SUSPECTS IN THE JFK ASSASSINATION
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised on 12/19/2002
Who would have wanted to see President Kennedy dead? Various Warren Commission (WC) critics have identified a number of people and groups whom they suspect were either involved in the assassination or had foreknowledge of it and did nothing to prevent it because they wanted JFK out of the way. There is a wide difference of opinion among researchers concerning suspects. According to many researchers, the following individuals and groups were involved in the assassination conspiracy or knew about it and did nothing to prevent it:
* Lyndon Johnson
* The CIA
* J. Edgar Hoover
* Oil baron H. L. Hunt
* Certain Mafia leaders
* Anti-Castro Cubans
* Ultra-conservative elements in the military
* Richard Nixon
* Family and allies of South Vietnam's murdered dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem
* Fidel Castro
Personally, I can't make up my mind about Lyndon Johnson. I suspect Johnson was involved in the plot to murder President Kennedy, but I'm by no means certain, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn he was not involved. I think it's also possible Johnson knew about the plot ahead of time but did nothing to prevent it.
All this being said, I think it's clear Johnson was a driving force behind the cover-up that followed the assassination. Some of Johnson's actions in the hours and days following the shooting give me pause and have caused many researchers to suspect Johnson of wrongdoing to varying degrees.
By November 1963, Johnson suspected he was going to be dropped from the presidential ticket in 1964, and there is in fact good evidence that JFK was going to get a new running mate for his reelection campaign (26:291-295). Also, Johnson was facing at least one serious probe into his alleged involvement in criminal activity. JFK's death saved LBJ's political career and kept him out of jail. And, it's no secret that LBJ strongly disliked, if not hated, both President Kennedy and his brother, Bobby Kennedy. There are reports that LBJ blackmailed his way onto the ticket in 1960 by using damaging information about JFK's personal life.
Attorney Craig Zirbel assembles circumstantial and anecdotal evidence that Johnson was involved in the plot, in his book THE TEXAS CONNECTION. Noel Twyman presents evidence along the same line in BLOODY TREASON. Johnson's former mistress, Madeleine Brown, has said that Johnson told her shortly before the assassination that after November 22 he wouldn't have to worry about Kennedy anymore. However, there is no evidence to corroborate Ms. Brown's story.
As a conservative, initially I was flabbergasted by the accusation that the CIA was involved in JFK's death. My first reaction was to dismiss the charge as the absurd ravings of die-hard liberals. But now, a few years and hundreds of hours of research later, I'm not so sure. I do dismiss the idea that the CIA's top command was involved in the plot, and I don't believe the CIA as an institution was involved in the deed. However, I believe there is credible evidence that powerful renegade elements of the CIA took part in the assassination conspiracy.
When conspiracists speak of the CIA in reference to its alleged involvement in the assassination, they are referring primarily to the CIA's covert action personnel, i.e., those agents who deal (or who used to deal) in sabotage, propaganda, and assassination. There is evidence that suggests that some of the Agency's covert operations personnel have also taken part in drug trafficking (see, for example, 36; 37; 38; 11:164-226; 40; 17:125-127, 132-136, 164-166, 183-185, 234-235; 20:331-343; 21:285-287; 22).
Most CIA personnel are not involved in such activities and would be appalled at any attempt to harm an elected official. The covert operations personnel make up a large portion of the CIA, and they, along with the Agency's top officials, are the most powerful group in the CIA. In years past some high-ranking CIA officials attempted to frustrate presidential policies and initiated or sanctioned illegal operations, to include working with organized crime.
I reject Zirbel's suggestion that the CIA was, if anything, happy with Kennedy and therefore had no conceivable reason to want to see him dead. JFK and the CIA were often at odds with each other from the moment of the Bay of Pigs disaster until the day he died. There is evidence JFK did not trust the CIA.
When Kennedy learned South Vietnam's dictator Ngo Diem had been murdered by a coup, against his express wishes, he was outraged. Kennedy was no fan of Diem's, but he did not want to see him murdered. General Maxwell Taylor wrote that upon learning of Diem's death JFK "leaped to his feet and rushed from the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face" (18:334). Senator George Smathers reported that Kennedy blamed the CIA for Diem's murder. According to Smathers, Kennedy said he had to "do something about" the CIA and that the Agency should be stripped of its exorbitant power (18:334-335). Kennedy backed the coup, admittedly, but these reports, and others, suggest he did not intend for Diem to be killed in the process.
A key figure who appears to link CIA covert operations personnel to the assassination was CIA man David Atlee Phillips, who was reportedly seen with Oswald a few months before the shooting (4:504-519; 15:128-171, 391-400, 408-409).
Among many other things, Phillips was the propaganda chief for the Bay of Pigs operation and later rose to become the chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division. In 1954 Phillips worked with E. Howard Hunt and others to overthrow the Arbenz government in Guatemala. Based on his extensive investigation of Phillips for the Church Committee and then for the Select Committee, Gaeton Fonzi believes that "David Atlee Phillips played a key role in the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy" (15:409). Phillips was in charge of the CIA's Cuban operations in Mexico City at the time of the assassination, so he was strategically positioned to frame Oswald, and it is possible he was involved in the phony Oswald visits to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City (cf. 15:292).
Another former CIA agent who has come under suspicion is E. Howard Hunt. Hunt, a former high-ranking covert operator and a propaganda specialist, was a key figure in the Bay of Pigs invasion. As mentioned, Hunt and David Atlee Phillips helped to overthrow the Arbenz government in Guatemala. According to former (and now deceased) CIA operative Frank Sturgis, who knew Hunt well, Hunt was involved in CIA assassination operations.
Hunt has made no secret of his intense dislike for John Kennedy. To this day, Hunt blames JFK for the failure at the Bay of Pigs. When Watergate whistleblower John Dean opened Hunt's private safe, he found bogus telegrams, prepared by Hunt, that falsely linked JFK with the assassination of South Vietnam's corrupt dictator Ngo Dinh Diem (5:79).
Where was E. Howard Hunt on November 22, 1963? Hunt has given conflicting accounts of his exact whereabouts at the time of the shooting. In his 1985 libel trial in Miami, Florida, the jury's forewoman concluded Hunt was not being truthful about his whereabouts on the day of the assassination. Hunt's various accounts of where he was and what he was doing on the day of the shooting are markedly contradictory.
Veteran journalist Joseph Trento claims to have seen a CIA memo that admitted Hunt was in Dallas on the day of the assassination. According to Trento, the memo discussed creating a cover story for Hunt so as to give him an alibi for being elsewhere on that day.
Several researchers have identified Hunt as the small "tramp" in the famous "tramp photos." The tramp photos show three supposed tramps who were arrested in the railroad yard behind the grassy knoll shortly after the assassination. The tramps were found in a freight train that had pulled out from behind the TSBD without authorization. The railroad tower controller stopped the train because he knew it did not have permission to depart. The police then searched the train and found the tramps. In the tramp photos the tramps are being escorted by some Dallas police officers who are holding shotguns, presumably en route to the police station.
The tramp in the rear, the third tramp, is the man identified by some researchers as E. Howard Hunt. I have studied several photographs of Hunt and compared them with those of the third tramp. I am struck by the resemblance between them. In their book COUP D'ETAT IN AMERICA, which was endorsed by Congressman Henry Gonzalez, authors Alan Weberman and Michael Canfield provide photographic overlays of Hunt and the third tramp to demonstrate the marked resemblance between the two. In 1988, experts at 3M's Comtal Corporation analyzed photos of Hunt and of the third tramp and found a noticeable resemblance between them. All of this does NOT prove Hunt was the third tramp, but it is worth noting that he bears a strong resemblance to a man who was arrested in Dealey Plaza shortly after the assassination. It must be admitted that the third tramp looks a little too old to have been Hunt. Yet, Hunt reportedly was good at using disguises to alter his appearance.
According to lone-gunman theorists, the men in the tramp photos have been positively identified and had nothing to do with the assassination. Soon after attention was focused on the tramp pictures by the movie "JFK," Dallas authorities released police files that included what were alleged to be the arrest records of the men shown in the photos. Then, a short time later, the news show A CURRENT AFFAIR claimed it had found two of the tramps mentioned in the arrest records, John Gedney and Harold Doyle.
WC defenders assert that the arrest records and the finding of Gedney and Doyle "finally lay to rest irresponsible theories of conspiracy" about the tramps. The third man listed in the records is Gus Abrams. Richard Trask notes that Abrams' sister has identified her brother as one of the men in the pictures. Thus, says Trask, "the painstaking discovery of Mr. Doyle, his and the other two mens' stories, and the evidence of Doyle's own face all come together into a more than credible explanation" (23:347). However, there are several problems with the arrest records and with Doyle's and Gedney's stories (5:347-353).
There are reports that certain CIA operatives had foreknowledge of the assassination. One of these reports has been related by Gaeton Fonzi, a former investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Fonzi reports that a CIA operative code-named Ten-One told him that one of his fellow CIA operatives dismissed the claim that Oswald shot Kennedy because "he knows some of the people who were involved" and that these individuals "were talking about it [the shooting] before it even happened" (15:238-239).
Fonzi has also written that a close friend of CIA hitman David Sanches Morales, Ruben Carbajal, told him that Morales once indicated to a mutual associate, in Carbajal's presence, that he had been involved in the assassination. Not only was Morales a CIA hitman, but he was involved with the infamous Phoenix Program in Vietnam. Morales also took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion and was reportedly violently angry at Kennedy over the invasion's failure. Carbajal arranged for Fonzi to interview the man to whom Morales had made his shocking admission. The man was named Bob Walton, an attorney and a Harvard Law graduate. Fonzi met with Walton and Carbajal. Walton told Fonzi that Morales had in fact indicated he had been involved in Kennedy's death. Says Fonzi,
I looked at Ruben Carbajal, who had remained silent while Walton was telling me this. Carbajal looked at me and nodded his head. Yes, he was there, it was true. (15:390)
J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover strongly disliked, and in fact hated, John Kennedy. Hoover began collecting smear material on Kennedy's personal life when young Jack was in the Navy, and he continued to monitor JFK's private affairs until the day of the assassination. There is evidence that Hoover provided LBJ with derogatory information on Kennedy that enabled Johnson to blackmail his way onto the ticket (16:271-273).
In 1979 the HSCA discovered that the FBI had recorded conversations in 1962 and 1963 between various Mafia leaders and their subordinates in which threats to kill JFK and wishes to see him murdered were expressed (9:290; 56). Incredibly, Hoover never reported these threats to the Secret Service. Even more disturbingly, he did not mention them to President Kennedy, nor to Robert Kennedy, who was the Attorney General (and Hoover's boss) at the time. And, after the assassination, Hoover saw to it that little if any evidence of Mafia involvement in the shooting reached the Warren Commission (9:281-303).
Hoover's principal motive for wanting President Kennedy dead could have been that he loathed Kennedy and viewed him as a godless, pro-communist liberal who was going to wreck the free world. Also, Hoover might have feared that JFK was not going to reappoint him as the director of the FBI after the 1964 election. (In point of fact, Kennedy was quite conservative on economic matters and had shown a willingness to stand up to Soviet aggression. Furthermore, under Kennedy's economic policies, which included generous tax cuts, the economy performed well, as even conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and Donald Lambro have noted.)
For more information on Hoover's possible role in the assassination conspiracy, I would recommend Mark North's book ACT OF TREASON: THE ROLE OF J. EDGAR HOOVER IN THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY (14).
Oil Baron H. L. Hunt
Conspiracy theorists are generally suspicious of the late Texas oil billionaire H. L. Hunt. Hunt was a rabid right-wing extremist with intelligence connections. According to one of Hunt's special assistants, Hunt's top aides often heard him say that America would be "much better off without Kennedy" (1:277). On one occasion Hunt reportedly expressed his desire to see JFK shot (6:215).
The day before the assassination, Eugene Hale Brading, a Mafia man with a long arrest record, visited Hunt's office building in Dallas. Brading was arrested in Dealey Plaza on the day of the shooting when he was found to have taken an elevator to the ground floor of the Dal-Tex Building shortly after the shots were fired. Brading was released, however, because he gave the police an alias. While in Dallas, Brading stayed at the Cabana Hotel.
Jack Ruby visited that hotel, and Hunt's office building, on November 21. Moreover, according to Hunt's former chief aide, John Curington, Marina Oswald met with Hunt two days before the shooting.
On November 23, Hunt asked his chief aide to see what kind of security the police had for Oswald. The aide reported that Oswald had very little protection and that security was very lax at police headquarters where Oswald was being kept. Hunt flew to Washington, D.C., shortly after receiving this report. Oswald was killed on November 24.
Dick Russell's book THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (3) contains an important examination of H. L. Hunt's troubling activities before and after the assassination, as does Livingstone's KILLING THE TRUTH (see also 1:276-278 and 2:568, 573-574).
A few years after the assassination, a disturbing handwritten note surfaced. The note was addressed to a "Mr. Hunt" and was signed "Lee Harvey Oswald." Three independent handwriting experts retained by the DALLAS MORNING NEWS concluded the note was written by Oswald. In the note, which is dated November 8, 1963, Oswald asks about his "position" and requests a meeting before "any steps are taken by me or anyone else."
Was the "Mr. Hunt" oil giant H. L. Hunt? Or, was it E. Howard Hunt of the CIA? Documents declassified in 1983 revealed that the FBI apparently believed the note was addressed to H. L. Hunt's ultra-conservative millionaire son, Nelson Hunt.
Zirbel takes the view that the "Mafia assassination theory is not logical" (6:66). Zirbel believes the Mafia had enough compromising information on the Kennedys that it did not need to kill JFK. Zirbel further says that only small-time Mafia men were involved in the assassination. In my opinion, Zirbel's position is contradicted by the evidence. While the Mafia did indeed have some embarrassing information on John and Robert Kennedy, I think the record is clear that the Mob had strong motives for wanting the President dead. There is evidence of Mafia involvement in the assassination. Even the ultra-cautious HSCA concluded the Mafia had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy. Prior to the assassination, various Mafia leaders were heard to threaten JFK's life.
On November 20, two Mafia men told Rose Cheramie that it was common knowledge in the underworld that Kennedy was about to be killed. Mafia-CIA man David Ferrie was very probably involved in framing Oswald while he was in New Orleans, and Ferrie engaged in highly suspicious activity shortly after JFK was shot. And, as mentioned, a Mafia courier named Eugene Hale Brading was arrested in the Dal-Tex Building overlooking Dealey Plaza immediately after the shooting. Brading had an FBI rap sheet with about three dozen arrests. He had met with one of the sons of avowed Kennedy-hater H. L. Hunt the day before the shooting, ostensibly to discuss some oil business. After he was arrested, Brading gave the Dallas police an alias, and told them he had merely gone into the building to use the phone. The police released him a short time later.
Without question, a Mafia man, Jack Ruby, silenced Lee Harvey Oswald before he had a chance to tell his side of the story. Furthermore, right after the President's visit to Dallas was announced, Ruby began making numerous calls to important Mafia contacts all over the country. Ruby, like Eugene Brading, was in H. L. Hunt's offices the day before the shooting (19:124).
Convicted Texas hitman Charles Harrelson has been identified as the tall man in the famous photos of the three "tramps" who were arrested in the railroad yard behind Dealey Plaza shortly after the assassination. In the early 1980s, Harrelson was convicted of murdering federal judge John Wood with a high-powered rifle for an organized crime figure, and is currently serving his sentence in a Texas prison. During the stand-off that preceded his arrest, Harrelson not only confessed to killing Judge Wood, but also said he had been involved in the Kennedy assassination. Harrelson later retracted his statement about having taken part in the assassination, claiming he had fabricated it under the influence of cocaine. When arrested, Harrelson was found to be carrying the business card of R. D. Matthews, who, according to the HSCA, was acquainted with Jack Ruby and with other Dallas crime figures. At Harrelson's trial, Joe Chagra, the brother of the man who was believed to have hired Harrelson, testified that Harrelson was given the contract to kill Judge Wood after he claimed to have participated in the JFK assassination. Indicted along with Harrelson in the plot to kill Judge Wood was the brother of New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello, who was one of the Mafia figures identified by the Select Committee as possibly having been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Researcher Gary Mack asked an anthropologist to compare photos of the tall tramp with pictures of Harrelson. The anthropologist reported it was likely they were same person. Similarly, police officers trained in photo identification have advised Harrison Livingstone that Harrelson definitely appears to be the tall tramp. So far federal authorities have shown no interest in investigating Harrelson in connection with any role he might have had in the assassination.
Many researchers believe Mafia kingfish Carlos Marcello was a leading figure behind Kennedy's death. Five people, two of them police informants, said they heard Marcello admit to being involved in JFK's assassination (25:205-212). The Kennedys were waging a relentless war on Marcello. Marcello was known to rabidly hate JFK and Bobby Kennedy. Jack Ruby had considerable contact with Marcello's lieutenant in Dallas, Joe Civello. Ruby also met with several Marcello associates, including Frank Caracci and Cleeve Dugas, before the assassination. Furthermore, one of Marcello's men, Nofio Pecora, once bailed Oswald (yes, Oswald) out of jail. John Davis, an expert on organized crime, wrote a whole book on the evidence of Marcello's involvement in the assassination, MAFIA KINGFISH: CARLOS MARCELLO AND THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY (9).
A CIA document that was declassified in 1977 reports that a French assassin who belonged to the violent, anti-Kennedy French terrorist organization known as the OAS was in Dallas on the day of the shooting (1:202-209; 19:414-419; 25:95-126). The hitman's name, according to the document, was Jean Soutre. The document mentions that Soutre had also gone by the name of Michel Mertz. It now seems likely that the man was really Michel Mertz using Soutre's name (25:95-172, 267-289). Mertz was a ruthless member of the French Mafia, which had a strong motive to kill Kennedy (25:141-172, 267-289). Mertz and Soutre were enemies. Soutre himself said it was possible that the man described in the document was Mertz using his, Soutre's, name. Within 48 hours of the assassination, the man was picked up in Texas by U.S. authorities and immediately expelled. Interestingly, evidence has surfaced that the FBI was looking for Soutre, or for someone using his name, BEFORE the assassination (25:130-133). We also know that the KGB believed it found evidence that Mertz played a role in the assassination and that he was hired by the French (Corsican/Marseille) Mafia (see below).
The CIA document mentions that Soutre received mail from a dentist named Alderson. The FBI located this individual, Dr. Lawrence Alderson, who had met Soutre while stationed in France as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Dr. Alderson told former Rockefeller Foundation scholar Henry Hurt that the FBI agents who interviewed him informed him that the FBI felt Soutre "had either killed JFK or knew who had done it" (19:418). When he spoke with Hurt, Dr. Alderson produced a snapshot of Soutre that he took when he was stationed in France. To make a long story short, the FBI dropped the ball in the investigation of Soutre and essentially swept the whole thing under the rug.
Why would the Mafia have wanted JFK dead? Quite simply, because the Kennedy administration was threatening the very existence of organized crime in America, and the French Mafia could very well have feared that Kennedy was going to disrupt or halt its lucrative heroin enterprise. Robert Kennedy was waging an unprecedented war on the Mafia, a war that targeted not just Mafia operations but also Mafia leaders themselves.
In speaking of anti-Castro Cubans, I am referring only to those exiles who were associated with the Bay of Pigs invasion or who were involved in other CIA-backed anti-Castro activities.
In Zirbel's view, the anti-Castro Cubans were admittedly furious with Kennedy over the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion but later forgave him because, among other things, he ransomed 1,200 captured exile troops from Castro (6:57). But there is strong evidence that some anti-Castro Cubans never forgave Kennedy for the failure at the Bay of Pigs, and many of these same individuals were furious at Kennedy over his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and over his shutting down of some of their para-military training camps. It should be noted that the militant Cuban exiles were almost exclusively under the control of the CIA.
Zirbel cites Kennedy's support of the post-invasion efforts to get rid of Castro as another reason that the Cuban exile troops would have forgiven JFK. However, Zirbel fails to deal with the fact that Kennedy subsequently tried to shut down the anti-Castro training bases and that he publicly pledged not to invade Cuba after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Within days of the assassination, the Secret Service learned from an informant that an anti-Castro Cuban activist in the Chicago area, Homer S. Echevarria, in a discussion about an illegal arms sale a short time before the President was killed, said that "his group had 'plenty of money' and that his backers would proceed [with the arms deal] 'AS SOON AS WE TAKE CARE OF KENNEDY.'" This information prompted the agent in charge of the Chicago field office to prepare a memorandum in which he said Echevarria's group "may have a connection with the JFK assassination." Echevarria belonged to the 30th of November Group. Another member of this same group was Rolando Masferrer, who relayed money between Alpha 66 and Mafia kingfish Carlos Marcello. Alpha 66 was a violent, radical anti-Castro group that had a safe house in Dallas at the time of the assassination.
Anthony Summers' books CONSPIRACY and NOT IN YOUR LIFETIME contain thorough analyses of the possible role of some militant anti-Castro Cubans in the assassination (4:268-339, 386-429; see also 1:135-155).
Ultra-Conservative Elements in the Military
It's no secret that there were numerous leaders in the military who viewed Kennedy as being weak, soft on communism (if not pro-communist), and almost dangerous to the free world. They didn't like his handling of the Berlin Wall Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, his backing of the coup against South Vietnam's dictator Ngo Dinh Diem (which led to Diem's murder), his refusal to commit combat troops to Vietnam, and his decision to ban above-ground nuclear testing.
One figure who has come under close scrutiny by some conspiracists is the late Major General Edward Lansdale, U.S. Air Force. Lansdale is undoubtedly the unnamed "General Y" in Oliver Stone's movie "JFK." Lansdale was a special operations officer with strong links to the CIA. His professional patron was CIA director Allen Dulles. The character of the shady political manipulator, Colonel Hillindale, in the famous novel THE UGLY AMERICAN, was based on Lansdale's activities in the Philippines in the early 1950s, where his operations reportedly included torture and political assassination (10:25). In Vietnam, during the Eisenhower administration, Lansdale managed several ruthless internal security programs for South Vietnam's corrupt and oppressive dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem. These programs later developed into the CIA's infamous Phoenix program, which was responsible for the execution of over 20,000 Vietnamese and for the death and torture of countless civilians (37; 13:79-80; 7:40).
It is clear that Lansdale schemed and plotted "to capture the emerging Vietnam policy apparatus" (12:36). Kennedy was considering appointing Lansdale as his new ambassador to Vietnam, but Lansdale was reportedly dropped from consideration after Secretary of State Dean Rusk learned of Lansdale's covert credentials and shady reputation from the Assistant for Far Eastern Affairs, J. Graham Powers.
Was Lansdale involved in the plot to kill JFK? I don't know, and there is only disputed evidence linking him to the plot. One former senior military officer claims he recognizes Lansdale in a photo that was taken in Dealey Plaza, but his identification is open to dispute. This former senior military officer also claims Lansdale ordered him on a worthless trip during the assassination and that he would have helped with presidential security in Dallas if he hadn't been sent on that trip. However, there is no evidence to substantiate the officer's story. It should also be mentioned that Kennedy thought highly of Lansdale and entrusted him with key responsibilities.
What about other senior military officers? Could elements of the miliatry have been involved in the assassination? Sadly, this possibility can't be ruled out. As mentioned, several senior military leaders viewed Kennedy as almost dangerous to the free world. Kennedy's relations with a number of senior military officers were reportedly about as bad as his relations were with the CIA. Some senior military officials attempted to give JFK a misleading, inaccurate picture of the true state of affairs in Vietnam, as John Newman discusses in his highly acclaimed book JFK AND VIETNAM.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, one high-ranking general took the unbelievably irresponsible step of ordering a missile to be fired, WITHOUT Kennedy's authorization. The missile was unarmed, but the launching could have triggered a Soviet response. A recent episode in the BBC 2 documentary series TIME WATCH detailed how during the '50s and '60s leading generals were anxious to go to war with the Soviet Union and wanted to launch a "preventive" nuclear first strike. Even President Eisenhower distrusted some senior military officers, and at the end of his second term spoke out against the threat posed by an unchecked military-industrial complex. There is sworn testimony, from one of the autopsy doctors, that a senior military officer prevented him from performing a standard but crucial autopsy procedure during the autopsy. We also know that some senior military officers believed JFK's handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion was criminally negligent and cowardly. And, we now know that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, John and Bobby Kennedy genuinely feared a military coup if they appeared to back down to the Soviets.
As a centrist independent with conservative views on several issues, I was even more shocked by the suggestion that Richard Nixon was involved in the assassination than I was by the idea that the CIA played a role in it.
However, it is no secret that Nixon was one of the most corrupt presidents in the history of our republic. It's possible that Nixon had foreknowledge of the assassination, but there is no substantive evidence of this. Personally, I don't believe Nixon was involved in the assassination plot. Nevertheless, let's review some of the facts that have led some researchers to view Nixon as a suspect.
What motive would Nixon have had to want Kennedy dead? For one thing, Nixon believed Kennedy had stolen the election from him and that therefore JFK's election was illegitimate. Nixon also might have feared that if JFK were reelected in 1964, that Bobby Kennedy would be in prime position to win in 1968 and again in 1972, thus ruining his chances to be president.
Most Americans are familiar with the Watergate scandal, which led to Nixon's resigning in disgrace in 1974. What is not as well known is the degree to which Nixon aided certain elements of the Mafia during his tenure in the White House. This is not surprising, given the fact that Nixon's friends, and even some of his appointees, included several people who had important Mafia connections.
The Nixon administration repeatedly intervened to quash prosecutions and investigations of criminal activity in Mafia-dominated labor unions. Nixon was involved in a number of highly questionable--and, in some cases, Mob-connected--financial dealings. Nixon pardoned organized crime figures after the government had spent millions of dollars to put them in jail. Among those pardoned was Mafia killer Angelo DeCarlo. On one occasion, recorded on a 1971 Watergate tape, Nixon and his aides discussed using Mob thugs to attack anti-war protestors. Not surprisingly, by all accounts the Mafia warmly endorsed and supported Nixon's campaigns. John Davis, an authority on organized crime, has said, If ever there was a candidate for the presidency whom the mob wanted elected, it was Richard Nixon. Since the earliest days of his political career in California, Nixon had seemed to walk hand in hand with the Mafia, functioning with the family bosses in an apparent symbiotic relationship that was to last right down to his resignation from the presidency in 1974, and perhaps even beyond. (9:397) David Scheim presents an extensive, well-documented discussion on Nixon and the Mafia in chapter 22 of his book THE MAFIA KILLED PRESIDENT KENNEDY (8).
A study of the Nixon presidency reveals a consistent pattern of serious corruption and suspicious deaths, as several authors have discussed in detail. Former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill said the following:
. . . I've been around politics for a long time, and I can say with assurance that what went on during the Nixon presidency was unlike anything I had ever seen, or even heard of. We're talking about blackmail and corruption in the highest office in the land. (7:280)
O'Neill went on to relate that several wealthy businessmen who had previously supported Democratic presidential candidates were suddenly giving money to Nixon because the Nixon administration was using the IRS and other agencies to blackmail them into donating (7:281-286). The businessmen were first threatened with all sorts of investigations and inspections; then, they were led to understand that if they would donate to the Nixon campaign, they wouldn't have anything to worry about.
Harrison Livingstone writes,
I feel that the real reason Nixon was pursued over the Watergate break-ins was that there were a series of murders connected with Richard Nixon's presidency.
Not only was the liberal-centrist leadership that represented the majority of Americans crippled, but numerous others--witnesses, journalists, lawyers, bureaucrats, and ordinary people were liquidated. Watergate itself saw a number of deaths, including an entire planeload of people in a crash onto the streets of Chicago under very strange circumstances. (2:421)
The plane crash victims to whom Livingstone refers were on Flight 553. The plane crashed under very suspicious circumstances on December 8, 1972, a few months after CIA agent E. Howard Hunt and other intelligence operatives had broken into the Democratic Party's campaign headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Among the aircraft's passengers were Hunt's wife, Dorothy, and CBS correspondent Michelle Clark. According to Watergate witness and Hunt associate James McCord, by the time Mrs. Hunt died in the crash, she was upset at having to bribe witnesses and defendants, and wanted out. It was rumored at the time that she was about to leave Hunt and perhaps even turn on him. Reportedly, when Dorothy Hunt boarded the flight, she was carrying documents that were very damaging to her husband and to the Nixon presidency. (After the crash, columnist Jack Anderson said the documents were returned to Hunt in August 1972.) Law enforcement officials were quoted as saying that ten thousand dollars was found in Mrs. Hunt's purse. Other reports put the figure at well past $100,000. Hunt claimed his wife was taking the money to her cousin to invest. Charles Colson, Nixon's counsel, later told TIME magazine, "I think they killed Dorothy Hunt."
Michelle Clark was actively pursuing an investigation into the Watergate scandal. She reportedly had learned from inside sources that the Hunts were considering blowing the whistle on the Nixon White House. If so, Clark's sources were on target. In late 1972 Hunt began to demand payoffs from the Nixon White House, and records shos that Nixon took these blackmail demands seriously.
One of the most disturbing things about Flight 553 is that the plane appears to have been sabotaged. Not only that, but somehow swarms of FBI agents (at least 50) reportedly just happened to be near the crash site well BEFORE the plane went down. In fact, the FBI agents reportedly were in the crash area before the firemen arrived, even though the fire department had received an emergency call within one minute of the crash.
The day after the crash, Nixon appointed Egil Krogh Undersecretary of Transportation. Krogh had previously headed up Nixon's "plumber's" unit, which employed E. Howard Hunt and was involved in the Watergate break-in. Krogh himself later went to prison for burglarizing a psychiatrist's offices. As Undersecretary of Transportation, Krogh was in a position to supervise the two government agencies responsible for investigating the crash of Flight 553, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), and witnesses later testified that he played a "leading role" in at least one attempt to intimidate members of the NTSB when it was investigating the crash.
Eleven days after Flight 553 went down, Nixon named Alexander Butterfield head of the FAA. Butterfield had worked for the CIA and was the White House aide in charge of secretly taping presidential conversations and phone calls. Livingstone presents a thorough analysis of the case of Flight 553 in chapter 20 of HIGH TREASON 2.
It is now known that Nixon delayed the withdrawal from Vietnam for political reasons, causing the needless deaths of thousands of American troops. In a speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 26, 1994, Congressman Pete Stark observed,
Mr. Speaker, I speak today about the murderous actions of the late former President Richard Nixon and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger in the early 1970's.
The Nixon administration, elected with a pledge of having a secret plan to end the Vietnam war, took credit in the 1972 elections for the withdrawal from Vietnam and the wind down of the war. The just-published HALDEMAN DIARIES, however, reveal that the withdrawal was delayed for raw, gross political reasons--to look better in the 1972 elections. . . .
Each day that we delayed our withdrawal, American servicemen died needlessly. Kissinger advised against early withdrawal for election reasons in December of 1970. According to Department of Defense statistics, 2,412 men died in 1971, another 767 in 1972, and 65 more in 1973. In total, 3,244 men died while the withdrawal was delayed for the purposes of ensuring the re-election of Richard Nixon and the sinecure of Henry Kissinger.
One hundred and forty slabs of stone carry the names of 58,191 dead servicemen at the Vietnam Memorial. If Nixon and Kissinger had considered the lives of their fellow Americans instead of their own political victories, 7 stones would not have been needed. The next time you visit the Wall, think about it--1 out of every 20 names would not be there if we had pulled out quickly and decisively when
Kissinger first discussed it. One out of every 20 names is there to help win an election for CREEP. The blood of 3,244 servicemen is an enormous burden on the soul to take to your grave. (24:E1116-1117)
What about Nixon and the assassination? For one thing, there is some evidence linking him to Jack Ruby. It was reported in a 1947 FBI document that Jack Ruby had performed "information functions for the staff of Congressman Richard Nixon" (1:269). Nixon flew to Dallas on November 20, 1963, two days before the assassination. Asked later why he had come, he said he was there to attend a board meeting of the Pepsi-Cola Company. Yet, according to some researchers, a subsequent review of Pepsi-Cola corporate files revealed there was no record of any Pepsi-Cola board meetings in Dallas in 1963 (1:270). However, Anthony Summers points out that Nixon was in Dallas for a bottlers' convention, not for a Pepsi board meeting, and that there is no reasonable doubt about this (27:262).
Nixon left Dallas on the morning of the assassination. However, during an FBI interview in early 1964, he said the only time he had been in Dallas in 1963 was two days before Kennedy was killed (5:84; 1:271). It has been said that Nixon must have been the only adult at the time who could not remember where he was on November 22, 1963. Why did Nixon tell the FBI he had not been in Dallas on the day of the murder? What exactly was he doing there from November 20 till the morning of the assassination?
According to none other than Nixon's chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, Nixon attempted to force the CIA to assist in thwarting investigations into Watergate by threatening to expose the CIA's role in the Kennedy assassination (13:110-111; 5:329-330; 9:402-404; cf. 1:272-273; 5:87-92). In connection with this, it is worth mentioning again that E. Howard Hunt of the CIA tried to blackmail Nixon for over $100,000 dollars, and Nixon seriously considered paying the money, as White House tapes reveal. What did Hunt know?
Several of the people who were hired or considered for employment by the Nixon White House during Watergate had been connected with the Warren Commission (3:273-274; 9:410-414). Was this just a coincidence? In addition, some of the operatives and Cuban exiles who were involved in the Bay of Pigs operation later turned up in the Watergate affair (5:80-82; 9:402-410).
Family and Allies of Ngo Dinh Diem
It's worth noting that Kennedy was assassinated just three weeks after South Vietnam's ruthless dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem, along with his brother, Ngo Nhu, were murdered in a coup that Kennedy backed. Naturally, family and backers of Diem and Nhu would have had a powerful motive to kill Kennedy.
Furthermore, Diem and Nhu learned that Kennedy was backing the coup well before the coup actually occurred, but they didn't know the exact date of the coup, and there were several postponements of the coup. It would have been only natural for Diem and Nhu to have set plans in motion to kill Kennedy. Nhu was Diem's chief advisor and the head of the nation's secret police. Nhu and Diem were involved in the lucrative heroin traffic with the French Mafia, the same French Mafia to which Michel Mertz belonged. Not only would Diem and Nhu have wanted Kennedy dead in order to put a stop to the coming coup against them, but they might very well have viewed Kennedy as a powerful potential threat to their multimillion-dollar heroin business with the French Mafia, given the Kennedys' ongoing war against the Mafia in America and the Kennedy Administration's pressure on the French government to get tough with the French Mafia. The French Mafia, the American Mafia, and the Diem government were effectively business partners in a lucrative heroin network. We now know that Nhu's counter-intelligence operatives placed electronic bugs in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, so Diem and Nhu knew well in advance that Kennedy was backing a coup against them. Bradley O'Leary and Edward Lee comment on this fact:
But one thing we know was never disclosed in Saigon's U.S. Embassy was the actual DATE of the coup. The insurgent generals never told us exactly WHEN the coup would occur. We also know that several go-dates for the coup were called off--which Nhu and Diem must have known thanks to their bugs. . . .
The only problem with that is that the coup took place a little sooner than Diem counted on. We contend that Diem and Nhu (along with their colleagues in the Marseille and U.S. mafias) already had a plan underway to assassinate John F. Kennedy. But Diem and Nhu were assassinated themselves before their plan could be enacted. (25:278-279)
Interestingly, it has come to light that three previously classified FBI file surveys named Nhu's wife, known as Madame Nhu, and the government of South Vietnam as suspects in the JFK assassination (25:273-281). Madame Nhu was touring the U.S. when she heard the news of her husband's murder. She publicly said,
Such a cruel injustice against a faithful ally cannot go unnoticed, and THOSE WHO INDULGE IN IT WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. . . . If my family has been treacherously killed with either the official or unofficial blessing of the American Government, I CAN PREDICT TO YOU ALL THAT THE STORY OF VIETNAM IS ONLY THE BEGINNING. (25:275, emphasis added)
Three weeks after Madame Nhu made this statement, JFK was killed in Dallas.
There is some evidence that Lyndon Johnson himself suspected that supporters of Diem and Nhu were involved in Kennedy's death (25:281-282).
What is especially interesting is that the Russian KGB investigated the assassination and concluded Kennedy "was shot by a professional assassin hired by French and South Vietnamese agents" (25:284). This information comes from Colonel Semyonavitch Pavlotsky, who was the highest ranking officer in the KGB's investigative unit. Pavlotsky continues,
Our unit knew that the Americans helped overthrow and murder South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem. . . . Diem's brother Ngo Dinh Nhu was also killed, and this cut off the supply of opium that Nhu had been helping the Corsican mafia smuggle to Marseille. The Corsicans then turned the opium into heroin and shipped it to the United States where American gangsters sold the drugs. Our group found that the Corsicans hired French hitman Michael Mertz, sometimes known as Jean Rene Soutre, to carry out the assassination with the cooperation of the American Mafia bosses." (25:284-285)
Gus Russo's book LIVE BY THE SWORD convinced me to add Fidel Castro to the list of suspects. Some researchers have long suspected that Castro and his agents played a role in Kennedy's death. In the aftermath of the assassination, many people speculated that Castro was responsible for Kennedy's murder. Several conservative commentators suggested Oswald was hired by Castro and/or the Soviets to kill Kennedy.
Certainly Castro had a motive to kill Kennedy. Castro knew of the CIA-Mafia assassination plots to kill him, and he most likely suspected JFK approved those plots. It would have been only natural for Castro to retaliate by attempting to kill Kennedy before Kennedy, or the CIA and the Mafia, killed him.
Russo presents evidence that Oswald met with Cuban intelligence agents in Mexico City. Russo also argues that Oswald visited Cuba, that certain Cuban intelligence people seemed to have foreknowledge that Kennedy would be killed, that Cuban intelligence might have planned on flying Oswald to Cuba after the assassination, and that Cuban intelligence might have paid Oswald several thousand dollars to kill Kennedy (26:209-320).
Is it illogical to posit both pro-Castro and anti-Castro Cuban involvement in the assassination? Not at all. It's well known that some Cuban exiles despised Kennedy and viewed him as a traitor after the Bay of Pigs. It's also well known that Castro's agents thoroughly penetrated the Cuban exile movement. If Castro's agents had learned that some Cuban exiles wanted Kennedy dead and/or that some exiles were even involved in a plot to assassinate him, they hardly would have discouraged such desires or plans. Some of Castro's agents could have even taken part in such a plot, while posing as anti-Castro Cubans.
It should be kept in mind that some of the reports of Cuban involvement in the assassination might very well have been disinformation generated by elements of the CIA, possibly as part of an effort to incite an American invasion of Cuba in the aftermath of the shooting.
In my opinion, the conspiracy that killed President Kennedy was comprised of several persons and groups. Not all of these persons and groups were involved to the same degree or at the same time. I think it's pretty clear elements of the Mafia and some anti-Castro Cubans were involved. It's possible that agents of Fidel Castro played a role as well. Castro's agents might have encouraged, or even assisted, embittered Cuban exiles who wanted to kill Kennedy. I think J. Edgar Hoover knew of the plot but did nothing to stop it. Funding for the plot could have come from H. L. Hunt. I believe certain rogue elements in the CIA's covert operations division were also involved, and that fanatical elements in the military may have assisted them. What we must realize is that back then there was considerable interaction between the Mafia, elements of the CIA, and the anti-Castro Cubans.
As for the cover-up, I believe that members of Dallas law enforcement were involved in the Dallas end of the cover-up, and that some of them knowingly allowed Jack Ruby to murder Oswald. I believe that FBI agents, led by J. Edgar Hoover, played a major role in most aspects of the cover-up. I believe that certain military officials played a role in subverting and controlling the autopsy and in suppressing the truth about the medical evidence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College in Albany, New York, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. He is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in Arabic and Hebrew, and has completed advanced Hebrew programs at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England. He is also a two-time graduate of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas, and holds an Occupational Instructor Certificate from the Community College of the Air Force. He is the author of the book Compelling Evidence: A New Look at the Assassination of President Kennedy (Grand Prairie, TX: JFK-Lancer Productions and Publications, 1996). His articles on the assassination have appeared in several journals that deal with the case. In addition, he is the author of four books on Mormonism and ancient texts.
1. Jim Marrs, CROSSFIRE: THE PLOT THAT KILLED KENNEDY, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1989.
2. Harrison Edward Livingstone, HIGH TREASON 2, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1992.
3. Dick Russell, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1992.
4. Anthony Summers, CONSPIRACY: THE DEFINITIVE BOOK ON THE JFK ASSASSINATION, Updated and Expanded Edition, New York: Paragon House, 1989. An extensive revision of the book was recently published under the title NOT IN YOUR LIFETIME.
5. Alan J. Weberman and Michael Canfield. COUP D' ETAT IN AMERICA: THE CIA AND THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY, Revised Edition, San Francisco, California: Quick American Archives, 1992.
6. Craig Zirbel, THE TEXAS CONNECTION, New York: Warner Books, 1992.
7. Tip O'Neill, with William Novak, MAN OF THE HOUSE: THE LIFE AND POLITICAL MEMOIRS OF SPEAKER TIP O'NEILL, New York: St.Martin's Press, 1987.
8. David S. Scheim, THE MAFIA KILLED PRESIDENT KENNEDY, London, England: Virgin Publishing Ltd, 1992. First published under the title CONTRACT ON AMERICA: THE MAFIA MURDER OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, New York: Shapolsky Publishers, 1988. The retitled 1992 edition is a revised and updated version of the 1988 original.
9. John Davis, MAFIA KINGFISH: CARLOS MARCELLO AND THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY, Signet Edition, New York: Signet, 1989.
10. Douglas Valentine, THE PHOENIX PROGRAM, New York: Avon Books, 1990. A disturbing history of a CIA covert action program in which thousands of Vietnamese civilians were killed, tortured, and imprisoned, all without even the semblance of due process of law.
11. Jonathan Vankin, CONSPIRACIES, COVER-UPS AND CRIMES, New York: Dell Publishing, 1992.
12. John M. Newman, JFK AND VIETNAM: DECEPTION, INTRIGUE, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER, New York: Warner Books, 1992.
13. Mark Lane, PLAUSIBLE DENIAL: WAS THE CIA INVOLVED IN THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1991.
14. Mark North, ACT OF TREASON: THE ROLE OF J. EDGAR HOOVER IN THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY, New York: Carroll & Graf, 1991.
15. Gaeton Fonzi, THE LAST INVESTIGATION, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993.
16. Anthony Summers, OFFICIAL AND CONFIDENTIAL: THE SECRET LIFE OF J. EDGAR HOOVER, London: Victor Gollancz, 1993.
17. Linda Hunt, SECRET AGENDA: THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, NAZI SCIENTISTS, AND PROJECT PAPERCLIP, 1945-1990, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.
18. Herbert S. Parmet, JFK: THE PRESIDENCY OF JOHN F. KENNEDY, New York: Penguin Books, 1984.
19. Henry Hurt, REASONABLE DOUBT: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1985.
20. Paul Eddy, Hugo Sabogal, and Sara Walden, THE COCAINE WARS, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988.
21. John Prados, PRESIDENTS' SECRET WARS: CIA AND PENTAGON COVERT OPERATIONS SINCE WORLD WAR II, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986.
22. Alfred McCoy, with Cathleen Read and Leonard Adams, THE POLITICS OF HERION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
23. Richard Trask, PICTURES OF THE PAIN: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY, Danvers, Massachusetts: Yeoman Press, 1994.
24. CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, 104th Congress, 1994.
25. Bradley O'Leary and Edward Lee, THE DEATHS OF THE COLD WAR KINGS, Baltimore: Cemetery Dance Publications, 2000.
26. Gus Russo, LIVE BY THE SWORD: THE SECRET WAR AGAINST CASTRO AND THE DEATH OF JFK, Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998.
27. Anthony Summers, THE ARROGANCE OF POWER: THE SECRET WORLD OF RICHARD NIXON, New York: Viking Press, 2000.
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