Tag Archives: Mafia

Intended Talk to COPA by Anthony Summers: Where the JFK Case Sits 11/22/2013

Dallas talk for COPA….November 22, ’13…..from Anthony Summers
(did not go ahead, because of technical problems)

Greetings from Ireland. You in Dallas have experienced an extraordinary couple of days, again. I thank John Judge for his invitation.

Let me say now that I am well aware that this group embraces people with widely divergent views – many no doubt far, far from my own. My intention tonight, as you wind up the program of the day, is to offer some new information but no great sensation. Merely, on this fiftieth milestone day to assess where the case sits in 2013 – as I see it after my own reporting. What I say may seem conservative. And if it does, then that may not be such a bad idea.

Fifty years…To many in the wider public, by now, our subject is too far in the past to matter – or an entertainment.

It wasn’t, of course and never should have become that.

One could start worse than with the words of Jacqueline Kennedy, as she recalled the moment of the assassination – just a week after it occurred, in an interview for Life magazine. What she said was suppressed for years, deemed too raw to be published. You may know what she said, but I read it now because – even now – it takes us back with a jolt:

Mrs. Kennedy said: “You know, when he was shot, he had such a wonderful expression on his face…[Then] he looked puzzled…he had his hand out. I could see a piece of his skull coming off. It was flesh-coloured, not white. He was holding out his hand – and I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head…”

As the presidential limousine gathered speed, Mrs. Kennedy believed she cried:
“I love you, Jack…I kept saying, ‘Jack, Jack, Jack’…All the ride to the
hospital, I kept bending over him saying, ‘Jack, Jack, can you hear me? I love you, Jack.’ I kept holding the top of his head down, trying to keep the…”
She could not finish the sentence.

What happened on November 22, 1963 was brutally brief. The findings of the two official enquiries have been reiterated ad nauseam. The Warren Commission’s version – the one the mainstream media has always favored (without really paying attention to the second investigation or thinking out of the box) had the murder committed by former Marine Oswald, a recently returned defector to the then Soviet Union, a leftwinger who had lately seemed to be an activist on behalf of Castro’s Cuba.

Oswald had got off three shots, as the Commission had it, in between about 5 seconds and rather less than eight seconds (depending on which shots hit and which may have missed). He had then run for it, and soon after killed Officer Tippit. The Commission had it that Jack Ruby, who killed Oswald two days later, had “no significant link” to the Mafia.

In 1979, the House Committee on Assassinations would show conclusively that, to the contrary, Ruby in fact had links to organized crime from his youth until just before the assassination. The Committee would also find links between Oswald’s family and organized crime.

The way the Committee saw it, on its reading of all the evidence, physical, acoustics, and the human testimony was – just as had the Commission – that Oswald was an assassin. It also thought, however, that another – unknown – gunman – had probably fired at the President on November 22 – from in front.

There had thus – that unfortunate word “probably” – probably been a conspiracy.

The Committee suspected the Mob, but could pin nothing on Mafia leaders. And, though you had to look harder for that than you did for the suspicions about organised crime, the murkier parts of the anti-Castro movement.

The bulk of the U.S. media, however, virtually ignored the congressional finding of probable conspiracy. There was no clamor for action. Barely a soul noticed when the Justice Department failed to follow through as the Committee had recommended. Although the Committee’s former Chief Counsel Robert Blakey has said – quite seriously – that he believed that back then around 1980 – a tough investigation could have brought conspirators to trial.

With one official probe saying Oswald did it alone and another pointing to conspiracy, it is not a bit surprising that the American public’s skepticism has never gone away. Some 60 % of those Americans polled in a study this year believe there was a conspiracy.

On the other hand, it would be fatuous to think now – has been for decades – that anyone official is going to do anything about it. To think otherwise is to yodel in the wilderness.

And yet. The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has just said publicly that he has “serious doubts” Oswald acted alone.

The New Yorker two days ran a lengthy piece by John Cassidy. He wrote:
“There’s a substantive reason why the doubters survive: the official version of events begs questions; in some aspects, it beggars belief….Questioning the official version of history is a sign of democratic vigor.”
Yes, it is.
*
My book on the case was first published three decades ago as Conspiracy, a title deriving – at my publisher’s insistence, and over my strenuous objections – from the House Committee’s conclusion.…I thought I’d be labelled a “conspiracy theorist”, a fate worse than “reputation death” for a journalist who takes his work seriously. Mysteriously, however, I got away with it, and most of the mainstream press – even the ever-nose-in-the-air New York Times, for godsake, welcomed the book.

A couple of editions later, when I updated the book, a new publisher agreed to the title it now carries – Not in Your Lifetime. I took this new title from the answer Chief Justice Warren gave in 1964 when asked if all the investigation’s information would be made public. He replied: “Yes, there will come a time. But it might not be in your lifetime. I am not referring to anything especially, but there may be some things that involve security. This would be preserved but not made public.”

Warren was thinking, he said, of stays by the alleged assassin in the Soviet Union and Mexico, and there may indeed have been national security ramifications at that time.

Since then, of course, and against the wishes of some federal agencies, millions of pages of documents have been released – thanks to the JFK Records Act. Not that, fifty years on, we yet have it all. Some Army Intelligence and Secret Service records have been destroyed. There are questions as to the whereabouts of some Naval Intelligence material. The Central Intelligence Agency – the CIA – is withholding 1,171 documents as “national security classified.” “I think.” former Assassinations Committee chief counsel Blakey has said, “the Agency is playing the Archives.”

If anything has kept me going this year, when I’ve produced a new, updated edition of my book, it’s the challenge presented by those continued withholdings. I’ve dropped a lot of material that seems to me surplus to requirements, or is never going to go anywhere, brought what I’ve sustained up to date, and considered what we have left.

I think the one thing anyone seriously focused on this case knows is that – after all this time and effort by so many people – all we know is that much remains unknown.

A primary reason I’ve kept working on the case,, when I should perhaps have known better, is what I learned at the outset about the press coverage of the case. It was shamefully delinquent at the time and has stayed delinquent. If you’re kind enough to read the new edition of my book, which I believe may be available at the door, take a look at how very rarely, in some hundred pages of Notes at the end, I quote from major media sources. I quote them hardly at all because…few reporters did any real work.

I have as little patience with the bogus experts who have wasted time and distracted attention from the real issues – or the Hollywood distortions. Really early on, when I was working as a young journalist at the BBC in London, I had the unpleasant experience of seeing Mark Lane, heady no doubt with the hoohhah about his book Rush to Judgement, cause an unjustifable public furore and flounce out of a television studio. It was grandstanding, made no point, achieved nothing – except to make doubt look disreputable.

Oliver Stone, with his immensely successful movie JFK, used distorted information to lead a whole generation to think the assassination was somehow connected to the Vietnam War and “the military-industrial complex.” He said the assassination was “sacred history” to which one had to be faithful, or words to that effect, while maintaining that he had artistic license to make the film as he wished. You can’t have it both ways – though Stone and I have since become friends.

The further glorification Stone gave to former District Attorney Jim Garrison, moreover, troubled me. Garrison made a circus out of a crucial evidence scene, New Orleans, and I think set serious research back years and years. When I finally met him, in the late 1970s, he behaved as though we were in the middle of a very bad spy movie – and asked me to meet him in a sauna bath. To the extent that a reporter comes to a conclusion about an interviewee on the basis – to a degree – of instinct – I thought him quite seriously unstable.

There are the time-wasters and gossip merchants – I’m thinking of the “a-Secret-Service-agent-did-it” notion. Or: “It was LBJ”. And of course the complete nutcases. Some of the more extreme theories reposing in the Loonies file in our office, include:

* A letter on the grand notepaper of the “Institute of Moral and Political Law,” advising that “the JFK mystery is solved!” The assassin, you see, was George Bush Sr.!

* A missive enclosing photos “proving” that there had been a small dog in the limousine with the President on the day he died. The pooch was somehow involved in the murder plot!

* An initially sane-sounding letter that closes with an offer to prove that JFK was not killed, merely “removed from office.” Crouched down on the floor, he escaped the bullets….
*
Back in the real world, what of the actual evidence in the case? You don’t have to be a lunatic or a “conspiracy theorist” to harbour multiple questions about the evidence the Warren Commission handed down as certainties. Millions now know, largely thanks to people like you, how badly the autopsy and the ballistics evidence was handled. One would hope, I think, that a homeless person’s autopsy would be handled better than was John Kennedy’s.

A lot of people – I watch it on the Internet – still give serious time and debate time to the studying the wounds, the trajectories, the bullet fragments – and all that. I admire some of those who work in that area, but I long since distanced myself. Nothing is ever going to be proved one way or the other about the physical side of the evidence. It’s vaguely satisfying to those who oppose the Warren account, I suppose, that the Livermore National Laboratory, no less, in 2007, cast new doubt on the Single Bullet Theory. But I think we should accept that the physical evidence area is now what the lawyers call a non liquet – something that can never be resolved for certain. Better, now, to look elsewhere.

Fingerprint evidence can of course be crucial, and Oswald’s prints were found on book cartons near the window from which he allegedly fired. Yet that proved nothing. As an employee, the alleged assassin had been legitimately working in that very area.

What, though, of the palm-print found on one of the boxes, one never identified? Whose was that? We don’t know, not least because – in a ludicrous oversight – not all those who worked in the building were fingerprinted. Why not? Because, after Oswald had been arrested, the building superintendent asked that the fingerprinting process be halted. Incredibly, law enforcement officials obliged.

There is, as you know, much more. The possibility, for example, that Oswald was not on the infamous Sixth Floor at the time shots were fired. He claimed he had been in a downstairs lunchroom at the time, and there were witnesses who appeared to support his story.

One of them, whom I believe I interviewed for the first time, Caroline Arnold, the secretary to a senior executive in the building. She told me she saw Oswald in the lunchroom at 12.15 p.m. or perhaps as late as 12.25 p.m. I found her credible and have had no cause to change my mind. Had the motorcade been on time – in fact it ran five minutes late and went by at 12.30 – the President would have passed the building at 12:25.

Would a would-be assassin who planned to kill the President have been sitting around downstairs as late as 12:15, or anything after that?

There is something else that’s toweringly important. The cliché is that murderers should have “motive, means and opportunity.” Well, Oswald had the opportunity and he had the means – a rifle. But, motive? The Commission never figured out a satisfactory motive for Oswald. The overall testimony was that he rather liked the President, and there is not a jot of even half reliable evidence that he loathed him – let alone wished to do away with him.

Could Oswald have been, as he claimed, a “patsy” – set up to take the blame? His behavior that day sure leaves it highly likely he was guilty of something, but it is not at all evidence that means that he killed the President.

Any serious look at the case involves disentangling the threads that run through Oswald’s activity in the months and years before the assassination:

* The clandestine operations of U.S. intelligence.

* And the Cuba factor.

In a talk like this, I can only sketch in the outlines of the intelligence angle. Consider, though, Oswald’s three-year defection to the Soviet Union and his return the year before the assassination. This was a former U.S. Marine who had had access – at the height of the Cold War – to information on the operations of the U-2 spy plane. On defecting, he had said openly that he had undertaken to give the Soviets what he knew. This was a self-declared would-be traitor. Would you not think that, on returning to the United States, Oswald would have been – at a minimum – severely interrogated?

The official line, however, has been that Oswald was allowed to return home and melt back into life as a law-abiding citizen. It doesn’t wash, and snippets of evidence indicate otherwise. There’s that CIA document, long withheld in its full version, that shows officials discussed “the laying on of interviews” on his return. A senior member of the Soviet Russia Division wrote that his department “had an OI [that’s Operational Intelligence] in Oswald.”

Here, briefly, a speculation – and I try in my book to speculate very little. Were this leftwing defector-cum-traitor – think, somewhat, a sort of junior league Edward Snowden – interrogated on his return, he may have been given options. “You’re a traitor,” subject to a lengthy stay in jail.” Or, perhaps, “You’re a traitor, and you could go to jail. Or you could perhaps be useful to us. Maintain your leftwing stance, and we may get you to do things for us.”

Back to the facts. Oswald did return to civilian life, did go back to his focus on socialist activity – and especially on Communist Cuba. Remember the date he returned. This was shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis. The armed standoff – and the propaganda war – between the United States and the Soviet Union and Castro’s Cuba was at its most tense.

Oswald joined the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, went to New Orleans – the city of his birth – and ostensibly went about setting up a local branch of Fair Play for Cuba there. I say “ostensibly” because there are indications that it was all a charade. He reported a clash in the street with some anti-Castro Cuban exiles a week before it actually occurred. Stuff like that just won’t go away. When it did occur, and Oswald was arrested for disturbing the peace, two police officers got the impression there was some sort of “set up,” that Oswald was “being used.”

Used, used by whom? The files show that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was being targeted, bugged and infiltrated, by the FBI. The anti-Castro group with which Oswald “clashed,” moreover – the DRE – was being run by the CIA as part of the secret war against Cuba, a war that involved both armed raids on Cuba by armed exile fighters and complex propaganda operations.

We know the anti-Castro group that had the supposed clash with Oswald reported back to a CIA case officer. I obtained an interview with a former paid tool of the FBI, Joseph Burton – the Bureau described him as a “valuable and reliable source” – whose job back then was to pose as a Marxist and infiltrate radical groups. He said Oswald had been “connected with the FBI”…that FBI agents had spoken of “owning” Oswald.”

The FBI and the CIA, often historically at loggerheads, were cooperating to an unusual extent at this time. In September, 1963, a CIA officer and a senior FBI official met to discuss new plans for action against the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The CIA “advised that it was “giving some consideration to countering the activities of [the Committee] in foreign countries”…..and giving thought to planting deceptive information which might embarrass the Committee.”

The day after that memo was written, Oswald applied for a Tourist Card for a visit to Mexico. A new passport had been issued to him within twenty-four hours – even though his application stated he might wish to return to the Soviet Union. Funny that, you may think – given Oswald‘s background as a defector and traitor.

Oswald did go to Mexico City, and his six-day visit remains one of the most mysterious – yet telltale – episodes of the entire story. It makes for a fresh chapter in the new edition of my book – though here we must zip past it in a couple of minutes. Oswald’s ostensible purpose in Mexico, of course, was to go to the Cuban and Soviet embassies – armed with his credentials as a pro-Castro activist – to try to get a visa for travel to Cuba. He failed. The Cubans – I went to Mexico and Cuba and talked to relevant witnesses – suspected he might well be a CIA agent provocateur.

The signs are that the CIA did indeed hope to use Oswald, wittingly or unwittingly, as a cog in its covert anti-Castro operations. I say perhaps unwittingly, for there are indications that an Agency impostor used Oswald’s identity in Mexico City. The House Assassinations Committee took the possibility seriously – and separate information, nothing to do with Oswald, establishes that the use of impostors by the CIA was a common ploy. “A standard operation was to impersonate Americans in telephone contact with the Soviet Embassy,” said Jeremy Gunn, the former Executive Director of the Assassinations Records Review Board.
More important – and this is more stuff that just won’t go away – is the tangle of information that arose from the CIA’s photographic and audio surveillance of the Communist embassies. Both the Cuban and Soviet embassies were covered by cameras monitoring comings and goings. CIA microphones were planted inside the Cuban embassy, especially, and telephone calls were all bugged.

Two of the calls Oswald supposedly made to the Soviet Embassy appear not to have been made by the real Oswald. Could one not establish whether that is so by comparing the voice on the tape with the known voice of the authentic Oswald? A good specimen was available, a recent broadcast he had done in connection with his pro-Castro activity in New Orleans.

Well no, said the CIA. It claimed the Mexico surveillance tapes had been “routinely” wiped weeks before the assassination – because, it claimed, Oswald had supposedly, been of no interest at the time.
Except, we now know from the draft memoir left behind by the then CIA station chief in Mexico City, Winston Scott, that – in his words – Oswald “had been a person of great interest to us” during his visit. “We kept a special watch” on him.
Except, too, that we now know the tapes were not routinely wiped before the assassination. Senior Warren Commission counsel William Coleman and his fellow Commission attorney David Slawson, and – in his retirement – the CIA station chief’s deputy, all told me that they listened to Oswald’s tape-recorded voice in April 1964 months after the assassination. What became of the recording – and indeed of the photographs that must have been snapped of Oswald on one of a total of five visits to the Communist embassies?

The CIA has offered no satisfactory answer. We do know, though, that – when Station Chief Scott died some years afterwards – CIA Counterintelligence’s James Angelton flew down to Mexico within hours, searched through the deceased man’s belongings, seized Scott’s draft memoir and what has been described as a stack of reel-to-reel tapes labelled “Oswald,” and ordered that they be flown to headquarters in Washington. Though some of the memoir has since been returned to the station chief’s next of kin, it appears that the other material was disposed of under a CIA “destruction order.”

There is still , meanwhile, the extraordinary episode that has been called the “Rosetta Stone” of the case, which probably occurred when the authentic Oswald was on his way from Mexico to Dallas, where he was to spend the few remaining weeks before the assassination. I refer to the testimony of the Odio sisters, Cuban exiles Silvia and Annie. I know, I know, this is a hoary old angle. But it is as central to the case as ever it was. The sisters were visited by a trio of men who said they were anti-Castro militants. Two of them, Hispanics, introduced their companion, an American who – the sisters would insist after the assassination looked just like Oswald – as “Oswald,” “Leon Oswald.”

Later, in what seemed to be a very deliberate way, the leader of the group would say Oswald was an “ex-Marine…an expert marksman…” who said “we should have shot Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs…should have done something like that.”

This posed a problem for the Warren Commission probe into the assassination – one that never was resolved. Commission attorneys took the view that the Odio women were excellent, credible witnesses and that their account seemed truthful. (I obtained what I believe were the first independent interviews with them – and I share that view.) Silvia and Annie’s account, of course, suggests that there was an attempt to set Oswald up – just weeks before the assassination – as a would-be presidential assassin.

Today, there is more. In the attempts to establish who the two Hispanics who had accompanied this “Oswald” had been, investigators took statements from a man who initially led them down a false trail – offering what Congress’ Committee called a “fabrication.” That man, a fellow named Loran Hall, alias Pascillo, had served in the U.S. Army, reportedly trained in counter-intelligence, was indeed involved with the anti-Castro campaign in the New Orleans area, and – earlier – had worked for Mafia boss Santo Trafficante.

Trafficante was one of the two Mafia bosses who has been linked repeatedly to the assassination of the President.

Which brings us to the issue of motive and – if Oswald didn’t kill the President, or at any rate didn’t do it on his own – Whodunnit?

Who might have had a motive to kill Kennedy? Though Oswald had lived for quite a long period in Russia, and though available information makes it clear that Soviet intelligence took a real interest in him while he was there, no serious observer considers the Soviets desired the President’s death or had any part in the assassination.

The theory that Castro’s Cuba was behind the tragedy has received serious attention over the years – not least, recently, in the context of the possibility that Castro learned of CIA efforts to kill him – and struck first. The so-called supporting evidence for such a theory, however, is flimsy. Militating against it is the fact that – had Washington discovered Cuba had a hand in the assassination – U.S. retaliation could have been expected to be devastating, would have swept the Castro revolution away once and for all.

Of the plausible suspects, that leaves the anti-Castro exiles, Mafia bosses – and, I don’t reject the possibility, elements within the CIA. There is no inherent conflict in lumping those three groups together. All three were committed to the fight against Castro – the Mafia because the Revolution had robbed them of a gambling and hotel goldmine, the anti-Castro people and their CIA backers for obvious reasons. Many anti-Castro fighters loathed Kennedy with a passion because of the way they considered he had betrayed their cause at the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, by the way he resolved the Missile Crisis and by his subsequent clampdown on their activity. Mafia bosses, notably Trafficante and New Orleans’ Carlos Marcello, hated the President – and had even allegedly threatened to kill him – because the Kennedy administration was conducting an unprecedented onslaught on organized crime. If the anti-Castro groups and the Mob bosses plotted to kill Kennedy, seeing to it that the crime was blamed on a pro-Castro activist would have seemed a masterstroke.

After all this – and we’ve only scratched the surface – the endgame.
Have there been plausible admissions?

I call the final chapter of my book “Hints and Deceptions.” On this 50th anniversary, you may have heard discussion of admissions Mafia bosses Trafficante and Carlos Marcello supposedly made in old age. I’ve looked hard at those stories, and the alleged confession stories turn out to be really questionable.

I set much more store by other apparent admissions, some of them gleaned from my own interviewing. One has been around for a long time. Trafficante associate John Martino should be high on any suspect list. His connection with the Mafia boss aside, he had worked in a casino in Cuba before the revolution, had done time in a Castro jail, worked on both the military and propaganda campaign to topple Castro afterward – and was amongst those who spun tales after the assassination about Oswald’s alleged links to the Cuban regime.

Martino’s wife Florence told me her husband spoke of an imminent assassination attempt on the morning of November 22, hours before it took place. According to her and the couple’s son Edward, the news from Dallas – when it came – seemed “more like confirmation.” Much later, when he was dying of heart disease, Martino told an associate – whom I also interviewed – that he had been “part of” the assassination.

Martino said: “The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working for….Oswald made a mistake….They had Ruby kill him.”

And he referred to a second gunman who had been involved, a “Cuban” who had been “the other trigger.”

In 2007, in the company of former Assassinations Committee chief counsel Professor Blakey, I visited Miami to speak with a Cuban no one had heard of before. The man, who was in his eighties, had made contact saying there was something he wanted to get off his chest before he died. What he had to say is, in Blakey’s view, “a breakthrough of historical importance.” I’ve put it on the record in the new edition of my book.

While in a Castro prison in the mid-1960s – on a minor charge involving illegal currency offenses – the man said – he learned that an anti-Castro fighter he had known well since their student days, had spoken of his “participacion” – participation – in the assassination of the President.

The fighter’s name was Herminio Diaz. He had worked in one of Mafia boss Trafficante’s casinos, and is listed in CIA files. It is a matter of record that he had had in the past shot dead a former Cuban chief of police, had tried to kill the President of Costa Rica, and had plotted to kill the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He was a crack marksman, a known assassin – and he was in the United States in 1963.

After fifty years, this may be the first plausible identification of an unknown gunman who perhaps fired at President Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

In the fog of remaining knowns and unknowns, now and then, are the elements that could perhaps tell us whether and how Oswald – the very public pro-Castro Marxist – may have been set up to take the blame. Just visible in the thick of the evidence are the outlines of what may have happened.

In New Orleans, there was the anti-Castro group that had clashed with “pro-Castro” Oswald in that charade of a confrontation. That group was funded and supervised by the CIA – a fact that the CIA failed to reveal to the Warren Commission.
In Mexico City was senior CIA officer David Phillips – he had previously been the CIA’s man in Havana – running anti-Castro propaganda (with oversight over the operations in New Orleans) and in charge of the surveillance operations against the Cuban and Soviet embassies during Oswald’s visit. Phillips may have been one and the same as “Maurice Bishop”, an intelligence officer who – after the assassination – sought to fabricate information linking Oswald to the Castro Cubans.

There’s new information on the Phillips/ “Bishop” issue. This year, while I was preparing my book, former Clandestine Services officer Glenn Carle told us he asked Phillips whether he had been “Bishop”. “Phillips’ reaction,” Carle said, was to acknowledge that he was the man in question…but he did not explicitly confirm to me that he had done what he was accused of doing: meeting with Oswald. He avoided discussing this point.”
How to interpret it all?

Did Oswald shoot the President off his own bat, without any known motive, as the official account claimed? Did U.S. intelligence officers use Oswald as a minor cog in a covert anti-Castro propaganda scheme – one that had nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination – then, to avoid exposure, rush to cover up after November 22nd – with the effect of making themselves appear to have something far more serious to conceal? Did the anti-Castro people kill Kennedy without the knowledge of their CIA handlers, seeking to make the pro-Castro Oswald take the fall?

After all the work and all the years, I do not pretend to know the answer.

What is clear, though, is that elements of the truth have been kept secret, are being kept secret still – not least by the CIA. It has emerged that George Joannides, the officer brought in from retirement to liaise with Congress’ Assassinations Committee, to decide what Agency documents investigators could and could not see, was none other – though the CIA concealed this from the Committee – than the very CIA officer who, in 1963, had been case officer to the DRE, the anti-Castro group that had the purported clash with Oswald in New Orleans!
This was a gross deception. One that former chief counsel Blakey has called “criminal…a wilful obstruction of justice…I no longer believe anything the Agency told us.” Professor Anna Nelson, who served on the Assassination Records Review Board, has suggested there be a congressional probe of “the CIA’s alleged corruption of its inquiry into the Kennedy assassination.”

Don’t hold your breath.

A drunk, cynical stage character, in Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh, says, “To hell with the truth…As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything.”

In fact, of course, history is very, very relevant – and getting to the truth about the assassination of President Kennedy has mattered greatly.

That said, it is very late now, probably too late, to be able to take the case much further. I leave the last word – ironically enough – to a former Warren Commission counsel – he later became a judge – Burt Griffin. He felt “betrayed,” he told, because the CIA – and the FBI – deliberately misled us….Consider the possible reality that under the American system of civil liberties and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it is virtually impossible to prosecute or uncover a well-conceived and well-executed conspiracy.”

There is a further moral to draw from that quote. I first cited it in the original edition of my book, in 1980. We have moved forward a snail’s pace or two since then. Not much, but history matters!

Thank you all for listening, and the very best from Ireland.

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THE CLAIMS THAT MAFIA BOSSES TRAFFICANTE AND MARCELLO ADMITTED INVOLVEMENT IN ASSASSINATING PRESIDENT KENNEDY

By Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan

There have been allegations over the past twenty years that Florida’s Santo Trafficante and Louisiana’s Carlos Marcello admitted before they died that they had been involved in the assassination.
Do those allegations have merit?

The Mafia thought they had a deal, their help to get Kennedy elected in exchange for a complaisant Justice Department. The month after the election, though, John Kennedy announced that he was making his brother Robert Attorney General. Speaking from the steps of the Department of Justice, Robert made it clear that he intended to use the office to wage war on organized crime.

By early 1962, the Attorney General would be saying new laws and specialized intelligence had top gangsters on the run. Three hundred and fifty mobsters were indicted that year, 138 of them convicted. Some mobsters were fleeing the United States rather than face justice.

Lucky Luciano and Joe Adonis continued to languish in exile. Skinny D’Amato, the New Jersey nightclub owner who had acted as bagman during the West Virginia primary campaign of 1960, reminded Joe Kennedy that his help in the election had been against a promise of leniency for Adonis. Robert Kennedy had no intention of allowing Adonis to return, however, and D’Amato himself was indicted on tax charges.

The Attorney General pressed for the deportation of any other mafiosi who could be shown to be aliens. Early on, New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello had been flown out of the country to Guatemala – though he subsequently returned. There were new efforts to expel Frank Costello and Johnny Rosselli.

Rosselli and Sam Giancana had hoped for special treatment because both had been involved in CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro and – as Giancana put it – considered they had been “working for the government.” FBI wiretaps make clear Giancana simmered with rage. After the deal-making of the election – when his efforts had helped deliver Illinois for Kennedy – he felt he had been double crossed.

In November 1963, within hours of his brother’s death, Robert Kennedy asked rackets specialist Julius Draznin to look for Mob leads in Chicago. “He meant,” said Draznin, “Sam Giancana.” The focus of those who share RFK’s suspicion has long been on Giancana and two other Mafia bosses, Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante.

“The Mob typically doesn’t hit prosecutors or politicians,” said former House Assassinations Committee chief counsel Robert Blakey. “You are all right….just as long as you do not `sleep with them,’ that is, you do not take favors, either money or sex. Once the public official crosses the line, he invites violent retribution.”

In 1977 Santo Trafficante, the Florida Mafia boss, was forced by subpoena to testify on oath before the Assassinations Committee. The questions put to him included the following:

* Did you ever discuss with any individual plans to assassinate President Kennedy?

* Prior to November 22, 1963, did you know Jack Ruby?

* While you were in prison in Cuba, were you visited by Jack Ruby?

In response to all three questions, Trafficante responded, “I respectfully refuse to answer pursuant to my constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.” “Pleading the Fifth” invokes the constitutional principle that no one can be forced to give evidence that may be self-incriminating.

Having been granted immunity from prosecution arising from what he might say, Trafficante testified again in secret. Then, in late 1978, he appeared at a public hearing to deny having said in advance of the assassination – as alleged – that President Kennedy was “going to be hit.” Asked whether he had been aware of threats to the President allegedly made by his Louisiana counterpart, Carlos Marcello, he replied, “No, sir; no, no chance, no way.”

There was also, however, a comment Trafficante had made in 1975, while being taped during an FBI surveillance operation. “Now only two people are alive,” the FBI microphone had picked up Trafficante saying—in conversation with Marcello—“who know who killed Kennedy.”

What he meant remains unknown and unknowable. Trafficante died in 1987. Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, who had been his associate and who allegedly wanted both Kennedys dead, had vanished twelve years earlier—probably murdered by criminal associates.

Sam Giancana, the Chicago Mob boss who had conspired with Trafficante and the CIA to kill Cuba’s Fidel Castro, was also long dead. He had been found in 1975, lying face-up in a puddle of blood, just as the Senate Intelligence Committee was preparing to question him about the Castro plots. He had been shot once in the back of the head and six times—in a neatly stitched circle—around the mouth. It was the Mob’s way, one source said, of warning others not to talk. Some suspected that Trafficante had ordered the hit.

John Roselli had been killed soon after Giancana and Hoffa. What was left of him was found floating in Miami’s Dumfoundling Bay, crammed into an oil drum. He had testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee and was due to appear again. Trafficante was again a suspect.

Before Roselli died, it was reported, he had suggested that his former associates in the Castro assassination plots had gone on to kill President Kennedy. Within weeks of his death, the House of Representatives voted by a huge majority to reopen the Kennedy case—a decision that led to the formation of the House Assassinations Committee.

The Committee finding, in 1979, was that “extensive investigation led it to conclude that the most likely family bosses of organized crime to have participated in [planning the President’s assassination] were Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante.” While both had had “the motive, means, and opportunity to plan and execute a conspiracy,” however, the Committee could not pin anything on either mafioso.

****************************************************************************
In 1994, however, it seemed that credible testimony on the subject had perhaps emerged. Frank Ragano, an attorney who long represented Trafficante, Marcello, and Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa made remarkable claims in a new memoir. “Santo, Carlos, and Jimmy”, he wrote, had often spoken of their wish to see both Kennedy brothers dead. In July 1963, Ragano claimed, Hoffa had sent him to New Orleans to ask Trafficante and Marcello to kill the President. When he passed on this message, Ragano wrote, the mobsters’ response led him to think the idea “had already seriously crossed their minds.”

After the assassination, a gleeful Hoffa had supposedly exclaimed, “I told you they could do it. I’ll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me.” Marcello supposedly said, “When you see Jimmy, you tell him he owes me and he owes me big.”
According to Ragano, Santo Trafficante had phoned him years later – on March 13, 1987 – to request a meeting. When the lawyer arrived to take him for a drive, the ailing 72-year-old mobster shuffled to the car in pajamas and a terry-cloth robe. Then, slumped in Ragano’s Mercedes-Benz, he talked in Sicilian of the old days, old murders, and of the Kennedys.

“That Bobby,” Ragano claimed the dying mobster had said, “made life miserable for me and my friends…God damn Bobby. Carlos e futtutu. Non duvevamu ammazzari a Giovanni. Duvevamu ammazzari a Bobby.” (“Carlos [Marcello] fucked up. We shouldn’t have killed John. We should have killed Bobby.”)

Four days after this supposed admission to the crime of the 20th century, Trafficante died. He had not elaborated on his statement, and Ragano said he had not asked him to. He said he thought about it anxiously for a while after the mobster’s death, then confided in his wife, and eventually went public.

Trafficante’s widow, his two daughters, and several friends and neighbors, said the March 13, 1987, meeting never happened. According to Ragano it occurred in the city of Tampa, the family’s traditional base and his own hometown. Trafficante had long since, however, lived most of the time almost 300 miles away, in North Miami Beach. He had not visited Tampa since the Christmas holidays, according to his family. The mobster was so ill, they insisted, what with heart disease, thrice-weekly hospital visits to have kidney dialysis, and a permanent colostomy bag, that travel had become a major undertaking.

The time of his momentous March 13 meeting with Trafficante, Ragano had written, had been about 1:30p.m..Yet Jean Amato, the widow of one of Trafficante’s close associates, says she visited Trafficante and his wife at home in North Miami Beach between noon and 2:00p.m.. Jack Hodus, a pharmacist, said he saw Trafficante there at about 6:00 p.m., and other accounts place the mobster in Miami for dinner. Even if only Jean Amato told the truth, Trafficante could not have been in Tampa at 1:30 p.m., as Ragano claimed.

Ragano asserted he could respond to these counter-allegations with three witnesses of his own, but declined to produce them unless the Trafficantes tried to take him to court for libel.

Meanwhile, there is some medical evidence. The records of Miami’s Mercy Hospital indicate the mobster was being treated in the dialysis unit regularly in early 1987. He was there, receiving treatment until 7.15 pm on March 12 – the day before his alleged lunchtime confession to Ragano – and was back in the dialysis unit by the afternoon of March 14.
Trafficante Dialysis 3-12-87 Trafficante Dialysis 3-14-87

Dr. Felix Locicero, Trafficante’s Tampa nephrologist, told us he knew of no visit to Tampa on March 13 and thought it “unlikely” the mobster was in town.

Exposing Ragano as a possible liar does not dispose of the “Mob dunnit” theory, nor of the notion that Trafficante and Carlos Marcello played some part in Kennedy’s murder. “Mark my word,” Trafficante is reported to have said to a close associate in September 1962, “this man Kennedy is in trouble, and he will get what is coming to him…He’s not going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit.”

Carlos Marcello, the boss of the Mafia in the southeastern United States, had like Trafficante appeared before the Assassinations Committee. His principal business in life, he had earlier had the audacity to tell another committee, was as a tomato salesman earning about $1,600 a month. His answers related to the President’s assassination were no more illuminating.

Asked whether he ever made a physical threat against the President, Marcello replied, “Positively not, never said anything like that.” Trafficante, he said, had never talked with him about assassinating Kennedy. Their contacts had been “strictly social.” He did not know of any discussion with U.S. officials about killing Fidel Castro, had not been to Cuba before or after 1960, never had any interests there. He “never knew” either alleged assassin Lee Oswald or Jack Ruby.

More, just a little more, emerged from FBI surveillance obtained during a bribery probe in 1979, when microphones planted in Marcello’s home and office picked up snatches of relevant conversation. It was the year the House Assassinations Committee was winding up its work, and—on several occasions—mikes picked up the mobster repeating, as though he wanted to be overheard, the sort of “No, I never” denials he had made when testifying.

Once, however, when a visitor asked his reaction to the Committee’s suspicions as to his role in the assassination, the mobster told the man to shut up. There was then the sound of a chair being pushed back, of the two men walking out of the room. In the last words picked up, Marcello could be heard telling his companion that this was a subject better discussed outside. Going “outside” to discuss sensitive matters, the record showed, was something Marcello did on more than one occasion.

An informant the FBI used in that surveillance operation, a man named Joseph Hauser, later claimed he got Marcello to discuss the assassination. According to Hauser, the mobster admitted both that he had known Oswald’s uncle Charles Murret, and that Oswald himself had at one point worked as a runner for the betting operation run for Marcello by a bookmaker named Sam Saia.

Even more provocative was something that—according to Hauser—Marcello’s brother Joseph said. Edward Kennedy was about to run for the White House, and Hauser raised the subject of the “rough time” the elder Kennedys had given Marcello back in the 1960s. “Don’t worry,” Joseph supposedly replied, “We took care of them, didn’t we?”

Oswald’s uncle Charles had indeed been involved in gambling activity, and he was an associate of Sam Saia. Saia was a powerful figure in bookmaking, and was reputedly close to Carlos Marcello. What Marcello is said to have confided is thus plausible—but not evidence. Of the surveillance tapes thus far released, none show that Marcello made such admissions, or that his brother’s remark about having “taken care” of the Kennedys was really made. One must question, too, whether – if it was made – it was meant seriously.

More and similar material is reflected in FBI records. It dates to the mid-1980s, when the Mob boss had at last been imprisoned—on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a federal judge. It was then that a fellow prison inmate named Jack Van Laningham, who was being used by the FBI in another surveillance operation against Marcello, made a fresh allegation that the mob boss had admitted involvement in the Kennedy assassination. The FBI file contains a report on what, according to Van Laningham, Marcello told him and another inmate as they were sitting “outside in the patio” of the prison yard. As originally circulated, with Van Laningham’s name withheld, it reads as follows:

A confidential source who has provided reliable information in the past furnished the following:

On December 15, 1985, he was in the company of CARLOS MARCELLO and another inmate at the FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE (FCI), Texarkana, Texas, in the court yard engaged in conversation. CARLOS MARCELLO discussed his intense dislike of former President JOHN KENNEDY as he often did. Unlike other such tirades against KENNEDY, however, on this occasion CARLOS MARCELLO said, referring to President KENNEDY, “Yeah, I had the son of a bitch killed. I’m glad I did. I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself.

The report, as currently released by the National Archives with Van Laningham’s name revealed, is here: Confidential Source Report

Later, in a letter to an FBI agent, Van Laningham quoted Marcello as saying he had known Santo Trafficante, who had been his partner in the gambling rackets in Cuba. He had “hated” the President and his brother the Attorney General. He had been “introduced to Oswald,” the mob boss supposedly told Van Laningham, “by a man named Ferris, who was Marcello’s pilot” [a reference presumably to David Ferrie, a Marcello associate long rumored to have been involved in some way in the assassination] —and had thought Oswald “crazy.” He had backed Ruby in business in Dallas, and Ruby had come to Louisiana to “report” to him.

(Portions of Van Lanigham’s multi-page letter – to FBI agent Carl Podsiadly – can be found below.)
Podsiadly letter NARA cover sheet

Podsiadly letter, FBI cover memo

Podsiadly letter 1

Podsiadly letter 2

If Marcello really did admit that he ordered President Kennedy killed, this was damning information. But does Van Laningham’s allegation have a basis in truth?
The former Senior Supervisory Resident Agent at the FBI office near the prison, Thomas Kimmel, Jr., was interviewed by us for Not in Your Lifetime in 2013. He confirmed that Van Laningham had indeed been used in an operation that targeted Marcello in prison, and that Van Laningham did make the allegation alleging that Marcello admitted tohaving had the President killed. Kimmel had duly passed on the information to FBI headquarters, as the relevant memo shows.

Van Laningham, whom we also interviewed this year, claimed the FBI “did not want me to go into the Kennedy thing whatsoever. . . . The FBI doesn’t want anybody to know that.” According to the former informant, similar statements the Mob boss made to involvement in the assassination – on other occasions – were recorded on the bug with provided to him by the FBI.

Former agent Kimmel, however, insisted, “There was nothing remotely resembling that” on the tapes. Ron Sievert, the prosecuting attorney who supervised the Marcello surveillance operation, for his part, said there was “absolutely nothing to corroborate ” the claim by Van Laningham.

Agent Kimmel said he reported the purported Marcello admission to superiors because it was his duty to do so. He did not, though, recall having received any significant reaction. His own view, looking back in 2013, was as follows. “I don’t doubt that Carlos made the statement. I don’t think Van Laningham is fabricating that. . . . We got to the point where we thought Carlos would say almost anything. And even if he said something on the tape it would not be credible. Carlos was old. Carlos was on the outs….I thought there were indications of senility on Carlos’ part, and thought a jury or a judge would agree. . . .no matter what Carlos said.” Supervisory attorney Sievert agreed that “there was also the mental capacity issue.”

Attempts by the authors to reach a third agent involved – he used the pseudonym “Tom Kirk” in his contacts with Van Laningham – did not succeed. The former agent sent word that he did not wish to be interviewed.

Informant Van Laningham has claimed that, contrary to the recollections on interview of Agent Kimmel, of his case agent Ray Hult, and of prosecutor Sievert, the mobster had still been mentally “sharp” in 1985, when Marcello allegedly said he had had Kennedy killed.

There are other discrepancies between the version of events as told by Van Laningham and by the FBI agents involved. Kimmel’s memory was that the bug in the Texarkana operation against Marcello functioned only for three thirty-day periods (the periods covered by three separate court authorizations for electronic surveillance).

Van Laningham, on the other hand, said the operation lasted for more than a year – and that Marcello had been running his crime network from inside the prison. According to Kimmel, agents concluded that Marcello was not running his criminal empire from jail – and that was why the operation was terminated. His mental state, moreover, had been so poor that a court would have deemed anything he said unreliable.

Van Laningham, who claimed that he had been promised early release in exchange for his cooperation over Marcello, wrote a series of heated letters to the FBI in which he repeated his account of what he said the Mob boss had told him. Among other things, he named the other inmate who had supposed been present with him in the prison courtyard as “Don Wardell”.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons, however, told us it has no record of anyone by that name having been imprisoned at Texarkana or indeed anywhere in the federal prison system. In his interview with us this year, Van Laningham still maintained that the other inmate’s name was Wardell, and that he had disappeared from the prison soon after Van Laningham had identified him to the FBI handlers as having witnessed Marcello’s supposed confession.

(Two of Van Laningham’s letters recounting the Marcello “confession” episode and mentioning fellow prisoner named Don Wardell can be viewed here:Wardell
Wardell 2

By 1989, three years after the episode Van Laningham claimed occurred, Marcello had suffered a series of strokes and was indeed in a state of what an attending doctor described as “senility.” That year, employees at a prison medical center reported having heard Marcello say—in the early hours of the morning, while in bed—“That Kennedy, that smiling motherfucker, we’ll fix him in Dallas.” The old man rambled on to that effect, apparently under the delusion that the jail employees were his bodyguards and that the assassination had not yet occurred.

The FBI did on that occasion follow up by questioning Carlos Marcello—both about that comment and the “I had the son of a bitch killed” remark Van Laningham had claimed occurred several years earlier. Marcello denied having said anything of the kind. He was released from prison soon afterward and died in 1993 at the age of 83.

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Did the Mob Target JFK?

By Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination, as the nostalgia-smudged picture show of John F. Kennedy’s 1000 days is played, rewound, and played again, few will remind us that the shiny Kennedy machine was oiled with dirty grease. Joseph Kennedy, the father, had a long and tangled relationship with organized crime – the U.S. Mafia – and that played a key part both in his son’s rise – and perhaps ultimately in his death.

It was the father – not merely a former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James but also a sometime bootlegger – who brought the Mob into his son’s orbit. “Joe Kennedy had been involved with us from the beginning,” said mob boss Joseph Bonanno’s son Bill. “He asked for a favor and it was granted.” In the winter of 1959, Bonanno told us, there was a meeting between intermediaries for Bonanno Sr. and Kennedy Sr. that led to consultation with other national crime figures and fundraising .

Joe Kennedy also turned to Jimmy “Blue Eyes” Alo, long an influential member of the mob. “Joe came to me early,” Alo said in 1997. “I got a call from an old friend I’d known since Detroit, from the casino. He said, ‘Phil Regan’s in town, he wants to talk with you.’ I came up with Phil in Brooklyn – a good looking Irishman, good singer, Irish tenor….Joe Kennedy had sent Phil to see me.”

Regan himself acknowledged that he had worked for Joe Kennedy early in the campaign. He told Alo, according to the mobster, ‘Well, you know Jack Kennedy’s going for the nomination for President?….The old man has delegated me to see you, because he’s got everything figured out….’ He said, ‘Do you know Sam Giancana?’”

Sam Giancana, the heir to Capone, the man who ran the Mafia in Illinois. “Joe Kennedy wanted me to talk to him about helping Jack in Chicago” Alo said. “I said, ‘‘Phil, don’t mix me up with politics because I don’t want no part of it….The next thing I hear is that they went to [Frank] Sinatra.”

The elder Kennedy needed to bring Giancana on board because the Mob’s hold on politics was strong in the borderline state of Illinois. Three decades later, when his daughter Tina was preparing a TV movie on his life, Frank Sinatra revealed what happened next. Joe Kennedy asked him to lunch at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port and told him what he wanted. As rendered in the movie, the conversation ran as follows:

Joe Kennedy: “Sing?…I got something more important in mind for you…Frank, we know the same people. And I know you know the people I mean.
Sinatra: Sure, I know.
Kennedy: We need a boost from our friends in Chicago who control the unions. They can win this race for us. But you understand, Frank, I can’t go to those people. It might come back to Jack. The White House can’t owe them any favors.
Sinatra: I understand…”

Sinatra delivered the request for Mob help early – in the movie and in real life, according to Tina – during a golf game with Giancana early in the campaign. “My friend Jack Kennedy,” Sinatra told the Mafia boss, “needs some help with the West Virginia primary….”

West Virginia had looked like a sure thing until Hubert Humphrey, a Protestant, entered the race. The population of West Virginia, which was overwhelmingly Protestant, had never elected a Catholic to important office. Yet Kennedy, the Catholic, trounced Humphrey in the primary election in May, a result that would ever after be clouded by corruption allegations.

“I knew Joe Kennedy well,” Sinatra’s friend Bob Neal said, “He made a deal with Giancana, and the first part of it was West Virginia.” Chicago gangster Murray Humphreys, according to his widow Jeanne, concluded that Giancana agreed “to get that Joe Kennedy’s kid elected president” in part “to impress Sinatra.”

In West Virginia, Sinatra’s intimate associate Skinny D’Amato spread money around like manure. “We got them in,” D’Amato said in an interview shortly before his death, acknowledging that he talked with “the Old Man,” a Kennedy brother or a close aide, every day during the campaign. A photograph shows D’Amato in conversation with John Kennedy. Also visible in the photograph is Angelo Malandra, a mob lawyer who, an FBI agent said, was “one of the people who, with Sinatra, had the mob’s money in West Virginia.”

Money for West Virginia, D’Amato was overheard saying on an FBI wiretap, had come from Las Vegas. Back in February 1960, as Kennedy relaxed in Sinatra’s suite at the Sands, Peter Lawford had taken Sammy Davis aside. “If you want to see what a million dollars in cash looks like,” he whispered, “go into the next room. There’s a brown leather satchel in the closet. Open it. It’s a gift from the hotel owners for Jack’s campaign.”

The actor Brad Dexter, another Sinatra friend, had a similar experience. “He said there was a valise in his car, and to go get it for him.” Dexter said. “I brought it in, and he said ‘Open it.’ The goddamn valise was chock-full of hundred dollar bills, wrapped in packages. There had to have been a hundred, two hundred thousand dollars in there.”

Sinatra’s secretary Gloria Lovell, Dexter said, “used to take messages and money back and forth for him, to Chicago, to Sam Giancana, for Jack Kennedy, to distribute for payoffs.” Giancana would later say that Sinatra was “our errand boy.”

Another player in the dangerous game was a brunette named Judith Campbell. Sinatra introduced her to Kennedy at Las Vegas’ Sands Hotel. “Who is this girl?” show business agent Milt Ebbins asked his client Peter Lawford, Kennedy’s brother-in-law. “And Peter said, ‘She’s a hooker. Frank gave her $200…to go to bed with Jack.’”

Campbell’s memoir offered the romantic version. Kennedy “looked so handsome in his pin-striped suit,” that she accepted when he phoned inviting her to lunch on Sinatra’s patio. She said “a long and intimate relationship” followed, one that lasted until as late as the second year of the Kennedy presidency. At Sinatra’s urging, Campbell claimed, she had early on flown to Miami and met with Mob chieftain Giancana. For a time, she said her life was dominated by the sexual relationship with J.F.K. and parallel contacts with Giancana. Much of what Campbell claimed turned out to be credible, supported by phone records and White House logs. Nevertheless, Campbell was less than frank.

In her memoir, Campbell wrote as though – until the Giancana meeting – the world of the mob was unknown territory to her. Sands Casino employee Count Guido Deiro, however, said she was familiar to staff at the Sands “because she was a girlfriend of Johnny Rosselli.”

Rosselli was a leading Las Vegas mobster, operating on Giancana’s behalf, when Campbell met Kennedy. He too had a longstanding connection to Joe Kennedy – they were occasional golf partners and played cards together. Judith Campbell told the Senate Intelligence Committee that she had met Rosselli for the first time “possibly in 1960.” In her memoir she said she had met him “once briefly years before.”

Research and interviews indicate that was not true, that the chronology in which Campbell connected with the key men involved was not – as she claimed – Sinatra, followed by Kennedy, followed by Giancana. It was, rather: Sinatra, followed by Giancana – and then John Kennedy.

“I don’t think it takes a great deal of imagination,” Judith Campbell said years afterward, “to think there is a possibility I was used.” “They deliberately fed her to Jack,” actor Dexter said before his death in 2002, “Very serious….”

There are credible claims, too, that John Kennedy’s relations with Giancana were closer than ever suspected, corroboration for part of Judith Campbell’s claim. “I met Jack Kennedy when he was a senator,” Sinatra’s friend Nick Sevano said in 2004, “and we had dinner with Sam [Giancana] and a few others. Jack was very respectful to Giancana….”

The society columnist Taki Theodoracopulos, who mixed in the Kennedy circle in the early 1960s, recalled a night out in New York with Peter Lawford and the Mafia boss, who was introduced by his nickname “Sam Mooney.” “They talked about all the girls that Mooney used to produce for the Kennedys,” the columnist said, “reminiscing about the girls that JFK had through Mooney. Mooney was very proud of his Kennedy connection.”

In July, at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, Sinatra entertained 3,000 of the Democratic faithful. Gangster Murray Humphreys, meanwhile, labored behind the scenes to nail down support for Kennedy. Holed up in a Chicago hotel suite, he worked the phones and met with politicians and union officials from around the country.

The following month, Giancana met with Humphreys to discuss – Humphreys’ widow remembered – “what politicians had to be ‘turned around’….which union heads had to be convinced….Mooney [Giancana] was exuberant….There was a lot of ‘Frank said this’ and ‘Frank said that’ and ‘It’ll all pay off’….”

It did. On election night 1960, when it seemed Illinois could go either way, John Kennedy made a call from the family compound at Hyannis Port to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Daley assured him, Kennedy told aides, that “we’re going to make it with the help of a few close friends.”

In his office at the Armory Lounge, Giancana presided over a bank of phones. During the cliff-hanger hours, Sinatra called time and again from Hollywood. With Johnny Rosselli, in from the West Coast for the purpose, Giancana monitored local returns as they came in. Orders had been issued, and field operatives bent the voting process as required. “Votes weren’t bought,” said Murray Humphreys’ widow, so much as “commanded, demanded and in a few cases cajoled.”

Kennedy won the presidential election by the slimmest of margins. He won the popular vote with a majority of just 113,057 votes out nearly 69,000,000 cast. He would have lost in the electoral college, the crucial part of the process, had 4,500 voters in Illinois (and 28,000 in Texas) cast their votes differently. There was immediate suspicion of fraud, focused especially on Illinois.

The votes that put Kennedy over the top in Illinois had been “stolen – let me repeat that – stolen,” Notre Dame professor Robert Blakey, an organized crime specialist, has said. FBI wiretaps alone, he said, show that mob money and muscle made a difference. The Mafia does nothing for nothing, however, and – Blakey concluded – Giancana believed “the Kennedys would do something for them” in return.

According to Jeanne Humphreys, Joe Kennedy had assured Giancana that a Kennedy administration would “lay off the mob.” Former FBI agent William Roemer, who ran FBI surveillance of organized crime in Chicago, recalled listening to Mafia conversations before and after the election. “Eventually,” Roemer wrote, Giancana had a conversation in which he “indicated that Frank Sinatra had made a commitment to Giancana in 1960….The agreement was that if Giancana used his influence in Chicago with the ‘West Side Bloc’ and other public officials on Kennedy’s behalf, Sinatra felt he could get Kennedy [should he become President] to back off from the FBI investigation of Giancana.”

The candidate’s father Joe may have made other extravagant promises. During the 1960 campaign, the exiled mobster Lucky Luciano would recall, he began to hope for a return to the U.S. “I got a feeling,” said Sal Vizzini, a Narcotics Bureau undercover man who had got close to Luciano, “that [New York’s Frank] Costello and Meyer Lansky were promising him an opportunity to come back if Kennedy won.”

According to Michael Hellerman, an intimate of Skinny D’Amato, Joe Kennedy promised to “do what he could,” should his son become President, to see that another exiled mobster, Joe Adonis, was allowed back into the U.S..

This was perilous deal-making, for – in office – the Kennedy administration did not come through. Under Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the new President’s brother, the U.S. Mafia was pursued and prosecuted as never before.

By 1962, according to an associate, Florida Mafia boss Santo Trafficante was saying that the Kennedys were “not honest. They took graft and they did not keep a bargain…Mark my word, this man Kennedy is in trouble, and he will get what is coming to him.”

The associate, businessman Jose Aleman, demurred, saying he thought President Kennedy would be reelected to a second term. Then, speaking very quietly, the Mafia boss replied: “Kennedy’s not going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit.”

The U.S. Congress’ Assassinations Committtee, the second official probe into John F. Kennedy’s assassination, would identify Trafficante as one of two Mafia bosses it suspected of involvement in the President’s murder.

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A “Mafia-driven” conspiracy??

October 24, 2013

Author and Kennedy assassination researcher Larry Hancock has written on his blog that the new edition of my book Not in Your Lifetime gives him the impression that I “put the reader towards a Mafia-driven conspiracy”. I think Larry, who kindly says he admires my work – I admire his too – has perhaps misread the book.

In re-writing Not in Your Lifetime – and I have rewritten it with much new information – I have not intended to lead the reader to think that the assassination was necessarily Mafia driven. Indeed, I have not in the end expressed any certainty that there was a conspiracy, although I think that entirely possible.

I have attempted to present all I can of what I think is the pertinent, reliable information as I know it. And that, to the extent it leads anywhere, would point to a conspiracy involving both anti-Castro and Mafia elements.

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Publication Day for “Not in Your Lifetime”

by Anthony Summers

This note is to let everyone know that I have this year virtually rewritten and updated my book Not in Your Lifetime (né, long ago and over my protest, Conspiracy), on the Kennedy assassination. It will be published on Tuesday, October 1, by Open Road Media in the U.S., and on October 10 by Headline in the UK.

 In the publishers’ view, Not in Your Lifetime has earned a lasting place and should be republished on this 50th anniversary. Realizing, though, that it needed a thorough revamp, I set to work (with Robbyn) for what turned out to be many months. I have honed this new edition, filling in previously unavailable detail and making amendments, shedding material that has been discredited or no longer seems worth space in the book – and adding elements that do justify inclusion.

 Perhaps most significant is a new final chapter that amounts to an overview of the case as things stand in 2013. This includes a section covering “admissions” – claims of involvement in the assassination, their credibility or otherwise.

 Most interesting, perhaps, is a new interview I recently conducted of a Cuban exile in Florida. In extended conversations , over two days, he identified a fellow Cuban, once his best friend, who – he said he learned – “participated” in the assassination. This especially, I expect, will stir discussion.

 Heartening reviews the book has received include: 

  • (On this new 2013 edition) “Not in Your Lifetime is the best single analysis of what we know and what we don’t know about JFK’s assassination. If you have time to read only one book on the assassination, this is it. By far. – Robert Blakey, former Chief Counsel, House Committee on Assassinations 
  • “An awesome work…with the power of a plea as from Zola for justice” —Los Angeles Times
  • “An important piece of work…exceptionally well written, with all the tone and tension of a thriller. . . A book that must be read” —New York Review of Books
  • “The closest we have to that literary chimera, a definitive work on the events in Dallas.” 

 

Not in Your Lifetime will be available in the U.S. from October 1, as an e-book or in paperback, from U.S. publisher Open Road, by following this link: http://www.openroadmedia.com/not-in-your-lifetime.

 

For those who would like to have a look at the British edition, it can be found here on the Headline/Hachette Group website: http://www.headline.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9780755365425

 

 

 

                                                                                      

 

                                                        

 

 

             

 

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