oil speculator named Charlie W., last name unknown. They never went to Opelousas, La., as planned, and returned to Los Angeles. Braden went on to New Orleans.

Braden’s excuse for getting caught in the Dealey Plaza dragnet: “When the event came up of Mr. Kennedy’s assassination, I had a curiosity which apparently I shouldn’t have had and I became involved.”

Braden said that he later returned to Dallas some years after the assassination, and “married a young women from Dallas, Texas (Jeanne Dicentis) and I was in Dallas society after that.” He also admitted having, “laid out my whole story to Hugh Hainesworth, who was with the Dallas Times Herald….He was in the plaza when the president was shot. If anybody he would know anything that transpired there. I would have to say that he would know more than anybody else.”

Braden said that he went to Cuba in 1937-38 and lived in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, under U.S. Parole supervision. At the time he lived in New Orleans he was married to Mrs. Mildred Bauman of Palm Springs, California, “and was living off the considerable income from my oil production.”

In New Orleans he lived in an apartment complex on Saint Charles Avenue, past the Pontchartrain Hotel to be closer to his oil wells, and companies, the Empire Oil and Royalty Corporation, of Lafayette, Louisiana. His attorney was Duncan Smith. His closest friend and associate in New Orleans was Vernon Main, Jr., and oil geologist who kept an office in Room 1701 in the Pierre Marquette building, where Braden frequently visited.

A Dec. 23, 1977 letter to the probation office requesting dates Braden was under parole supervision in New Orleans was entered into the record [Exhibits 114, 115, 116]. Braden testified that he did not know G. Ray Gill or recognize photo [Exhibit No. 71]. He did not know Col. Blueford Balter or William Monteleon, although he was entertained at the Monteleon Hotel nightclub, possibly in June, 1963. Braden did not know Mike or William McLaney, nor did he visit a hunting cabin on Lake Ponchartrain. Nor did he know David Ferrie, Carlos Marchelloo, Lawrence Meyers, Jean Aase/West, and while a social Baptist, he has “not gone to church in awhile.”

Braden did not recall using the alias Edgar Eugene Bradley, even though his arrest record [JFK Exhibit 117] indicated he used the name Harry Eugene Bradley when arrested in Camden, N.J. on March 5, 1948.

Braden was not familiar with Jeannette Porforto, aka Jada, although Candy Barr “rang a bell.” Nor did he recognize a photo of Guy Bannister, did not know Nofio Pecora, and only recognized Clay Shaw’s photos from the newspapers. He did not know Harold Tannenbaum, Jack Martin or “the United Cuban Catholic Missionary Friends or Forces.”

Braden had been a member of the Petroleum Club of LA, “until the book came out and I resigned.” He once had dinner at the Dallas Petroleum Club with his wife Jean Dicentis and the former President of the Republic Bank and his wife (circa 1967). Braden said he may have met Jim Garrison once, “on a street corner or something, said hello to him.”

Braden said he first met Mr. Victor Perrera around 1949. They had interest in two oil wells in Matagora County, Texas, with Perrera’s interests under the name of Velco Products. Braden did not know of Delco Oil Products, was never associated with World Oil Company, formed in Beverly Hills in 1963.

Morgan Brown hired him out of the penitentiary. Braden did known Earl Scheib, who Perrera worked for, and whom he knew socially through Brown. He did not know Scheib’s associate Robert Barney Barker.

A letter from Braden to Ed Davis, LAPD [JFK Exhibit No. 120] is quoted, “Of the many misrepresentations made by agents and officers of the LAPD as reflected in the book [By Noyes] are and were my associations with James Fratianno, Charles Rhodes, Stephen Sambor, Harry Meltzer, Joe, George and Fred Issica and Meyer Lansky.


Jim Braden returned for a second appearance before the Select Committee on Assassinations on July 26, 1978. For the record, Braden now gave his address as Eugene H. Braden, 2028 East 7th St., Charlotte, North Carolina, 28201. (704) 376-9055.

Having taken the testimony of Morgan Brown since Braden gave his earlier testimony, the committee counsel tried to clear up some discrepancies, such as Braden saying he flew with Brown in a private plane from LA to Dallas, while Brown recalls flying a commercial airline. Brown also recalled the Cabana Motel being booked solid that Thursday night, so Brown recalled staying with his sister while Braden stayed at a motel near the airport.

According to Braden, “Morgan Brown was the one who I think more or less engineered this trip and that he knew, this is his hometown from years back, and he knew everybody in the oil business there. He was seeking oil deals as I was, as I recall.” Braden did not remember going to the Cipango Club, a private club, for dinner.

The Hunt offices were located in the Merchantile Building, 1704 Main Street. Braden did not recall Jimmy Kemp, who brown visited in an office in the same building. Titches Department Strore [Braden Photo No. 1, the Dallas Federal Building Braden Photo No. 2].

Braden reiterated the fact that he checked in with a parole officer, “I definitely spoke to Mr. Carroll….I am absolutely positive and absolutely positive of the approximate time that I was in his office” – 12:30 pm on November 22, 1963, though committee counsel notes, “Mr. Carroll at this time is not able to recall whether or not you came in that day or whether or not you saw him that day.”

Braden asked, “Now, what does Miss Sands have to say about it? She was the receptionist for him at the time and she was there at the door when he was at the door unlocking the door to go in,” Braden said as they discussed the circumstances of the motorcade, “how handsome the President was and how he looked and the circumstances of the motorcade.”

Braden comes across as a completely innocent person who, by coincidence and happenstance became involved in the assassination and who has been slandered by journalists who have taken advantage of his criminal past.

Then he mentioned two items that completely contradict that portrait. Braden said that he received a death threat in August, 1976, shortly after the murder of John Rosselli. Braden said that he was in Atlanta, Georgia, “in the Hyatt House…sitting in the lobby one day, my name was paged and I asked for a phone and some guy said, ‘You are next,’ and hung up. What he meant by it I don’t know. But this is the time they found a body down there in Florida and whether it was a joke or not, I don’t know…I don’t know if I am being followed or not. I only know one thing, from what I read in the magazines and newspapers and all, there were 18 that started out and there are only two left, – and that is (Loren) Hall and Braden…we are the only two left. I feel that I am physically endangered over this assassination matter.”

The second significant item he mentioned concerned an attempt to get his parole supervision lifted through contacts with J. Edgar Hover at the Del Mar racetrack.

Braden said Leon Snyder, “was going to come to Washington and get our parole restrictions lifted, or that effect, through a Presidential pardon.” This attempt involved a Mr. John Manaraino [phonetic spelling], of who Braden said, “I met him at the race track…We called him ‘Joe’ or ‘Joey’ or something to that effect. I met him at the Del Mar race track and he was aware of Pereira’s and my situation that we had. How he was aware of it I don’t know. He was going to get our parole supervisor lifted, and the only way I knew the man is that J. Edgar Hover used to go to the races considerably and Mr. Clyde Tolson, and I had the occasion to meet them there at the race track. They didn’t know who I was and they didn’t know that I had my case, so to speak, but anyway I know he and Mr. Hover were very close friends and so I assumed that the man was a nice fellow or Mr. Hover wouldn’t be friendly with the man. I saw Joey and Hover conversing considerably around the track there,….I think that I met them there at the track, and it was only briefly…They were at all of the meetings. They would come out to California for those meetings – race meetings I’m talking about.”

Braden said he did not know Gordon McClendon, although he did know Merve Adelson, from the La Costa Country Club. “Around 1963 or 1964 when they started building it, I was invited to join by a professional golfer from Palm Springs,…Eddie Sullesa [Phonetic spelling], from Inland Country Club…He moved over to La Costa and I visited him there one day while they were building the clubhouse and he said, ‘you ought to join this,’ and I said, ‘I will,’ and so I did…And for the record, the cost, I think, was $100 to join and the dues were $17.50 a month.”

Braden said he was a member, “up until the time of the book (Legacy of Doubt) releases had come down and they took my name off the board and I was no longer a member. It was 1873 when the book came out.”

Braden may have known a man named “Rosanova” and Chicago mob point man in Las Vegas, Anthony Splitro, and he admitted to possibly meeting Allen Dorfman once, but claimed he never met or knew Murry Chotiner, the American Volunteer Group, Paul Roverman (sic Rothermel) of Hunt Security, or Robert DePUgh, who served time, as did Braden, at Leavenworth. He did not know Reverend Wesley Swift, was not familiar with the Defense Industrial Security Command of the Redstone Arsenal, Michael McCawon or members of the John Birch Society.

In his closing statement, Braden said, “I am going to request again that Mr. Roger Carroll, Chief Probation officer in Dallas be pinned down as to why he made statements to the press that were not true…He knew the day before exactly when I was in his office and the following day, then he didn’t happen to remember… And why is he covering up and why is the Chief U.S. Probation officer stonewalling and covering this matter up? None of them want to be involved, but they want to involve me immediately. Authors and journalists involved me and that is how I became involved in this. Whatever this Committee can do to straighten the matter out and to get at the truth of it, I would appreciate because I want my name cleared and I want the stigma removed from my name and my family’s name.”

“I have waited a long time and spent a lot of money on it and I am still trying to clear my name and I haven’t read one sentence anyplace in any newspaper where it says I didn’t do it or didn’t have any reason to do it or the statements made in these publications are false.”

In a prepared statement entered into the record, Braden wrote: “Let the record show that Peter Noyes…and Earl Golz, by their publications…dug my grave and completely ruined my life….(by)…creating the charges I was connected in a sinister conspiracy to assassinate former President John F. Kennedy…and completed my execution and burial….Mr. Carroll and Ms. Sands…have not voluntarily come forward with the truth and they refuse to tell the facts regarding my whereabouts when Kennedy was shot….I have written over 150 letters to U.S. Congressmen and urged them to vote for the resolution which established this very House Select Committee on Assassinations in order for the American people to learn the truth regarding the assassination of former President Kennedy, and for confidence to be restored in the Government by the American people.”

“This House Select Committee must put to rest many of the issues, theories and speculations as possible, dreamed and stated by authors and journalists in their incorrect and libelous publications.”

So even though Braden maintained his innocence, and that it was just a coincidence that he was taken into custody as a suspicious person at the scene of the President, his association with Magnolia Oil Company, his living in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, his association with Vernon Main, Jr., his brush with J. Edgar Hover and Clyde Tolson at the Del Mar race track, and the threat to this life shortly after the murder of John Rosselli are all indications that there is more to the Jim Braden file than what has been accumulated and released so far.

A telephone call (Oct. 23, 1993) to his 1978 DC attorney Kenneth Trombly, Trombly said that he had no idea where Braden is today.

Jim Braden 1948 Camden, NJ Mug Shot

December 20, 2009
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Mae Brussell

December 20, 2009
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JFK at American University

December 20, 2009

JFK at American University June 10, 1963

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The Hope of Confronting the Unspeakable

James Douglas – Author of JFK & The Unspeakable –
Dallas COPA November 2009

I want to speak tonight about the hope that comes from our confronting the truth of the assassination of President Kennedy. Concerned friends have asked me over the years if engaging in such a probe into darkness hasn’t made me profoundly depressed. On the contrary, it has given me great hope. As Martin Luther King said, the truth crushed to earth will rise again. Gandhi spoke hopefully of experiments in truth, because they take us into the most powerful force on earth and in existence – truth-force, satyagraha. That is how I think of this work, as an experiment in truth – one that will open us up, both personally and as a country, to a process of nonviolent transformation. I believe this experiment we are doing into the dark truth of Dallas (and of Washington) can be the most hopeful experience of our lives. But as you know, it does require patience and tenacity to confront the unspeakable. We, first of all, need to take the time to recognize the sources in our history for what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

The doctrine of “plausible deniability” in an old government document provides us with a source of the assassination of President Kennedy. The document was issued in 1948, one year after the CIA was established, 15 years before JFK’s murder. That document, National Security Council directive 10/2, on June 18, 1948, “gave the highest sanction of the [U.S.] government to a broad range of covert operations” – propaganda, sabotage, economic warfare, subversion of all kinds – that were seen as necessary to “win” the Cold War against the Communists. The government’s condition for those covert activities by U.S. agencies, coordinated by the CIA, was that they be “so planned and executed that…if uncovered the US government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.”

In the 1950’s, under the leadership of CIA Director Allen Dulles, the doctrine of “plausible deniability” became the CIA’s green light to assassinate national leaders, conduct secret military operations, and overthrow governments that our government thought were on the wrong side in the Cold War. “Plausible deniability” meant our intelligence agencies, acting as paramilitary groups, had to lie and cover their tracks so effectively that there would be no trace of U.S. government responsibility for criminal activities on an ever-widening scale.

The man who proposed this secret, subversive process in 1948, diplomat George Kennan, said later, in light of its consequences, that it was “the greatest mistake I ever made.” President Harry Truman, under whom the CIA was created, and during whose presidency the plausible deniability doctrine was authorized, had deep regrets. He said in a statement on December 22, 1963:

“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

“We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”

Truman later remarked: “The CIA was set up by me for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the president. It was not intended to operate as an international agency engaged in strange activities.”

President Truman’s sharp warning about the CIA, and the fact that warning was published one month to the day after JFK’s assassination, should have given this country pause. However, his statement appeared only in an early edition of The Washington Post, then vanished without comment from public view.

What George Kennan and Harry Truman realized much too late was that, in the name of national security, they had unwittingly allowed an alien force to invade a democracy. As a result, we now had to deal with a government agency authorized to carry out a broad range of criminal activities on an international scale, theoretically accountable to the president but with no genuine accountability to anyone. Plausible deniability became a rationale for the CIA’s interpretation of what the executive branch’s wishes might be. But for the Agency’s crimes to remain plausibly deniable, the less said the better – to the point where CIA leaders’ creative imaginations simply took over. It was all for the sake of “winning” the Cold War by any means necessary and without implicating the more visible heads of the government. One assumption behind Kennan’s proposal unleashing the CIA for its war against Communism was that the Agency’s criminal power could be confined to covert action outside the borders of the United States, with immunity from its lethal power granted to U.S. citizens. That assumption proved to be wrong.

During the Cold War, the hidden growth of the CIA’s autonomous power corresponded to the public growth of what was called a fortress state. What had been a struggling post-war democracy in our country was replaced by the institutions of a national security state. President Truman had laid the foundations for that silent takeover by his momentous decision to end the Second World War by a demonstration of nuclear weapons on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to stop a Soviet advance to Japan. Truman’s further, post-war decision for U.S. nuclear dominance in the world rather than allowing for international control of nuclear weapons was his second disastrous mistake, in terms of initiating the nuclear arms race in the world and subverting democracy in the U.S.A. A democracy within a national security state cannot survive. The president’s decision to base our security on nuclear weapons created the contradiction of a democracy ruled by the dictates of the Pentagon. A democratic national security state is a contradiction in terms.

The insecure basis of our security then became weapons that could destroy the planet. To protect the security of that illusory means of security, which was absolute destructive power, we now needed a ruling elite of national security managers with an authority above that of our elected representatives. So from that point on, our military-industrial managers made the real decisions of state. President Truman simply ratified their decisions and entrenched their power, as he did with the establishment of the CIA, and as his National Security Council did with its endorsement of plausible deniability.

His successor, President Eisenhower, also failed to challenge in his presidency what he warned against at its end — the military-industrial complex. He left the critical task of resisting that anti-democratic power in the hands of the next president, John Kennedy.

When President Kennedy then stood up to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the military-industrial complex, he was treated as a traitor. His attempt to save the planet from the weapons of his own state was regarded as treason. The doctrine of plausible deniability allowed for the assassination of a president seen as a national security risk himself.

The CIA’s “plausible deniability” for crimes of state, as exemplified by JFK’s murder, corresponds in our politics to what the Trappist monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton called “the Unspeakable.” Merton wrote about the unspeakable in the 1960’s, when an elusive, systemic evil was running rampant through this country and the world. The Vietnam War, the escalating nuclear arms race, and the interlocking murders of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were all signs of the unspeakable.

For Merton, the unspeakable was ultimately a void, an emptiness of any meaning, an abyss of lies and deception. He wrote the following description of the unspeakable shortly after the publication of The Warren Report, which he could have been describing: “[The Unspeakable] is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss.”

The void of the unspeakable is the dark abyss, the midnight reality of plausible deniability, that we face when we peer into our national security state’s murder of President Kennedy. And that is precisely where hope begins.

Why President Kennedy was murdered can be, I believe, a profound source of hope to us all, when we truly understand his story.

Now how can that possibly be? The why of his murder as a source of hope?

Let’s begin with the way Kennedy himself looked at the question.
One summer weekend in 1962 while out sailing with friends, President Kennedy was asked what he thought of Seven Days in May, a best-selling novel that described a military takeover in the United States. JFK said he would read the book. He did so that night. The next day Kennedy discussed with his friends the possibility of their seeing such a coup in the U.S. These words were spoken by him after the Bay of Pigs and before the Cuban Missile Crisis:

“It’s possible. It could happen in this country, but the conditions would have to be just right. If, for example, the country had a young President, and he had a Bay of Pigs, there would be a certain uneasiness. Maybe the military would do a little criticizing behind his back, but this would be written off as the usual military dissatisfaction with civilian control. Then if there were another Bay of Pigs, the reaction of the country would be, ‘Is he too young and inexperienced?’ The military would almost feel that it was their patriotic obligation to stand ready to preserve the integrity of the nation, and only God knows just what segment of democracy they would be defending if they overthrew the elected establishment.”

Pausing a moment, he went on, “Then, if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen.”

Waiting again until his listeners absorbed his meaning, he concluded with an old Navy phrase, “But it won’t happen on my watch.”

Let’s remember that JFK gave himself three strikes before he would be out by a coup, although he bravely said it wouldn’t happen on his watch.

As we know, and as he knew, the young president John Kennedy did have a Bay of Pigs. The president bitterly disappointed the CIA, the military, and the CIA-trained Cuban exile brigade by deciding to accept defeat at the Bay of Pigs rather than escalate the battle. Kennedy realized after the fact that he had been drawn into a CIA scenario whose authors assumed he would be forced by circumstances to drop his advance restrictions against the use of U.S. combat forces. He had been lied to in such a way that, in order to “win” at the Bay of Pigs, he would be forced to send in U.S. troops. But JFK surprised the CIA and the military by choosing instead to accept a loss. “They couldn’t believe,” he said, “that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well, they had me figured all wrong.”

We know how JFK reacted to the CIA’s setting him up. He was furious. When the enormity of the Bay of Pigs disaster came home to him, he said he wanted “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

He ordered an investigation into the whole affair, under the very watchful eyes of his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

He fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, Deputy Director Richard Bissell, Jr., and Deputy Director General Charles Cabell. That was a huge decision – firing the top of the CIA’s hierarchy, including the legendary leader who had come to personify the agency, Allen Dulles.

The president then took steps “to cut the CIA budget in 1962 and again in 1963, aiming at a 20 per cent reduction by 1966.” John Kennedy was cutting back the CIA’s power in very concrete ways, step by step.

We know how the CIA and the Cuban exile community regarded Kennedy in turn because of his refusal to escalate the battle at the Bay of Pigs. They hated him for it. They did not forget what they thought was unforgivable.

In terms of JFK’s own analysis of the threat of an overthrow of his presidency, he saw the Bay of Pigs as the first strike against him. It was the first big stand he took against his national security elite, and therefore the first cause of a possible coup d’etat.

However, in terms of our constitution, our genuine security, and world peace, the position Kennedy took in facing down the CIA and the military at the Bay of Pigs, rather than surrendering to their will, was in itself a source of hope. No previous post-war president had shown such courage. Truman and Eisenhower had, in effect, turned over the power of their office to their national security managers. Kennedy was instead acting like he really was the president of this country – by saying a strong no to the security elite on a critical issue. If we the people had truly understood what he was doing then on our behalf, we would have thought the president’s stand a deeply hopeful one.

In terms of his Seven Days in May analysis of a coming coup, John Kennedy did have a second “Bay of Pigs.” The president alienated the CIA and the military a second time by his decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

JFK had to confront the unspeakable in the Missile Crisis in the form of total nuclear war. At the height of that terrifying conflict, he felt the situation spiraling out of control, especially because of the actions of his generals. For example, with both sides on hair-trigger alert, the U.S. Air Force test-fired missiles from California across the Pacific, deliberately trying to provoke the Soviets in a way that could justify our superior U.S. forces blanketing the USSR with an all-out nuclear attack. As we know from Kennedy’s secretly taped meeting with his Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 19, 1962, the Chiefs were pushing him relentlessly to launch a pre-emptive strike on Cuba, and ultimately the Soviet Union. In this encounter the Chiefs’ disdain for their young commander-in-chief is summed up by Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay when he says:

LeMay: “This [blockade and political action] is almost as bad as the appeasement [of Hitler] at Munich…I think that a blockade, and political talk, would be considered by a lot of our friends and neutrals as being a pretty weak response to this. And I’m sure a lot of our own citizens would feel that way too.

“In other words, you’re in a pretty bad fix at the present time.”
President Kennedy responds: “What did you say?”

LeMay: “I say, you’re in a pretty bad fix.”

President Kennedy: [laughing] “You’re in with me, personally.”

As the meeting draws to a close, Kennedy rejects totally the Joint Chiefs’ arguments for a quick, massive attack on Cuba. The president then leaves the room but the tape keeps on recording. Two or three of the generals remain, and one says to LeMay, “You pulled the rug right out from under him.”

LeMay: “Jesus Christ. What the hell do you mean?”

Other General: “…He’s finally getting around to the word ‘escalation.’ If somebody could keep ‘em from doing the goddamn thing piecemeal, that’s our problem…”

The White House tapes show Kennedy questioning and resisting the mounting pressure to bomb Cuba coming from both the Joint Chiefs and the Executive Committee of the National Security Council. At the same time, John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, the two men most responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis, seemed locked in a hopeless ideological conflict. The U.S. and Soviet leaders had been following Cold War policies that now seemed to be moving inexorably toward a war of extermination.
Yet, as we have since learned, Kennedy and Khrushchev had been engaged in a secret correspondence for over a year that gave signs of hope. Even as they moved publicly step by step toward a Cold War climax that would almost take the world over the edge with them, they were at the same time smuggling confidential letters back and forth that recognized each other’s humanity and hoped for a solution. They were public enemies who, in the midst of deepening turmoil, were secretly learning something approaching trust in each other.

On what seemed the darkest day in the crisis, when a Soviet missile had shot down a U2 spy plane over Cuba, intensifying the already overwhelming pressures on Kennedy to bomb Cuba, the president sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, secretly to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. RFK told Dobrynin, as Dobrynin reported to Khrushchev, that the president “didn’t know how to resolve the situation. The military is putting great pressure on him…Even if he doesn’t want or desire a war, something irreversible could occur against his will. That is why the President is asking for help to solve this problem.”

In his memoirs, Khrushchev recalled a further, chilling sentence from Robert Kennedy’s appeal to Dobrynin: “If the situation continues much longer, the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power.”

Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita’s son, has described his father’s thoughts when he read Dobrynin’s wired report relaying John Kennedy’s plea: “The president was calling for help: that was how father interpreted Robert Kennedy’s talk with our ambassador.”

At a moment when the world was falling into darkness, Kennedy did what from his generals’ standpoint was intolerable and unforgivable. JFK not only rejected his generals’ pressures for war. Even worse, the president then reached out to their enemy, asking for help. That was treason.

When Nikita Khrushchev had received Kennedy’s plea for help in Moscow, he turned to his Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko and said, “We have to let Kennedy know that we want to help him.”

Khrushchev stunned himself by what he had just said: Did he really want to help his enemy, Kennedy? Yes, he did. He repeated the word to his foreign minister:

“Yes, help. We now have a common cause, to save the world from those pushing us toward war.”

How do we understand that moment? The two most heavily armed leaders in history, on the verge of total nuclear war, suddenly joined hands against those on both sides pressuring them to attack. Khrushchev ordered the immediate withdrawal of his missiles, in return for Kennedy’s public pledge never to invade Cuba and his secret promise to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey – as he would in fact do. The two Cold War enemies had turned, so that each now had more in common with his opponent than either had with his own generals. As a result of that turn toward peace, one leader would be assassinated thirteen months later. The other, left without his peacemaking partner, would be overthrown the following year. Yet because of their turn away from nuclear war, today we are still living and struggling for peace on this earth. Hope is alive. We still have a chance.

What can we call that transforming moment when Kennedy asked his enemy for help and Khrushchev gave it?

From a Buddhist standpoint, it was enlightenment of a cosmic kind. Others might call it a divine miracle. Readers of the Christian Gospels could say that Kennedy and Khrushchev were only doing what Jesus said: “Love your enemies.” That would be “love” as Gandhi understood it, love as the other side of truth, a respect and understanding of our opponents that goes far enough to integrate their truth into our own. In the last few months of Kennedy’s life, he and Khrushchev were walking that extra mile where each was beginning to see the other’s truth.

Neither John Kennedy nor Nikita Khrushchev was a saint. Each was deeply complicit in policies that brought humankind to the brink of nuclear war. Yet, when they encountered the void, then by turning to each other for help, they turned humanity toward the hope of a peaceful planet.

John Kennedy’s next “Bay of Pigs,” his next critical conflict with his national security state, was his American University Address. Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins summed up the significance of this remarkable speech: “At American University on June 10, 1963, President Kennedy proposed an end to the Cold War.”

I believe it is almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of President Kennedy’s American University address. It was a decisive signal to both Nikita Khrushchev, on the one hand, and JFK’s national security advisers, on the other, that he was serious about making peace with the Communists. After he told the graduating class at American University that the subject of his speech was “the most important topic on earth: world peace,” he asked:

“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek?”
He answered, “Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”

Kennedy’s rejection of “a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war” was an act of resistance to the military-industrial complex. The military-industrial complex was totally dependent on “a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” That Pax Americana policed by the Pentagon was considered the system’s indispensable, hugely profitable means of containing and defeating Communism. At his own risk Kennedy was rejecting the foundation of the Cold War system.

In its place, as a foundation for peace, the president put a compassionate description of the suffering of the Russian people. They had been our allies during World War Two and had suffered mightily. Yet even their World War Two devastation would be small compared to the effects of a nuclear war on both their country and ours.

In his speech, Kennedy turned around the question that was always asked when it came to prospects for peace – the question, “What about the Russians?” It was assumed the Russians would take advantage of any move we might make toward peace.

Kennedy asked instead, “What about us?” He said, “Our attitude [toward peace] is as essential as theirs.” What about our attitude to the nuclear arms race?

Within the overarching theology of our country, a theology of total good versus total evil, that was a heretical question, coming especially from the president of the United States.

Kennedy said he wanted to negotiate a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in Moscow – in their capitol, not ours – as soon as possible. To clear the way for such a treaty, he said he was suspending U.S. atmospheric tests unilaterally.

John Kennedy’s strategy of peace penetrated the Soviet government’s defenses far more effectively than any missile could have done. The Soviet press, which was accustomed to censoring U.S. government statements, published the entire speech all across the country. Soviet radio stations broadcast and rebroadcast the speech to the Soviet people. In response to Kennedy’s turn toward peace, the Soviet government even stopped jamming all Western broadcasts into their country.

Nikita Khrushchev was deeply moved by the American University Address. He said Kennedy had given “the greatest speech by any American President since Roosevelt.”

JFK’s speech was received less favorably in his own country. The New York Times reported his government’s skepticism: “Generally there was not much optimism in official Washington that the President’s conciliation address at American University would produce agreement on a test ban treaty or anything else.” In contrast to the Soviet media that were electrified by the speech, the U.S. media ignored or downplayed it. For the first time, Americans had less opportunity to read and hear their president’s words than did the Russian people. A turn-around was occurring in the world on different levels. Whereas nuclear disarmament had suddenly become feasible, Kennedy’s position in his own government had become precarious.

President Kennedy’s next critical conflict with his national security state, propelling him toward the coup d’etat he saw as possible, was the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that he signed with Nikita Khrushchev on July 25, 1963, six weeks after the American University Address. The president had done an end run around the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He negotiated the Test Ban Treaty without consulting them, because they opposed it.
Kennedy was fiercely determined but not optimistic that the Test Ban Treaty be ratified by the defense-conscious Senate. In early August, he told his advisers that getting Senate ratification of the agreement would be “almost in the nature of a miracle.” He said if a Senate vote were held right then it would fall far short of the necessary two-thirds.

Kennedy initiated a whirlwind public education campaign on the treaty, coordinated by Saturday Review editor Normal Cousins, who directed a committee of activists. By the end of August, the tide of congressional mail had gone from fifteen to one against a test ban to three to two against.
In September public opinion polls showed a turnaround. 80 percent of the American people were now in favor of the Test Ban Treaty. On September 24, 1963, the Senate approved the treaty by a vote of 80 to 19 – 14 more than the required two-thirds. No other single accomplishment in the White House gave Kennedy greater satisfaction.

On September 20, Kennedy spoke to the United Nations. He suggested that its members see the Test Ban Treaty as a beginning and engage together in an experiment in peace:

“Two years ago I told this body that the United States had proposed, and was willing to sign, a Limited Test Ban treaty. Today that treaty has been signed. It will not put an end to war. It will not remove basic conflicts. It will not secure freedom for all. But it can be a lever, and Archimedes, in explaining the principles of the lever, was said to have declared to his friends: ‘Give me a place where I can stand – and I shall move the world.’
“My fellow inhabitant of this planet: Let us take our stand here in this Assembly of nations. And let us see if we, in our own time, can move the world to a just and lasting peace.”

When he said these words, John Kennedy was secretly engaging in another risky experiment in peace. That same day at the United Nations, Kennedy told UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson that his assistant William Attwood should go ahead “to make discreet contact” with Cuba’s UN Ambassador Carlos Lechuga. Was Fidel Castro interested in a dialogue with John Kennedy? A strongly affirmative answer would come back from Castro, who had been repeatedly urged by Khrushchev to begin trusting Kennedy. Kennedy and Castro actually began that dialogue on normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations, through the mediation of French journalist Jean Daniel who personally visited both men in the month leading up to the assassination. Daniel was actually eating lunch with Castro in his home on November 22, conveying Kennedy’s hopeful words, when the Cuban premier was phoned with the news of Kennedy’s death. Castro’s somber comment to Daniel was: “Everything is changed. Everything is going to change.”

On October 11, 1963, President Kennedy issued a top-secret order to begin withdrawing the U.S. military from Vietnam. In National Security Action memorandum 263, he ordered that 1,000 U.S. military personnel be withdrawn from Vietnam by the end of 1963, and that the bulk of U.S. personnel be taken out by the end of 1965.

Kennedy decided on his withdrawal policy, against the arguments of most of his advisers, at a contentious October 2 National Security Council meeting. When Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was leaving the meeting to announce the withdrawal to the White House reporters, “the President called to him, ‘And tell them that means all of the helicopter pilots, too.’”

In fact, it would not mean that at all. After JFK’s assassination, his withdrawal policy was quietly voided. In light of the future consequences of Dallas, it was not only John Kennedy who was murdered on November 22, 1963, but 58,000 other Americans and over three million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians.

In his reflections on Seven Days in May, John Kennedy had given himself three Bay-of-Pigs-type conflicts with his national security state before a possible coup. What about six?

(1) The Bay of Pigs.
(2) The Cuban Missile Crisis.
(3) The American University Address.
(4) The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
(5) The beginning of a back-channel dialogue with Fidel Castro.
(6) JFK’s order to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam.

This, however, is a short list of the increasing conflicts between Kennedy and his national security state.

We can add to the list a seventh Bay of Pigs – the steel crisis, in which he profoundly alienated the military industrial complex before the Cuban Missile Crisis even took place. The steel crisis was a showdown the president had with U.S. Steel and seven other steel companies over their price-fixing violations of an agreement he had negotiated between U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers’ union. In a head-on confrontation with the ruling elite of Big Steel, JFK ordered the Defense Department to switch huge military contracts away from the major steel companies to the smaller, more loyal contractors that had not defied him. After the big steel companies bitterly backed down from their price raises, JFK and his brother, Robert, were denounced as symbols of “ruthless power” by the Wall Street power brokers at the center of the military industrial complex.

By an editorial titled, “Steel: The Ides of April” (the month in which Kennedy faced down the steel executives), Henry Luce’s Fortune magazine called to readers’ minds the soothsayer’s warning in Shakespeare of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Fortune was warning Kennedy that his actions had confirmed the worst fears of corporate America about his presidency, and would have dire consequences. As interpreted by the most powerful people in the nation, the steel crisis was a logical prelude to Dallas. It was a seventh Bay of Pigs.

An eighth Bay of Pigs was Kennedy’s diplomatic opening to the fiery third-world leadership of President Sukarno of Indonesia. Sukarno was “the most outspoken proponent of Third World neutralism in the Cold War.” He had actually coined the term “Third World.” The CIA wanted Sukarno dead. It wanted what it saw as his pro-communist “global orientation” obliterated. During Eisenhower’s presidency, the CIA repeatedly tried to kill and overthrow Sukarno but failed.

JFK, however, chose to work with Sukarno, hoping to win him over as an ally, which he did. Sukarno came to love Kennedy. The U.S. president resolved what seemed a hopeless conflict between Indonesia and its former colonial master, the Netherlands, averting a war. To the CIA’s dismay, in 1961 Kennedy welcomed Sukarno to the White House. Most significantly, three days before his assassination, President Kennedy said he was willing to accept Sukarno’s invitation to visit Indonesia the following spring. His visit to Indonesia would have dramatized in a very visible way Kennedy’s support of Third World nationalism, a sea change in U.S. government policy. That decision to visit Sukarno was an eighth Bay of Pigs.

Kennedy’s Indonesian policy was also killed in Dallas, with horrendous consequences. After Lyndon Johnson became president, the CIA finally succeeded in overthrowing Sukarno in a massive purge of suspected Communists that ended up killing 500,000 to one million Indonesians.

Last Sunday I interviewed Sergei Khrushchev about an important late development in the relationship between his father and President Kennedy. In his interview, Mr. Khrushchev confirmed that his father had decided in November 1963 to accept President Kennedy’s repeated proposal that the U.S. and the Soviet Union fly to the moon together. In Kennedy’s September 20, 1963, speech to the United Nations, he had once again stated his hope for such a joint expedition to the moon. However, neither American nor Soviet military leaders, jealous of their rocket secrets, were ready to accept his initiative. Nikita Khrushchev, siding with his own rocket experts, felt that he was still forced to decline Kennedy’s proposal.

JFK was looking beyond the myopia of the generals and scientists on both sides of the East-West struggle. He knew that merging their missile technologies in a peaceful project would also help defuse the Cold War. It was part of his day-by-day strategy of peace.

Sergei Khrushchev said his father talked to him about a week before Kennedy’s death on the president’s idea for a joint lunar mission. Nikita Khrushchev had broken ranks with his rocket scientists. He now thought he and the Soviet Union should accept Kennedy’s invitation to go to the moon together, as a further step in peaceful cooperation.

In Washington, Kennedy acted as if he already knew about Khrushchev’s hopeful change of heart on that critical issue. JFK was already telling NASA to begin work on a joint U.S.-Soviet lunar mission. On November 12, 1963, JFK issued his National Security Action Memorandum 271, ordering NASA to implement his “September 20 proposal for broader cooperation between the United States and the USSR in outer space, including cooperation in lunar landing programs.”

That further visionary step to end the Cold War also died with President Kennedy. The U.S. went to the moon alone. U.S. and Soviet rockets continued to be pointed at their opposite countries rather than being joined in a project for a more hopeful future. Sergei Khrushchev said, “I think if Kennedy had lived, we would be living in a completely different world.”

In the final weeks of his presidency, President Kennedy took one more risky step toward peace. It can be seen in relation to a meeting he had the year before with six Quakers who visited him in his office. One thousand members of the Society of Friends had been vigiling for peace and world order outside the White House. President Kennedy agreed to meet with six of their leaders. I have interviewed all three survivors of that meeting with the president 47 years ago. They remain uniformly amazed at the open way in which President Kennedy listened and responded to their radical Quaker critique of his foreign policy. Among their challenges to him was a recommendation that the United States offer its surplus food to the People’s Republic of China. China was considered an enemy nation. Yet it was also one whose people were beset by a famine.

Kennedy said to the Quakers, “Do you mean you would feed your enemy when he has his hands on your throat?”

The Quakers said they meant exactly that. They reminded him it was what Jesus had said should be done. Kennedy said he knew that, and knew that it was the right thing to do, but he couldn’t overcome the China lobby in Washington to accomplish it.

Nevertheless, a year and a half later in the fall of 1963, against overwhelming opposition, Kennedy decided to sell wheat to the Russians, who had a severe grain shortage. His outraged critics said in effect to him what he had said to the Quakers: Would you feed an enemy who has his hands on your throat?

Vice President Lyndon Johnson said he thought Kennedy’s decision to sell wheat to Russia would turn out to be the worst political mistake he ever made. Today JFK’s controversial decision “to feed the enemy” has been forgotten. In 1963, the wheat sale was seen as a threat to our security – feeding the enemy to kill us. Yet JFK went ahead with it, as one more initiative for peace.

The violent reaction to his decision was represented on Friday morning, November 22, 1963, by a threatening, full-page advertisement addressed to him in the Dallas Morning News. The ad was bordered in black, like a funeral notice.

Among the charges of disloyalty to the nation that the ad made against the president was the question: “Why have you approved the sale of wheat and corn to our enemies when you know the Communist soldiers ‘travel on their stomach’ just as ours do?” JFK read the ad before the flight from Fort Worth to Dallas, pointed it out to Jacqueline Kennedy, and talked about the possibility of his being assassinated that day.

“But, Jackie,” he said, “if somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it?”

President Kennedy’s courageous turn from war to a strategy of peace provided many more than three Bay-of-Pigs-type causes for his assassination. Because he turned toward peace with our enemies, the Communists, he was continually at odds with his own national security state. Peacemaking was at the top of his agenda as president. That was not the kind of leadership the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military industrial complex wanted in the White House. Given the Cold War dogmas that gripped those dominant powers, and given Kennedy’s turn toward peace, his assassination followed as a matter of course.

That is how he seemed to regard the situation – that it would soon lead to his own death. JFK was not afraid of death. As a biographer observed, “Kennedy talked a great deal about death, and about the assassination of Lincoln.” His conscious model for struggling truthfully through conflict, and being ready to die as a consequence, was Abraham Lincoln. On the day when Kennedy and Khrushchev resolved the missile crisis, JFK told his brother, Robert, referring to the assassination of Lincoln, “This is the night I should go to the theater.” Robert replied, “If you go, I want to go with you.”

Kennedy prepared himself for the same end Lincoln met during his night at the theater. Late at night on the June 5, 1961, plane flight back to Washington from his Vienna meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, a weary President Kennedy wrote down on a slip of paper, as he was about to fall asleep, a favorite saying of his from Abraham Lincoln – really a prayer. Presidential secretary Evelyn Lincoln discovered the slip of paper on the floor. On it she read the words: “I know there is a God – and I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe that I am ready.”

Kennedy loved that prayer. He cited it repeatedly. More important, he made the prayer his own. In his conflicts with Khrushchev, then more profoundly with the CIA and the military, he had seen a storm coming. If God had a place for him, he believed that he was ready.

For at least a decade, JFK’s favorite poem had been Rendezvous, a celebration of death. Rendezvous was by Alan Seeger, an American poet killed in World War One. The poem was Seeger’s affirmation of his own anticipated death.

The refrain of Rendezvous, “I have a rendezvous with Death,” articulated John Kennedy’s deep sense of his own mortality. Kennedy had experienced a continuous rendezvous with death in anticipation of his actual death: from the deaths of his PT boat crew members, from drifting alone in the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean, from the early deaths of his brother Joe and sister Kathleen, and from the recurring near-death experiences of his almost constant illnesses.

He recited Rendezvous to his wife, Jacqueline, in 1953 on their first night home in Hyannis after their honeymoon. She memorized the poem, and recited it back to him over the years. In the fall of 1963, Jackie taught the words of the poem to their five-year-old daughter, Caroline.

I have thought many times about what then took place in the White House Rose Garden one beautiful fall day.

On the morning of October 5, 1963, President Kennedy met with his National Security Council in the Rose Garden. Caroline suddenly appeared at her father’s side. She said she wanted to tell him something. He tried to divert her attention while the meeting continued. Caroline persisted. The president smiled and turned his full attention to his daughter. He told her to go ahead. While the members of the National Security Council sat and watched, Caroline looked into her father’s eyes and said:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air –
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath –
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear….
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

After Caroline said the poem’s final word, “rendezvous,” Kennedy’s national security advisers sat in stunned silence. One of them said later the bond between father and daughter was so deep “it was as if there was ‘an inner music’ he was trying to teach her.”

JFK had heard his own acceptance of death from the lips of his daughter. While surrounded by a National Security Council that opposed his breakthrough to peace, the president once again deepened his pledge not to fail that rendezvous. If God had a place for him, he believed that he was ready.

So how can the why of his murder give us hope?

Where do we find hope when a peacemaking president is assassinated by his own national security state?

The why of the event that brings us together tonight encircles the earth. Because John Kennedy chose peace on earth at the height of the Cold War, he was executed. But because he turned toward peace, in spite of the consequences to himself, humanity is still alive and struggling. That is hopeful, especially if we understand what he went through and what he has given to us as his vision.

At a certain point in his presidency, John Kennedy turned a corner and didn’t look back. I believe that decisive turn toward his final purpose in life, resulting in his death, happened in the darkness of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although Kennedy was already in conflict with his national security managers, the missile crisis was the breaking point. At that most critical moment for us all, he turned from any remaining control his security managers had over him toward a deeper ethic, a deeper vision in which the fate of the earth became his priority. Without losing sight of our own best hopes in this country, he began to home in, with his new partner, Nikita Khrushchev, on the hope of peace for everyone on this earth – Russians, Americans, Cubans, Vietnamese, Indonesians, everyone – no exceptions. He made that commitment to life at the cost of his own.
What a transforming story that is.

And what a propaganda campaign has been waged to keep us Americans from understanding that story, from telling it, and from re-telling it to our children and grandchildren.

Because that’s a story whose telling can transform a nation. But when a nation is under the continuing domination of an idol, namely war, it is a story that will be covered up. When the story can liberate us from our idolatry of war, then the worshippers of the idol are going to do everything they can to keep the story from being told. From the standpoint of a belief that war is the ultimate power, that’s too dangerous a story. It’s a subversive story. It shows a different kind of security than always being ready to go to war. It’s unbelievable – or we’re supposed to think it is — that a president was murdered by our own government agencies because he was seeking a more stable peace than relying on nuclear weapons. It’s unspeakable. For the sake of a nation that must always be preparing for war, that story must not be told. If it were, we might learn that peace is possible without making war. We might even learn there is a force more powerful than war. How unthinkable! But how necessary if life on earth is to continue.

That is why it is so hopeful for us to confront the unspeakable and to tell the transforming story of a man of courage, President John F. Kennedy. It is a story ultimately not of death but of life – all our lives. In the end, it is not so much a story of one man as it is a story of peacemaking when the chips are down. That story is our story, a story of hope.

I believe it is a providential fact that the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination always falls around Thanksgiving, and periodically on that very day. This year the anniversary of his death, two days from now, will begin Thanksgiving week.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year, with autumn leaves falling to create new life. Creation is alive, as the season turns. The earth is alive. It is not a radioactive wasteland. We can give special thanks for that. The fact that we are still living – that the human family is still alive with a fighting chance for survival, and for much more than that – is reason for gratitude to a peacemaking president, and to the unlikely alliance he forged with his enemy.

So let us give thanks this Thanksgiving for John F. Kennedy, and for his partner in peacemaking, Nikita Khrushchev.

Their story is our story, a story of the courage to turn toward the truth. Remember what Gandhi said that turned theology on its head. He said truth is God. That is the truth: Truth is God. We can discover the truth and live it out. There is nothing more powerful than the truth. The truth will set us free.

Peter Grose, Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), p. 293.
Cited by Grose, ibid.
Cited by Raymond Marcus, “Truman’s Warning,” in E. Martin Schotz, History Will Not Absolve Us: Orwellian Control, Public Denial, and the Murder of President Kennedy (Brookline, Mass.: Kurtz, Ulmer & DeLucia, 1996), pp. 237-38.
Letter from Harry S. Truman to William B. Arthur, June 10, 1964. Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, edited by Robert H. Ferrell (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 408.
Pioneer assassination critic Raymond Marcus has written of the lack of response to Truman’s remarkable December 22, 1963, article: “According to my information, it was not carried in later editions that day, not commented on editorially, nor picked up by any other major newspaper, or mentioned on any national radio or TV broadcast.” Raymond Marcus, Addendum B (published by the author, 1995), p. 75.
Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable (New York: New Directions, 1966), p. 4.
Paul B. Fay, Jr., The Pleasure of His Company (New York: Dell, 1966), pp. 162-63.
Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers, “Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye” (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), p. 274.
Tom Wicker, John W. Finney, Max Frankel, E. W. Kenworthy, “C.I.A.: Maker of Policy, or Tool?” New York Times (April 25, 1966), p. 20.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), p. 428.
Sheldon M Stern, Averting “The Final Failure” (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003), pp. 126, 129.
Sergei N. Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University, 2000), pp. 618-19.
Khrushchev Remembers, ed. Edward Crankshaw (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), p. 498.
S. Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev, p. 622.
Ibid., p. 630.
Norman Cousins, The Improbable Triumvirate (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), p. 9.
Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 460.
Schlesinger, Thousand Days, p. 904.
Max Frankel, “Harriman to Lead Test-Ban Mission to Soviet [Union] in July,” New York Times (June 12, 1963), p. 1.
Cousins, Improbable Triumvirate, p. 128.
Jean Daniel, “When Castro Heard the News,” New Republic (December 7, 1963), p. 7.
O’Donnell and Powers, p. 17.
James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008), p. 324.
O’Donnell and Powers, p. 25.
Ralph G. Martin, A Hero for our Time: An Intimate Story of the Kennedy Years (New York: Ballantine Books, 1983), p. 500.
Robert F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: Signet, 1969), p. 110.
Evelyn Lincoln, My Twelve Years with John F. Kennedy (New York: Bantam Books, 1966), p. 230.
Richard D. Mahoney interview of Samuel E. Belk III. Richard D. Mahoney, Sons & Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy (New York: Arcade, 1999), p. 281.