Skip to comments.The Judas Contingency: Castro, McNamara, and the Roots of the Warren Commission
Posted on 01/02/2007 1:45:37 PM PST by Fedora
The Judas Contingency: Castro, McNamara, and the Roots of the Warren Commission
Review of Lamar Waldron, Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK
. . .we've got to take this out of the arena where they're testifying that Khrushchev and Castro did this and did that and chuck us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour. . .
--Telephone call from President Lyndon Johnson to Senator Richard Russell, November 29, 1963
As the reign of Fidel Castro passes into history, Castro leaves posterity a legacy of unresolved questions. Some of the thorniest questions swirl around whether Castros war with the Kennedy administration may have played a role in President Kennedys assassination and the US governments response to that event. Declassified documents discussing Kennedys plans for a potential December 1963 coup against Castro are the focus of a recent book on the Kennedy assassination, Lamar Waldrons Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK (with Thom Hartmann, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, hardcover 2005, updated paperback edition 2006), the subject of this review. The end of this review will suggest that a key confidential source cited in Waldrons book may be former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who played a significant but little-publicized role at Kennedys autopsy.
Waldrons book breaks into three main divisions, spanning 900+ pages. I will not attempt to evaluate Waldrons entire book in equal depth here--I originally started doing this, hoping to finish by Thanksgiving, and the resulting draft had reached over 25 pages and consumed most of December before I decided to cut my losses. But for context, a summary of Waldrons thesis is still in order. I will save my critical evaluation of Waldrons argument for after my summary, so my summary should not be taken to reflect agreement or disagreement with the claims summarized unless specifically indicated on a given point.
To simplify, Waldrons main points can be summarized under three headings:
1. The AM/WORLD contingency plan and the lone gunman verdict
The first third of Waldrons book argues that the Johnson administrations lone gunman verdict was guided by contingency plans the Kennedy administration had developed while preparing for a potential December 1963 coup against Castro. The coup plan envisioned replacing Castro with Cuban official Juan Almeida Bosque, who had been recruited as a CIA asset. The plan, coordinated by Robert Kennedy through five Cuban exile groups, was codenamed AM/WORLD by the CIA and was sometimes referred to by CIA exile assets as Plan Omega and Plan Judas (the latter presumably a reference to Almeida). For convenience Waldron nicknames the operation C-Day, a phrase he invents to also encompass the non-CIA portions of AM/WORLD, which he emphasizes was a military operation as well as a CIA operation. If the military had its own separate codename for AM/WORLD, Waldron does not mention it.
Waldron quotes documents recording that AM/WORLD planning included contingency plans for how to respond in the event that Castro retaliated by kidnapping or assassinating US government officials or citizens. According to a confidential Kennedy administration source cited by Waldron, these plans included provisions for a partial media blackout of key crime scene information in order to buy the US government time to investigate Castros possible involvement and stall calls for immediate nuclear retaliation. Waldrons source asserts that these considerations guided how the government responded to Kennedys assassination. Waldrons source described himself as having assisted Robert Kennedy in ensuring that his brothers autopsy did not compromise national security. The end of this review will suggest that Waldrons source here may be Robert McNamara, who is described in a House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) memo as serving as liaison between the Kennedy family and physician George Burkley during Kennedys autopsy.
2. The Mafias exploitation of AM/WORLD
The second third of Waldrons book is devoted to documenting how Mafia members and associates who had threatened Kennedy gained access to some of the Cuban exile groups the CIA was using for AM/WORLD. Waldron also analyzes how these criminal figures and exile groups interacted with alleged associates of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. He theorizes that the Mafia exploited its access to AM/WORLD to use the operation as a cover for planning Kennedys assassination, thus discouraging the US government from a full investigation of Kennedys murder for fear of compromising American intelligence assets and operations.
Waldron begins this section with a long review of the role criminal assets played in the CIAs assassination operations against Castro. Most of the information in this section can be found in previous literature, and much of it while interesting is incidental to Waldrons main point. The essence of his argument focuses on Jack Rubys links to some major criminal figures who had been targeted by the Kennedy Justice Department and IRS: Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, Tampa Mafia boss Santo Trafficante, Jr., and Chicago Mafia representative Johnny Rosselli. Rosselli, who served as a liaison between the underworld and the CIAs assassination operations, is depicted as a key coordinator of the Mafias Kennedy assassination team in Waldrons hypothetical scenario.
After reviewing this background, Waldron describes the threat posed to the above underworld figures by the Kennedy administration, along with the retaliatory threats allegedly issued against Robert and John Kennedy by Hoffa, Marcello, and Trafficante. Then, following an analysis of Oswalds background, he goes on to link Kennedys underworld enemies to some of the Cuban exile groups the CIA was using for AM/WORLD.
The exile group Waldron finds most relevant to Kennedys assassination is Tony Varonas Cuban Revolutionary Council (Consejo Revolucionario Cubano aka CRC). Waldron quotes CIA documents alleging that after the Kennedy administration cut back the CRCs funding in May 1963, Varona received $200,000 from the Chicago Mafia that July, and the next month he met with Rolando Masferrer, a mercenary linked to Trafficante. Waldron theorizes that New Orleans CRC associate Guy Banister may have brought Oswald to the Marcello organizations attention, though he stops short of accusing the CRC itself of direct complicity in Kennedys assassination. Waldron also links Manuel Artimes Movement of Revolutionary Recuperation (Movimiento de Recuperacion Revolucionario aka MRR) to Trafficante and to a CIA operation involving Rosselli, though again he expresses uncertainty as to whether these links involved any direct complicity in Kennedys assassination. He further records AM/WORLD exile leader Enrique Ruiz Harry Williams account of Trafficantes attempts to bribe and extort him. Finally, he discusses what he speculates were Mafia attempts to compromise two other exile groups: Manolo Rays Cuban Revolutionary Junta (Junta Revolucionaria Cubana aka JURE); and Antonio Vecianas Alpha 66. Alpha 66 was not directly involved in AM/WORLD but was intertwined with a group that was, Eloy Menoyos Second National Front of the Escambray (Segundo Frente Nacional del Escambray aka SNFE).
In the context of the Mafias links to these CIA exile assets, Waldron analyzes Lee Harvey Oswalds alleged interaction with three exile groups: the New Orleans CRC, the New Orleans branch of another exile group called the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE), and the Dallas branch of Alpha 66. He interprets Oswald as a military intelligence or CIA agent who had been given a pro-Castro cover in an attempt to infiltrate him into Cuba for use during the AM/WORLD coup. He follows previous researchers suggestion that Oswalds PO boxes were being tracked by a pair of overlapping 1963 Senate Judiciary Committee investigations targeting mail-order imported firearm sales and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), a pro-Castro group Oswald corresponded with. He relates Oswalds FPCC activity to an operation against the FPCC directed by CIA agents James McCord and David Atlee Phillips. Waldron theorizes that Oswalds FPCC activity, his alleged contact with Alpha 66, and his attempt to obtain a Cuban passport can all be explained by relating them to the CIAs attempts to penetrate Castros network and infiltrate US agents into Cuba in preparation for AM/WORLD.
Waldron postulates that the New Orleans Mafia learned of Oswalds presumed undercover status and used it to set him up as a patsy for Kennedys assassination. He proposes that the Mafia gained access to information about the use of Oswalds Dallas PO Box to order the two weapons involved in Oswalds eventual arrest: the 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found at the scene of Kennedys assassination, and the .38 Smith & Wesson Oswald allegedly used to shoot Officer J.D. Tippit. Waldron suggests that the Mafia may have gained this information through informants who were assisting the aforementioned Senate investigations. The two subcommittees running these investigations were receiving information from Trafficante associate Frank Fiorini (better known as Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis) and Rosselli associate John Martino. Waldron deduces that the Senates information about Oswalds Dallas PO Box was transmitted to Richard Cain, a Chicago Mafia member who had infiltrated local law enforcement and the intelligence community. Waldron quotes historian Richard Mahoney citing CIA files which report that Cain was the one who first pointed investigators towards the sporting goods coupon that linked one of Oswalds aliases to the Mannlicher-Carcano found at Kennedys assassination. The rifle had been ordered from a Chicago supplier targeted by the Senates investigation, Kleins Sporting Goods.
Waldron speculates that the Mafia hoped implicating Oswald would blackmail the US government into not pushing an investigation for fear of compromising US intelligence assets and operations. He infers from a comment Jack Ruby reportedly made that the Mafia expected Kennedys assassination to trigger US retaliation against Cuba. (FBI agent James Hosty records that after Kennedys assassination the US military went to DEFCON 3 and sent armed planes towards Cuban airspace, but they were called back due to concerns over triggering Soviet counteractions.) This interpretation of Rubys comment would seem to imply that the Mafia was not aware of the AM/WORLD contingency plans regarding the US governments response to potential retaliation by Castro. Only a small group of Kennedy administration officials knew about this aspect of the AM/WORLD planning.
Waldron interprets Rubys behavior in this context. After analyzing Rubys links to the Mafias operations in Chicago, Dallas, and Cuba, he ties some of Rubys associates to an AM/WORLD-related gunrunning operation linked to the Dallas branch of Alpha 66. Alpha 66 was purchasing weapons for this operation from a gun dealer whose store was identified by the FBI as the only available source in Dallas for the type of ammunition required by the 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found at the scene of Kennedys assassination. (Waldron avoids naming this gun dealer, previously identified in Warren Commission exhibits and other literature as John Thomas Masen. Waldron does not allege that Masen was directly involved in Kennedys assassination.) Waldron describes a payoff Ruby reportedly received in Chicago from a Jimmy Hoffa associate, a payoff mentioned in an FBI document and allegedly witnessed by a source introduced to Waldron by former Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger. Ruby also reportedly met Johnny Rosselli twice in Miami in fall 1963, according to a former FBI agent quoted by journalist Scott Malone. Waldron notes that the Colt Cobra revolver Ruby used to shoot Oswald was from a batch of four Ruby had purchased to smuggle into Cuba in early 1960 for Lewis McWillie, a Trafficante associate involved in the CIAs assassination attempts against Castro. Waldron suggests that by having Ruby shoot Oswald with this weapon, the Mafia was implicitly blackmailing the CIA with a reminder of the Agencys assassination operations. When Rosselli later faced prosecution for his criminal activities, he did attempt to blackmail the US government by leaking information about the CIAs assassination operations to reporter Jack Anderson.
3. The Mafia and Kennedys assassination
The last third of Waldrons book reconstructs a chronology of the actions of Mafia figures and related criminal figures (notably French mob hitman Michel Victor Mertz) during the timeframe immediately surrounding the Kennedys assassination. His chronology includes little-publicized attempts on Kennedys life in Chicago and Tampa in November 1963 that preceded the November 22 Dallas shooting. Waldron interprets all three November attempts on Kennedys life as Mafia-directed.
Waldron departs from some Warren Commission critics by absolving Lyndon Johnson and the US intelligence community from complicity in planning Kennedys assassination. He only regards the Johnson administration and intelligence community as responsible for implementing the partial media blackout called for by the AM/WORLD contingency plans and eventually embodied in the Warren Commission. He does express suspicion of certain CIA personnel who directly handled the CIAs contacts with Rosselli and Trafficante--particularly David Morales, John Martino, and Frank Sturgis--but he does not extend this suspicion to any high-ranking CIA officials or the CIA as an institution. Likewise he does not suspect the military, the Secret Service, or the FBI of complicity in planning Kennedys assassination, only regarding these agencies as responsible for their roles in the AM/WORLD contingency plans and the Warren Commission.
Waldron assumes that the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro were not complicit in Kennedys assassination. He interprets Oswalds Marxist activity as an intelligence cover rather than genuine Communist sympathy. He notes that a suspected Cuban agent named Miguel Casas Saez was stalking Kennedy in Chicago, Florida, and Dallas in November 1963, but he interprets Saez as a Mafia patsy in the same mold as Oswald. He advances a similar interpretation of an ostensibly pro-Castro US intelligence asset investigated as a person of interest in connection with the Tampa attempt on Kennedy, Gilberto Policarpo Lopez.
The final third of the book also surveys the investigation of Kennedys assassination and its historical impact. This survey includes a brief but intriguing discussion of how the Senate Watergate Committee and Church Committees investigation of the CIAs anti-Castro operations may have played a role in triggering Hoffas disappearance and Rossellis murder. (Waldrons footnotes do not specify where he got his information on this, but my best attempt to identify his sources indicates he is drawing partly from Charles Rappleye and Ed Beckers biography of Johnny Rosselli, All-American Mafioso, which interested readers may consult for additional details. Waldron also mentions some details not mentioned in Rappleye and Beckers book. He states that the Senate Watergate Committees interrogation of Rosselli was triggered by a tip from Hoffa, and he adds that Hillary Clinton was one of the Watergate staffers investigating this subject. I am still trying to track down his sources for these pieces of information.)
The paperback edition of Waldrons book, released in October 2006, adds approximately 50 pages of text and graphics on the above subjects. Most of the new information is in the first third of the book and details the role of Cuban official Juan Almeida Bosque, whose name Waldron kept out of the first edition pending a decision by the National Archives to finalize declassification of documents revealing Almeidas role. There are also some other scattered new tidbits, such as quotations from former Secret Service and FBI sources familiar with the Tampa assassination attempt.
Waldrons argument rests heavily on excerpts from the four million documents declassified under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. For some of the primary sources most relevant to Waldrons argument, see his website ( http://www.ultimatesacrificethebook.com/ ) and the online commentary hosted by the Mary Ferrell Foundation ( http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Document_Walkthrough_-_Ultimate_Sacrifice ). Of particular relevance to Waldrons thesis is a November 12, 1963 document reproduced in his appendix which mentions that Kennedys Subcommittee on Cuban Subversion had been assigned to consider contingency plans to counter. . .[a]ttempts at kidnapping or assassination of American officials and/or citizens. Waldron supplements his documentary evidence with numerous original interviews and nearly 100 pages of footnotes citing secondary sources.
The Mary Ferrell Foundation webpage mentioned above also links to several reviews of Waldrons book. Generally speaking, it is convenient to characterize critiques of Waldron in terms of two broad lines of criticism: one doubtingWaldrons case for the reality of AM/WORLD or a conspiracy involving the Mafia, the other criticizing Waldron for not implicating the US government instead of--or along with--the Mafia. Elements of both lines of criticism are present in a representative review by Salon.com cofounder David Talbot (David Talbot, Case Closed?, Powells.com, December 2, 2005, http://www.powells.com/review/2005_12_02.html ). Similar points are made from a different perspective in a review by Warren Commission defender Mel Ayton (Mel Ayton, Do Any of the New Books and Documentaries Prove Who Killed JFK?, History News Network, January 16, 2006, http://hnn.us/articles/20369.html , recommended as a criticism of Waldron by Warren Commission advocate John McAdams at http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/home.htm ). Waldron and Hartmanns rebuttal to Talbot is online at http://archive.salon.com/books/feature/2005/12/07/response/index_np.html and http://dir.salon.com/story/books/feature/2005/12/07/response/index.html .
Evaluation I: Waldron on the AM/WORLD contingency plan and the lone gunman verdict
For my own part, I found the first third of Waldrons book describing the AM/WORLD contingency plans more compelling than the last two thirds reconstructing the assassination itself. Waldron cites several lines of evidence to document AM/WORLD and its contingency plans: government documents, written recollections from former Kennedy administration sources, interviews with former Kennedy associates, and--in the books updated paperback edition--the 2005 decision by the National Archives to allow the public access to documents identifying Juan Almeida Bosque as the unnamed Cuban official the first edition of the book described as the leader of the AM/WORLD coup. The National Archives disclosure of Almeidas identity tends to weigh against the skepticism about AM/WORLD expressed by some reviewers. This third of Waldrons argument has at least reasonably solid support, and has relevance beyond Waldrons theory about Kennedys assassination, adding a chapter to the history of the Kennedy administrations Cuba policy. In my opinion this is perhaps the most significant contribution of Waldrons book.
Evaluation II: Waldron on the Mafias exploitation of AM/WORLD
My reaction to the second third of Waldrons book was more mixed. Waldron makes a reasonably good case for his main point that the Mafia infiltrated some of the exile groups involved in AM/WORLD and was in contact with associates of Oswald and Ruby. However, there are problems with some supporting details he marshals to support these points and secondary points tangential to his main argument.
For instance, a key exhibit is a pair of August 1963 CIA memos recording that CRC leader Tony Varona visited Chicago in July 1963 and received a payment of $200,000 from Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana, Giancanas political fixer Murray Humphreys, and two other underworld figures. But a close reading of Waldrons text indicates that CIA documents conflict on whether or not the informant who supplied this information was Richard Cain. If Cain was the source of the information there is a problem for Waldrons argument, because unknown to the CIA Cain was a Chicago Mafia member working for Giancana, and elsewhere Waldron portrays him as misleading the authorities on behalf of the Mafia, making it incongruous for him to accept Cains word on this point.
I found Waldron speculative in his assertion that the Mafia was trying to use Oswald to compromise JURE and Alpha 66, which were groups to the far-left side of the Cuban exile spectrum. Waldron seems to be influenced by researchers sympathetic to JUREs political orientation who assume in advance that JURE was being set up, rather than allowing the possibility of a simpler scenario. Waldrons interpretation of Oswalds alleged meeting with Alpha 66 seems to rest on an unsubstantiated interpretation of Antonio Vecianas account of meeting Oswald in the presence of a CIA contact allegedly named Maurice Bishop. Waldron follows Gaeton Fonzis argument that Bishop was David Atlee Phillips, basing this partly on a fictional novel Phillips wrote. Waldron disregards without disproving Phillips explicit, non-novelized denial of this alleged meeting, though at least unlike some other researchers he does not accuse Phillips of complicity in Kennedys assassination.
I found Waldrons analysis of Oswalds background problematic. Upon turning his attention to Oswald in Chapter Thirty-Nine, Waldron quickly dismisses the possibility that Oswald may have been a genuine Communist sympathizer, asserting that, In the Cold War 1950s, the Red-scare McCarthy era and its aftermath, its doubtful that a real teenage Communist would have been found in the Civil Air Patrol, let alone trying to join the US Marines before he was old enough.
This is not a safe assumption in light of the documented Soviet policy of infiltrating enemy militaries. In December 1921 the Comintern issued instructions calling for the formation of cells and the distribution of pacifist propaganda among the armies and navies of capitalist nations. From 1953 to 1954 the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under Joseph McCarthy held hearings into Communist subversion of the Army. Although McCarthys critics tend to dismiss this as politically motivated, in fact the hearings resulted in sensitive Signal Corps operations at Fort Monmouth being moved to Fort Huachuca, Arizona in early 1954--quietly, to avoid publicly vindicating McCarthy, as Barry Goldwater learned from Carl Hayden and recorded in his book With No Apologies. (The fact that these operations were indeed moved to Fort Huachuca at this time can be verified from military sources on the public record, such as A Concise History of Fort Monmouth, New Jersey U.S. Army Communiations-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command, http://www.monmouth.army.mil/historian/pubupdates/ConciseHistory072605.pdf .) The Communist movements policy of infiltrating the military continued into the Vietnam War era, when the Communist Party and other Marxist groups participated in the GI Movement and the formation of veterans antiwar groups such as Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. This illustrates the problem with Waldrons assumption that Oswalds Communist sympathies could not have been genuine simply because he joined the military. Oswald may have only been posing as a Marxist as Waldron assumes, but this assumption needs to be verified, and it is only one possible hypothesis among others that need to be explored before firm conclusions can be drawn.
Even the US government had difficulty determining whether or not Oswalds Communist sympathy was genuine. Waldron himself notes that when Oswald was stationed in Japan, he attended a nightclub frequented by suspected spies targeting US military personnel. While Oswald was in the USSR in 1960, the FBI began wondering whether someone in Switzerland was impersonating him. The Bureaus resultant communication with the State Departments security agency launched investigator Otto Otepka on an unsuccessful three-year attempt to determine whether Oswald was a genuine defector or an undercover US asset. Following Kennedys assassination, many US intelligence officials initially suspected Oswald was linked to Cuban intelligence, due to reports from the Mexican CIA station. These reports proved too conflicting to substantiate, but some officials like David Atlee Phillips, James Angleton, Cyrus Vance, and Alexander Haig continued to harbor suspicions that Oswald may have been a foreign intelligence agent. President Johnson announced the formation of the Warren Commission quickly partly out of concern that the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee was preparing to launch its own investigation into whether Oswald was part of a Communist conspiracy. FBI Director Clarence Kelley later revealed that due to fears over triggering a confrontation with the Soviets, the intelligence community withheld information from the Warren Commission about FBI and CIA surveillance of someone representing himself as Oswald alleging to have been in contact with the head of the KGBs assassination operations in Mexico. So even US government insiders did not have complete information to ascertain whether Oswald was a real Communist sympathizer or not.
Over forty years later, the information now available to the American public still makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions on the matter. We are lacking important US government records, such as parts of Oswalds military files that have been withheld. Information from Communist government sources is also inconclusive and leaves room for questions about whether Oswald had Communist intelligence connections. KGB defectors have given conflicting information about Oswalds relation to Soviet intelligence, and after the fall of the Soviet Union former KGB agents (whose word Waldron uncritically takes at face value) further muddled the waters by trying to sell information about Oswald for a profit. Cuban intelligence has tried to blame Kennedys assassination on the CIA. But researcher Wilfried Huismann has recently made a new case for Cubas involvement, drawing from sources such as a telegram indicating the KGB recommended Oswald to Cuban intelligence. Thus, beginning from the presumption that Oswald was not a real Communist, as Waldron does, is not a safe starting point for an unbiased investigation.
A related issue Waldrons analysis does not address is that the Mafias relationship to Castro was ambiguous. Waldron is more observant than most left-wing writers in noting that Hoffa and Trafficante continued to do business with Castro even after they had started working for the CIA on its anti-Castro operations. (This point was not lost on government prosecutors against Rosselli. In 1968 Rosselli protested legal action against him on the grounds that, Im a patriotic citizen. Just check the file, youll see what Im talking about. FBI agent George Bland replied, I know all about that. You took the CIA money and did nothing.) But he does not explore the potential relevance this has for theories proposing Castros complicity in the assassination. Scott Breckenridge, who coauthored a classified internal review of the CIAs assassination program, told a Senate investigator that Trafficante had been leaking details about the CIAs assassination plots to Castro all along. Rosselli claimed that the hitmen the CIA sent after Castro had been turned by Castro and used against Kennedy. Rosselli may have been fabricating this to protect himself, as Waldron assumes, but there may also have been an element of truth in it, which is impossible to rule out without investigating this possibility. Lyndon Johnson seems to have taken the possibility seriously. Shortly before leaving office, Johnson told reporter Howard K. Smith, I'll tell you something that will rock you. Kennedy was trying to get to Castro, but Castro got to him first. Later Johnson told Walter Cronkite, I can't honestly say that I've ever been completely relieved of the fact that there might have been international connections. Cronkite asked Johnson if he suspected Cuba, but Johnson replied, Oh, I don't think we ought to discuss the suspicions, because there's not any hard evidence that would lead me to the conclusion that Oswald was directed by a foreign government. Johnson asked CBS to delete the comment out of the interview on national security grounds, but CBS still leaked out that Johnson had expressed fundamental doubts about the Warren Commission's conclusion.
Waldrons analysis of Oswalds background can be criticized on other counts. His analysis of Oswalds New Orleans activity, which is original and insightful in places, is marred by reliance at points on suspect sources. He is careful to distance himself from New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, the protagonist of Oliver Stones movie, whom he regards as a tool of Carlos Marcello, as Marcellos former lawyer Frank Ragano maintained. (Marcello may not have been the only one using Garrison: see Max Holland, Was Jim Garrison Duped by the KGB?, New Orleans Magazine, Volume 36, Issue 5, February 2002, 38ff, 7 pages.) But at the same time, he echoes controversial witnesses used by Garrison whose credibility has been challenged by Garrisons critics. For instance, in Chapter Forty-Four he cites a secondary source to support the allegation that Six witnesses confirm seeing [David] Ferrie and Oswald together in Louisiana in the summer of 1963. He does not address Garrison critics who have raised serious questions about these witnesses credibility. (See for instance Dave Reitzes series Impeaching Clinton, beginning at http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/clinton1.htm .)
A close review of Waldrons footnotes reveals that there are other places where he and his secondary sources are relying on questionable primary sources. For example, in his Introduction Waldron alludes to Warren Commission exhibit CE 2818 to document that after Jack Ruby was arrested he told a fellow inmate about US plans for a second Bay of Pigs invasion, a claim Waldron echoes in Chapter Forty-Nine. But he does not factor in that CE 2818 also describes the source of this information as a diagnosed psychotic whose account of his contact with Ruby did not check out. The unsubstantiated account of renegade CIA agent Victor Marchetti seems to underlie a footnote to Chapter Twenty-Two cited to document a claim that CIA Director Richard Helms privately identified David Ferrie as a CIA agent. At the time Marchetti made this claim about Helms, he was closely associated with Philip Agee, a fellow CIA renegade now known from Soviet archives to have offered US secrets to the KGB before defecting to Cuban intelligence. Claims about the CIA made by such sources must be scrutinized more carefully than Waldron does in this instance. Waldron also relies in places on the work of Anthony Summers, whose sensationalistic use of unsubstantiated rumors has been assailed by critics ranging the political spectrum from former FBI agent Ray Wannall to FBI critic Athan Theoharis.
Despite such flaws, Waldrons second section does make a reasonably good case that the Mafia infiltrated some of the exile groups involved in AM/WORLD and was in contact with associates of Oswald and Ruby. However this does not in itself prove the Mafias complicity in Kennedys assassination, which is the burden of the last and crucial third of Waldrons book.
Evaluation III: Waldron on the Mafia and Kennedys assassination
My reaction to Waldrons third section was also mixed. I felt that Waldron presented some valuable new information that adds to the case from a historical standpoint, but does not solve the case from the standpoint of a homicide investigation.
This section presents some important new data (or in some cases presents a new analysis of little-publicized data). Waldron describes a reported payoff in Chicago from a Jimmy Hoffa associate to Jack Ruby, mentioned in an FBI document and allegedly witnessed by a source introduced to Waldron by former Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger. He cites law enforcement sources alleging that Trafficante was believed to be involved in the Tampa attempt on Kennedys life. He quotes John F. Kennedy Presidential Library head Dave Powers stating that both he and Kennedy aide Kenneth ODonnell witnessed shots from the Grassy Knoll (an attribution previously recorded by Powers and ODonnells associate Tip ONeill). He quotes historian Richard Mahoney citing CIA files which record that Chicago Mafia member Richard Cain was the one who first pointed investigators towards the sporting goods coupon that linked one of Oswalds aliases to the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle identified as the murder weapon in Kennedys assassination. (I would suggest that Waldrons interpretation of this memo needs to be analyzed in relation to assassination researcher Larry Hancocks commentary on a similar FBI memo. Hancock notes that while the FBI memos header suggests Cain was a source on the coupon, the memo when read in its entirety does not actually state this. Waldrons book does not reproduce the complete text of the CIA memo he quotes, and I have not seen the original, so I do not know whether it includes any information different than the FBI memo Hancock cites.) He also points out that Cain used his position as the FBIs chief informant on the Chicago Mafia to divert the Bureaus investigation of Jack Ruby, falsely informing his FBI handler Bill Roemer that Ruby was not connected to the Chicago Outfit.
All this is intriguing and deserving of follow-up research. But in the final analysis, it fails to meet some criteria which are necessary to solve the Kennedy assassination by the standards applicable to a homicide investigation.
Waldron does not spend much time reconstructing the assassination crime scene, prefacing his chapter on the shooting by advising the reader that, To cover as much as possible, we will give brief passages in approximate chronological order. While this procedure is understandable in light of the magnitude of information available and the fact that Waldrons book is already over 900 pages as it is, the resulting brief survey fails to perform some essential tasks.
Waldron only spends a few paragraphs reconstructing the shooting and analyzing its relation to the wounds on the victim. He advances a new scenario for the shot sequence, relying heavily on the recollections of Dave Powers, who was riding in the car behind Kennedy and was interviewed for Waldrons book. It falls beyond the scope of this review to analyze the shooting in depth, but briefly, I found Waldrons analysis of the first shot problematic, his analysis of the other shots better but debatable in certain details. I will mention a few key particulars without attempting to resolve the issues raised.
Waldron begins his reconstruction from the premise that Kennedys throat wound was an entrance wound. He does not address objections to this position advanced by various Warren Commission defenders such as Gerald Posner, or by one of the Warren Commission critics Waldron himself cites to support other aspects of his reconstruction, Josiah Thompson. Thompsons Six Seconds in Dallas echoed doctors and FBI lab analysts who suggested that Kennedys throat wound was not a bullet wound but a wound from a bone fragment, a position consistent with the wounds size and the lack of metallic residue near the corresponding hole in Kennedys shirt.
Waldron relates Kennedys throat wound to the first shot by citing Secret Service agent Sam Kinneys recollection to the HSCA that the first shot he heard was a shot from over our right shoulder which hit the President in the throat. He does not observe that Warren Commission exhibits also record that Kinney refrained from speculating about the origin of the shot. He does not consider that Kinney was behind Kennedy and not in a position to see a bullet strike Kennedys throat from the front (unless the bullet exited the back of Kennedys neck, a corollary for which there is no evidence). Kinney may have simply been interpreting the arm-raising motion Kennedy made to indicate a throat wound, which does not imply that Kinney actually saw Kennedy struck in the throat.
Similarly, Waldron invokes the statement of Secret Service agent Thomas Lem Johns, but he does not weigh in the uncertainty Johns expressed to the HSCA about whether his impression of the first two shots may have been influenced by his position in the motorcade and his perception of other peoples reactions: The first two sounded like they were on the side of me towards the grassy knoll but then that's because of the confinement of the backseat and opening to that side plus the fact that people [were] falling to the ground on the grassy slope made me feel that the shots were from that direction.
Waldron describes Powers and ODonnell as seeing shots from the Grassy Knoll. But when Waldrons account of what they reported is compared with that in Tip ONeills Man of the House, it becomes unclear whether Powers and ODonnell actually saw shots from the Knoll or only interpreted shots they heard: I was surprised to hear O'Donnell say that he was sure he had heard two shots that came from behind the fence.
Other witnesses in Powers and ODonnells car were divided as to where the first shot came from. Kinney was driving the car and, as noted above, heard a shot from over his right shoulder but would not speculate on its origin. Two other Secret Service agents in the same car (Emory Roberts and Glen Bennett) felt it came from the right, which could conceivably but not necessarily be interpreted as the Grassy Knoll. Four agents in the car (Clint Hill, John Ready, Paul Landis, Jr., and George Hickey, Jr.) felt it came from the right rear, indicating the direction of the Depository. One felt the origin of the shot could not be determined (William McIntyre). In Ready and Landis case their recollection of their initial impression is verified by a photograph taken by James Altgens (simultaneously with Zapruder Film frame 255) which shows them reacting to the sound of the first shot by turning to their right rear and looking towards the Depository. Ready and Landis were further back in the car than Powers was, which may perhaps help account for their difference in perception. In any case, this demonstrates that Waldrons reconstruction of the first shot rests heavily on witnesses whose perception differed from that of other witnesses in approximately the same location.
Finally, Waldron gives weight to the claims of Gordon Arnold, a witness whose self-declared presence at the Grassy Knoll is not confirmed by photographic evidence. He misinterprets Arnold as the man Senator Ralph Yarborough saw drop to the ground, not noting Yarboroughs statement that the man he saw was not on the Grassy Knoll. (See Dave Reitzes series Nowhere Man: The Strange Story of Gordon Arnold beginning at http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/arnold1.htm .)
Waldrons reconstruction of the remaining shots is relatively less objectionable. However, his interpretation of Secret Service Agent Glen Bennett as claiming to have seen the second shot hit Kennedy in the back does not address the issues with this interpretation of Bennetts account raised by David Lifton and Roger Feinman (see Feinmans argument with Lifton in Chapters Five and Seven of Between the Signal and the Noise: http://www.kenrahn.com/JFK/the_critics/feinman/Feinmanbio.html ). As Feinman points out, the wording of Bennetts various statements make his account of the shot sequence unclear, and his original statement makes it sound like he was talking about the first shot hitting Kennedy in the back rather than the second shot. Also, Waldron is vague as to how James Tagues wounds fit into his reconstruction, saying only that [a]t some point Tague was wounded. Waldron probably should not be blamed for failing to explain Tagues wounds--the Warren Commission did not do any better--but this illustrates the issues his analysis leaves unresolved.
Perhaps Waldrons most significant contribution to the shot reconstruction is his commentary on the Warren Commissions handling of Powers and ODonnells testimony. Powers opinion that Kennedy and Connally were hit by separate bullets was shared by the Connallys and the FBI, and was initially shared by the Warren Commission until Tagues wounds were publicized and Arlen Specter proposed his single-bullet theory to account for them. Waldrons Acknowledgments show that Specters name appears on Powers affidavit for the Warren Commission, implying that Specter was aware of Powers impression of a Grassy Knoll shot, mentioned in the affidavit. Powers told Waldron that when his affidavit was taken, the Warren Commission personnel kept interrupting him whenever he said something they didnt want to hear, until he finally changed his testimony. This is important new information despite the shortcomings in Waldrons analysis of the shooting.
Ballistics is another area where Waldrons book may be criticized for falling short of the standards of proof applicable to a homicide investigation. His analysis does not identify a murder weapon or weapons.
On a related note, Waldron does not explain how the Mannlicher-Carcano got into the Texas School Book Depository. This is an issue which needs to be addressed by any scenario which postulates that Oswald was set up as a patsy, since anyone who wanted to set Oswald up would have needed to smuggle the rifle into the Depository. Waldron implies that Richard Cain had some foreknowledge of the rifle, but he does not connect Cain to any scenario accounting for how the rifle got into the Depository.
Waldron does not explain how the sixth-floor shooter, who was heard by all the witnesses on the fifth floor and seen by several witnesses through the window, managed to get out of the building without encountering any of the witnesses who were around the elevators and stairs and exits at the time. This is perhaps the biggest problem for any Oswald patsy theory, because even those who accept the uncertain reconstructions placing Oswald on the second floor at the time of the shooting need to explain where the sixth-floor shooter actually went. Waldron follows the argument of those who contend that Oswald did not have time to descend from the sixth floor to the second-floor room (a trip the Warren Commission estimated at 1 minute and 14 seconds with a fast walk) to be seen in the non-hurried state observed by Officer Marrion Baker within approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds after the shooting. I would argue that this is a position that relies too heavily on a reconstruction which is at best a rough approximation. Any margin of error in the time estimate leaves Oswald with a weak alibi. Without a better explanation for how the shooter got out of the building, Occams Razor leaves Oswald as the most likely suspect for the sixth-floor shooter.
Waldron names alleged coconspirators of Kennedys shooters, but he does not identify a killer or accomplices who can be placed at the scene of the crime. He does describe some suspicious persons and vehicles in the general vicinity, such as Jim Braden aka Eugene Hale Brading, whom he does not name but describes in his text and identifies through his footnotes. But he stops short of positive identification of any gunmen.
Similarly, Waldron does not link Oswald or Ruby to any identified accomplices present at Kennedys shooting, at the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit, or at the murder of Oswald himself. Linking Oswald and Ruby to Mafia members who wanted to kill Kennedy is one thing, and Waldron succeeds at this. He even places some mob hitmen in Dallas on or around the time of Kennedys assassination. But to implicate these individuals or others in the assassination, at least some identified shooters or accomplices need to be placed in Dealey Plaza at the time of the shooting, which Waldron fails to do. Likewise, scenarios assuming a link between Oswald and Ruby tend to postulate that Ruby had coconspirators in Dallas law enforcement, but to date, none of these coconspirators have been positively identified. Waldron notes some of Rubys contacts in Dallas law enforcement, but does not advance a specific theory explaining how this may have played into Kennedy, Tippit, or Oswalds murder.
In short, Waldrons crime scene reconstruction leaves us without any suspects or murder weapons, only suspected coconspirators not observed at the crime scene. Any theory of the Kennedy assassination that fails to link its alleged coconspirators to actual suspects and murder weapons at the crime scene falls short of solving the case from a homicide investigation standpoint. Accordingly, while I find Waldrons research impressive and his book important--perhaps the most important update to the case since the HSCA report of 1979--I am not satisfied that he solves Kennedys murder.
Whatever criticisms may be advanced of Waldrons book, he does present some important new evidence. One of his most significant contributions is detailed information about Kennedys autopsy which Waldron attributes to an anonymous former Kennedy administration official. My attempts to identify this individual have led me to tentatively conclude that Waldrons source is probably Kennedys Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
Waldron introduces his source in Chapters Eight as a Kennedy official who worked on parts of C-Day, who didnt help draft the official Cuba Contigency Plans but had seen them and was familiar with the thinking behind them. Chapter Fifty-Nine further designates this individual as an extremely sensitive confidential source. This official assisted Robert Kennedy in communicating with his brothers personal physician George Burkley, who was present with the Presidents body in the autopsy room. Waldron uses the information provided by this official to explain various puzzles and discrepancies that researchers have noted, such as Secret Service agents seemingly unauthorized seizure of Kennedys corpse, the transfer of Kennedys corpse to a secure medical facility, and the apparent surgery on Kennedys brain while en route from Dallas to Maryland, which Waldron interprets as the result of a preliminary classified autopsy prior to Kennedys official autopsy. Waldron also mentions that his source believed Kennedy had been assassinated by Mafia members involved in the CIAs anti-Castro operations. The source did not feel that Castro had been involved in Kennedys murder.
Waldron states in his footnotes that he will reveal his autopsy source after the sources death, but he adds that the information cited is publicly available, and he mentions in the body of his book that the sources role is confirmed by a detailed account of the autopsy, authorized by Bobby Kennedy. This reference to an authorized account of the autopsy seems to allude to William Manchesters The Death of a President, which was initially authorized by the Kennedy family before complications arose. In a related passage in Chapter Fifty-Nine and in corresponding Footnote 78, .Waldron mentions that he and Hartmann interviewed two people who were at Bethesda with Bobby Kennedy the night of the assassination. He specifies that one of these two people was Dave Powers and the other was the confidential autopsy source. Waldrons implication that his source was still alive in 2005 rules out other notable Kennedy intimates Manchester describes as present such as Godfrey McHugh (who died in 1997), Larry OBrien (d. 1990), and Kenneth ODonnell (d. 1977). Among others described by Manchester as present who were also still living in 2005, one who seems a match for the description of Waldrons source is McNamara.
Manchesters book and Jim Bishops The Day Kennedy Was Shot describe McNamaras presence at Bethesda Naval Hospital on the evening of Kennedys shooting, as well as his role in making Kennedys funeral arrangements. McNamara arrived at the hospital shortly before 7:30 PM. Through a quirk of fate, by virtue of lending a sympathetic ear to a blood-splattered Jacqueline Kennedy who was rambling on in a state of shock, he ended up spending the next few hours with Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy family in their private suite at the hospital.
In an HSCA staff interview with autopsy physician J. Thornton Boswell, Boswell recalled that during the Presidents autopsy, McNamara seemed to be acting as a liaison between the Kennedy family and Dr. Burkley:
DR. BOSWELL. . .indicated that DR. BURKLEY was basically supervising everything that went on inside the autopsy room and that the commanding officer was also responding to BURKLEY's wishes. He indicated that ROBERT MCNAMARA seemed to have acted as liaison between the family and DR. BURKLEY and that MCNAMARA kept his head throughout. He implied that MCNAMARA was never actually in the autopsy room but was working out of the room where the family was staying.
Memo from Andy Purdy to Jim Kelly and Kenneth Klein, Notes of Interview with Dr. J. Thornton Boswell--August 17, 1977, National Orthopedic Hospital, Arlington, Virginia, August 17, 1977, 2, online as ARRB Master Set of Medical Exhibits, MD 26 - Boswell-Purdy HSCA Interview (8/17/77), at http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/arrb/master_med_set/contents.htm and http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/arrb/master_med_set/md26/html/Image01.htm ; quoted by Kathleen A. Cunningham in McNamara--The Puppet Master?, Fair Play, Issue 7, November-December 1995, online at http://spot.acorn.net/jfkplace/09/fp.back_issues/07th_Issue/copa_leads.html
Waldrons book quotes Boswells comments in Chapter Fifty-Nine and corresponding Footnote 83, minus the references to McNamara, an omission that would make sense if Waldron is trying to conceal McNamara as his source. In the same passage Waldron cites an oral history interview of Burkley conducted in 1967 by William McHugh for the John F. Kennedy Library. Burkleys interview does not mention McNamara directly but states, I supervised the autopsy and kept in constant contact with Mrs. Kennedy and the members of her party who were on the seventeenth floor in the suite at that level. (William McHugh For the John F. Kennedy Library, Oral History Interview with ADMIRAL GEORGE G. BURKLEY October 17. 1967 Washington, D.C., 16-17, online as ARRB Master Set of Medical Exhibits, MD 67 - JFK Library Oral History Interview with Admiral George Burkley, USN (dated October 17, 1967) at http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/arrb/master_med_set/contents.htm and http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/arrb/master_med_set/md67/html/md67_0016a.htm )
McNamara also seems to fit Waldrons description of his source as a Kennedy official who worked on parts of C-Day and didnt help draft the official Cuba Contigency Plans but had seen them. Waldrons rebuttal to Talbot, cited above, excludes McNamara from those fully informed about the coup plan prior to JFK's death. But Waldrons book still portrays McNamara as participating in planning related to AM/WORLD. Chapter One mentions McNamara advocating the elimination of Castro during an April 23, 1963 NSC subcommittee meeting. Chapter Nine describes JFKs Secretary of Defense receiving a memo from Maxwell Taylor regarding the Joint Chiefs of Staffs formal response to Cyrus Vances September 26, 1963 Plan for a Coup in Cuba.
As far as I know, at the time of this writing, McNamara is still alive and active as a critic of the Iraq War at the age of 90. If he is Waldrons source, hopefully he will see fit to speak on the record, before he goes the way of those like W. Mark Felt who can no longer give their own account unfiltered through others.
Happy New Year to all on FR!
Happy New Year. Another amazing piece of work.
Happy New Year, fifi! :-)
Thanks for taking the time to read it, ml/nj!
Fedorathanks for the email, and this will take some time for me to read.
Happy New Year!
You, too, stockpirate! :-)
Fedora, here is something I have been involved in the past year.
We start production next month.
Thanks! I will check that out!
Could it be that the Warren Commission Report is so incredulous that mentioning Ford in connection with it would sully Ford's record by association?
Started reading your post, boy I can't believe all of the hours I have spent on this one event in our nations history.
Ford and Warren did interview Ruby in jail. Ford actually seemed open to taking Ruby back to Washington as Ruby requested. I think Ford was probably genuinely convinced that Oswald was the lone gunman. He was initially very interested in the reports from Mexico that Oswald had been paid off by Cuba, but when the source of this statement (Gilberto Alvarado aka "D") retracted it and changed his story, Ford was told about it, which may have made him more inclined to the lone gunman theory after that.
I have a documentary where someone attending a JFK convention says something to the effect that, it's probably not good for you to know more about something that happened over 40 years ago than about what happened yesterday. There's probably some truth in that, LOL.
JFK's fatal head wound: The truth for those who want to know (very graphic)
jmasland.com & others | 11/22/03
Posted on 11/22/2003 8:10:59 PM EST by Wolfstar
Thanks, SunkenCiv! I was wondering if I should ping you on this, given your interest in all things historical, LOL. :-)
Ha! You're just part of the GLOBAL CONSPIRACY to keep me away from the TRUTH of the KENNEDY ASSASSINATION!!! Nice try. ;')
It was the Morleys. Dead giveaway.
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