Vincent Bugliosi's continuing interest in the assassination:
ECHOES OF CONSPIRACY October 16, 1987
Vol. 9, \#2 Paul L. Hoch
9 EOC 2 -#-
Bugliosi is working on a book, in which he plans to evaluate the most
important issues in the JFK case. I have talked with him and provided some
information from my files, and I expect to consult with him again in the
future. He told me that he is presently convinced of Oswald's guilt, but
capable of having his mind changed by new evidence. I hope to persuade him
that many critics have not spent most of their time engaged in the equivalent
of talking Spanish to cows (9 EOC 1.8), and that the persistence of the case
as an open question is not due primarily to the manipulative skills of certain
critics or the gullibility of the American public, but to the existence of
serious evidentiary questions which the Warren Commission and its defenders
have not been able to answer.
As far as I can tell, the promised broadcast of the rest of the LWT trial
(where Bugliosi prosecuted Oswald) is not at all imminent.
In contrast to its delay in the JFK case, the Justice Department had no
trouble declaring the Martin Luther King case closed in 1979, within months of
the HSCA report. HSCA-related documents continue to be released, largely as a
result of the efforts of Harold Weisberg, Jim Lesar, and Mark Allen; some of
the paperwork on the King case is now available.
In a memo dated September 26, 1979, an attorney in the Criminal Section
summarized the HSCA's recommendations and suggestions, noting that the HSCA
"did not suggest any specific followup investigation in regard to the King
assassination." (#1987.78, 4 pp.) On October 2, the Chief of the Criminal
Section sent Assistant AG Drew Days a proposed memo to Robert Keuch, then
Special Counsel to the AG. (#79) Days' memo, dated October 10, said that the
HSCA report "suggested no new avenues for additional investigation and our
analysis of the <> reveals no feasible areas for such a probe.
Accordingly, the House Judiciary Committee should be informed that no further
official investigation is warranted in the King case." (#80)
On the JFK case, an old Justice Department letter to Rep. Bill Green has
been reproduced in Ted Gandolfo's book (see p. 4 below). This letter, dated
January 3, 1983, and sent over Assistant AG Lowell Jensen's signature, is
generally similar to a 1984 letter to Rep. Stenholm (see 6 EOC 4.1); it
reports an "intention to make a full report to the Speaker... early next [sic;
"this" intended?] year." This letter was prompted by Gandolfo's claim of CIA
involvement; Jensen noted that the HSCA had exculpated the CIA and stated
that "the Department has not expanded its current investigation to encompass
theories found to be without merit by the HSCA," and would not do so in the
absence of new evidence or additional Congressional requests. In addition to
HSCA and acoustical material, the JD "is now reviewing... FBI reports."
This letter is unusual in its discussion of the acoustical evidence, said
to be "the basis" of the HSCA's conspiracy theory. The NAS (Ramsey Panel)
report "was critical of aspects of both the HSCA and FBI studies which
preceded it.... The [NAS] has advised the department that neither group of
experts [i.e., HSCA and FBI] provided any contradictory explanation for the
findings of the [NAS]. Since the May, 1982, publication of the report,
neither the FBI nor HSCA experts have contacted the Criminal Division... with
any alternative explanation for the findings of the [NAS]." (#81, 2 pp.)
The following month, Jensen wrote FBI Director Webster, asking for
details of the negotiations relating to the Bronson film. Bronson's attorney
allegedly insisted on conditions which the FBI lab felt would preclude a
proper examination, so Keuch declined the attorney's offer of access.
Jensen told Webster that the Criminal Division "is currently preparing
areport" for the House. "It is envisioned that the Attorney General will
report to the House... that all reasonable investigative efforts have been
taken" in both the JFK and MLK cases and "will probably recommend that no
further action be initiated... absent the emergence of new relevant evidence
or information." (#82, 15 Feb 83, 2 pp.)
Soliciting Webster's views, Jensen said that "in particular" he was
"interested in whether there are any investigative areas in either matter
which you feel have not yet been adequately explored." I am left wondering if
the FBI might in fact have come up with something for the Justice Department
A couple of relevant personnel matters: Stephen Trott has been nominated
to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco, as predicted in May. (#83: AP in
SFC, 8 Aug 87; #84: SFC, 1 May 87; see also 9 EOC 1.1.) Trott was involved
with the recent upsurge in espionage prosecutions. (#85, SFX, 30 Aug 87, with
photo, 2 pp.)
John F. Kennedy Jr. had a job as a law clerk this summer in the Civil
Rights Division, under William Reynolds. (He was a first-year law student at
NYU, and was hired despite his uncle's opposition in 1985 to Reynolds'
promotion.) (#86, 19 Jun 87, AP) I don't suppose JFK Jr. was inclined to
wander down the hall to see how the assassination investigation was going.
(For the opinions on the case of some members of the extended Kennedy family,
see the discussion of Tip O'Neill's book below.)
Fensterwald and his associates have had quite a few clients over the
years with whom you would not like to be stranded on a desert island. Lyndon
LaRouche has joined this list. LaRouche has been charged with credit-card
fraud and obstruction of justice. A motion by Fensterwald's partner, Dan
Alcorn, "offered a farrago of secret prosecutorial motives," asserting that
"LaRouche had become so politically powerful that the government decided he is
'a threat'." ("LaRouche Filings: Plots, Spies; Judges Tomorrow to Sift
Myriad Motions Filed by Corps of Lawyers", WP, 17 May 87, 2 pp., #87)
The headline of a handout from "The LaRouche Democratic Campaign" offers
to explain "Why the Soviet-Linked Criminal Division Head [William Weld] of the
Reagan-Meese Department of Justice Continues Police-State Actions Against My
Friends." (#88, 4 pp.) In the past, LaRouche's publications have noted the
supposed role of Clay Shaw and Permindex in the JFK assassination. Fortu-
nately, LaRouche seems to have moved on to bigger and better conspiracies.
Another new client of Fensterwald's firm is Ed Wilson. Like many of
Fensterwald's clients, he may have gotten worse treatment from the government
than even he deserves. Pressing his case may lead to the exposure of
important new information, about the Iran-Contra affair and other matters.
Some attention has been given to a reference to the assassination in
O'Neill's new book, "Man of the House." O'Neill admits to doubts about the
Warren Commission's conclusions, attributing them to a 1968 conversation with
Kenny O'Donnell. Under the headline "Assassination Shocker: 2nd-assassin
theory raised by JFK aide," the Boston Herald quoted the relevant excerpts.
(#89, 19 Jul 87. The O'Donnell story was mentioned briefly in reports on the
book by AP [#90, 25 Aug] and in USA Today. [#91, 20 Jul])
O'Neill "'was surprised to hear O'Donnell say that he was sure he had
heard two shots that came from behind the fence' on the... knoll." When
O'Neill reminded O'Donnell that he had not told that to the Warren Commission,
O'Donnell allegedly said that "I told the FBI what I had heard, but they said
it couldn't have happened that way and that I must have been imagining things.
So I testified the way they wanted me to. I just didn't want to stir up any
more pain and trouble for the [Kennedy] family.... The family... everybody
wanted this thing behind them." According to O'Neill, Dave Powers had the
same recollection of the shots, and stands by his story; O'Donnell has died.
O'Neill says he "used to think that the only people who doubted the
conclusions of the Warren Commission were crackpots," but "there will always
be some skepticism in my mind." The book, which I have seen but not read,
apparently has no other reference to the assassination controversy; there
seems to be no mention of the HSCA, much less the failure of the Justice
Department to react and report to O'Neill.
Blakey found the O'Donnell story "interesting," and O'Neill's account
"asmall footnote in history." ("Seeking the 2nd gunman: Experts back JFK
aide's tale"; Boston Herald, 20 Jul, 2 pp. with photos, #92.) The other
expert quoted was Michael Kurtz, who noted that there were other reported
instances of FBI pressure on witnesses.
Dave Powers told the Herald that "he didn't want to dredge up the
'painful' memory of the assassination," and that "we'll never know for sure
what happened." (#93, 21 Jul; Ted and Joe Kennedy had little to say about the
book, which is not flattering to all the Kennedys.)
Larry Haapanen and Donna Davis pointed out to me that the O'Donnell story
surfaced in other forms in 1975 and 1977. Bob Wiedrich of the Chicago Tribune
reported that O'Donnell and Powers were persuaded not to disclose their
suspicions by either Hoover or his top aides, according to an oral briefing of
Congressional leaders "by a [CIA] liaison man in advance of twin Capitol Hill
investigations of CIA activity." (Seattle Times version: #94, 6/14/75)
TheFBI reportedly warned the two men that testimony about a knoll shot "could
lead to a possible international incident, and inflame public passions fed by
other secret information then known by the FBI."
This is a puzzling story. It seems implausible that, even in 1975, the
CIA would be complaining so bluntly about the FBI investigation to members of
Congress. Can anyone tell us who the CIA liaison man might have been? The
alleged briefing apparently also referred to Oswald's visit to the embassies
in Mexico City, and the CIA-Mafia plots against Castro.
O'Donnell flatly denied the story in 1975, calling it "an absolute,
outright lie." Powers admitted to a "fleeting impression" of a shot from the
front, which is what he told the WC. (7 WCH 473) The published HSCA material
did not deal with O'Donnell as an eyewitness. He told the WC that "my
reaction in part is reconstruction - is that they came from the right rear."
(7 WCH 468). (Speaking of witnesses, the present Speaker, Jim Wright, was
scheduled to ride in the motorcade, along with other Texas Congressmen who
also were not questioned by the Commission; 17 WCH 615.)
In 1977, O'Neill said he believed that some witnesses did not give a
"full and honest description" to the WC but "were reporting the will of the
FBI." (#95, 5 Apr 77, AP in SFC). Neither O'Neill nor the AP's "source close
to him" gave O'Donnell's name. The context was a question about whether there
was evidence to justify the HSCA investigation, which had been approved the
Before accepting anyone's interpretation of what the FBI apparently did,
I would like to see the Bureau's side of the story. Would any EOC reader like
to search the released FBI files, or submit a FOIA request? If top FBI people
met with O'Donnell, perhaps around the time of his WC testimony, I would
expect that memos exist. Even self-serving ones might be informative.
Would the FBI seek someone like O'Donnell out, and urge him to testify
falsely on this point? After all, there were lots of witnesses who did report
hearing shots from various directions, and the WC did not have much trouble
concluding that they were not credible. A claim that the FBI asked him to
keep quiet about what he knew of the autopsy, or of allegations of Teamster
involvement (HSCAR 177), would be more plausible and more interesting.
However, what if O'Donnell himself had been asking people about the
possible significance of what he heard or suspected? Then the FBI could have
innocently convinced him that his earwitness testimony did not carry much
weight against the hard evidence they had, and that there was not much point
in making a fuss. He might have been more receptive to encouragement to hold
his tongue than the Wiedrich and O'Neill accounts suggest.
That is, the significant pressure may have come from his perception of
the concerns of the family. So, even though O'Donnell's impressions about the
shots were of little evidentiary value even in 1964, his behavior may indeed
say something interesting about the attitude of the extended Kennedy family.
In 1967, Jim Garrison established himself as the most prominent critic of
the Warren Report. Before the Shaw trial, many of us started waiting for him
to deliver on his promises; some of us are still waiting. His latest book is,
as far as I know, a completed manuscript without a publisher.
Big Jim did have something to say in response to a letter to him in which
I essentially repeated some of the comments in 8 EOC 1.9-10 and 8 EOC 2.5-6.
(#96, 8 Jul 86) He did not reply to me, but sent a letter to Ted Gandolfo.
(#97, 8 Aug 86, taken from Gandolfo's book.)
The "nature of Mr. Hoch's assault points out a problem which should
concern every assassination critic.... Mr. Hoch has a finely tuned aggression
and is wonderfully ferocious.... The unfortunate thing about the position
which Mr. Hoch has taken - attacking a critic who for 17 [sic, not 19?] years
has been attempting to point out the culpability of the C.I.A. in the
assassination - is that some people who do not know any better might draw the
conclusion that his sympathies are really with the Agency." It's nice of
Judge Garrison to be so concerned about my reputation.
With regard to my questions about Garrison's alleged pre-arrest evidence
against Shaw, which Garrison characterized as "criticizing judgments made by
me when I was District Attorney of New Orleans back in the 1960's," needless
to say I did not get any new facts, or even a recitation of some old ones.
"Iwas not aware that Mr. Hoch has had any experience in criminal prose-
cutions. It has been my policy not to reply to gratuitous critiques of my
former office when made by individuals with neither the standing nor the
professional experience to make such criticisms." Well, he's certainly got me
there. "Because this is 1986 and the forces which killed John Kennedy still
remain firmly in control, I personally cannot get too excited about such
remote problems as, for example, the pedantic question of how many angels
could dance on the head of a pin a number of years ago."
You can get a glimpse of Garrison in a new film, "The Big Easy."
(The title refers to New Orleans.) "The supporting cast oozes Louisiana
strangeness.... Judge Jim Garrison plays a judge, 'the Honorable James
Garrison.'" (In a small cameo role, I am told.) In Garrison's fictitious
world, the Mafia is a major presence. "Sexy, but implausible," said the SFC
critic, accurately enough - but he was referring to the movie as whole.
(#98,28 Aug 87, SFC, 2 pp.)
Gandolfo has written to me in response to 9 EOC 1, pointing out a number
of flaws in my analysis. For one thing, he claims 2700 subscribers for his
newsletter, not 2800. Also, I am a "deceiving, lying CIA employed son-of-a-
bitch." There is more, but the CIA doesn't want me to print all of Gandolfo's
letter, so I will just send a free copy to anyone who asks. (#99, 2 pp.)
Gandolfo has self-published a treatise entitled "The House Select
Committee on Assassinations Coverup." It is available for $25.25, including
postage and handling, from the author at 1214 First Ave., NYC, NY 10021.
Of the 300 pages, about half are documents, such as Congressional Record
excerpts, a hundred-page Rules Committee transcript (31 Mar 76), and the like
- not without value. About half the rest includes material from other buffs
and investigators, notably Richard E. (Critic) Sprague, Garrison, Cyril Wecht,
Mark Lane, and (via correspondence and phone calls) the HSCA. This material
was of considerable interest to me, primarily because it confirms how a few of
the critics have transcended mere logical and critical analysis. The rest of
the book - roughly 75 pages - is by Gandolfo himself, full of passionate
The case made against Blakey by Gandolfo - and to a lesser degree by
others - rests, to a considerable extent, on a very positive view of the work
of the HSCA under Richard A. (Counsel) Sprague. I don't want to put more
effort into a public defense of Blakey than he has himself, especially since
the things the HSCA under Blakey failed to do deserve a lot of attention too.
But I don't think the Sprague Committee was all that great.
Gandolfo reprints the HSCA's original brief report of 31 Dec 76, and
parts of the interim report of 28 Mar 77, which referred to some leads the
HSCA was working on. For an opposing view, ask for #100, my memo of 8 Jan 77
(4 pp.), which is critical of the first report, and my letter of 3 Apr 77 to
Rep. Chris Dodd (#101). I heard that this letter, which pointed out the less
plausible aspects of the alleged babushka lady's story, made me quite
unpopular with some of the HSCA staff.
I consistently get the impression that, for Gandolfo and some others, the
assertion of evidence is as good as evidence itself. To take a non-
Garrisonian example: he quotes a CIA document in which some source said that
the Soviet Consul General said that Oswald was sent to the USSR under CIA
instructions. To Gandolfo, this "PROVES Oswald was in the employ of the CIA."
(P. 166. I tried to pick a non-controversial example; the fact that the
source is Russian is not relevant.)
Steve Rivele has come up with a new candidate, Roland Blemant:
102. Spring 1987 (National Reporter) "Death of a Double Man" (7 pp.)
The title alludes to the novel co-authored by Gary Hart, who has discussed his
attempt to meet QJ/WIN, the CIA's executive action asset, in July 1975.
Rivele suggests that the CIA deceived him, Blemant having been dead for years.
Blemant was allegedly a brutal Marseille policeman, with counterintelligence
experience, who became a well-known criminal. Rivele's presentation of the
parallels in what is known about Blemant and QJ/WIN is very provocative, but
not ultimately persuasive - at least to someone like me who has no feeling for
how many candidates like Blemant could be uncovered.
Where this article touches on more familiar matters, it compels caution
on the reader's part. A photo caption has Ruby and Thomas Eli Davis using
Oswald's name to buy a van in New Orleans. The text makes no such fantastic
claim, but I am told by those who know more than me that some of the
allegations which remain are at best controversial - that Davis was a gun-
running friend of Ruby, was involved with a CIA camp for Cuban exiles near New
Orleans, was sprung from jail in Tangiers by QJ/WIN, and "had in his posses-
sion a letter which made reference to the assassination and mentioned the name
Oswald." Inthe last instance, the letter appears to have referred to one
Victor Oswald of Madrid, perhaps an interesting person but not Lee Harvey.
Blemant certainly did exist; he is mentioned several times in "Marseille:
le sang et l'argent [blood and money]," in L'Express (#103, 15 Oct 82, 4 pp.)
His liaison role between OSS and the French Resistance has been disputed.
(#104, Intelligence/Parapolitics, Jul 87)
Rep. Stewart McKinney was reportedly one of the best and nicest members
of the House Committee. He was one of the sponsors and leading supporters of
the bills to unlock the HSCA files for the public. (5 EOC 2.1) His death in
May at age 56, of AIDS, received considerable attention, in part because of
reports that he was a homosexual and may not have been infected by a blood
transfusion, as was reported. (See #105, SFC, 8 May; #106, AP; #107,
"Questions in an AIDS Death," UPI in SFC, 9 May; #108, Newsweek, 18 May; #109,
"Closet Doors Rattle for Washington's Gay Republicans," SFC, 4 Jun, 3 pp.)
Less serious problems have struck other elected buffs. Last December,
Rep. Henry Gonzalez "punched a constituent who called him a communist."
(#110, 6 May 87, WP) Assault charges were eventually dropped. (#111, 29 Aug,
AP in SFC) A "Washingtonian" article listed Gonzalez among "the biggest
flakes" in Congress, given to "rambling speeches." (#112, Jun 87)
HSCA member Harold Ford of Tennessee has been indicted (but I have
mislaid the clipping with the details).
Over a decade ago, Sen. Gary Hart of the Church Committee had more than a
passing interest in the JFK assassination. I have seen it mentioned recently
only in connection with his outline for a proposed nonfiction book, which was
newsworthy primarily because it did not mention Donna Rice. The outline does
mention that Hart "set up a clandestine meeting with... Castro in 1975 to talk
about the assassination of President Kennedy, but the meeting was 'foiled by
the FBI.'" (#113, SFX and WP, 7-8 Jun, both based on a NYT account.)
I have not yet seen any press accounts suggesting seriously that Hart's
political interests may have led someone to assist in his self-destruction.
Speculation along these lines might not be paranoid. In 1983, Hart and Sen.
Cohen "almost lost their lives" in an "unauthorized" Contra air raid against
the Managua airport. (#114, UPI in SFC, 2 Jun 87, based on testimony of a CIA
station chief to the Iran-Contra Committee.)
Hart's troubles prompted some jokes which dredged up ancient history.
Are Donna Rice, Fawn Hall, and Jessica Hahn "Christine Keeler's daughters,"
wondered Herb Caen. (#115, SFC, 6 May) Offering his "very own conspiracy
theory," Jon Carroll noted the progression of names, from Hearst's mistress
through the Profumo case to Hart: Marion Davies, Mandy Rice-Davies, Donna
Rice. (#116, SFC, 12 May)
The usual survey articles on sex and politics appeared; for example,
"Womanizers," by Diana McClellan (#117, in SFX, 16 Aug, 5 pp.) One letter to
the editor said that JFK's peccadilloes did not make him less of a leader;
another said that if the press had not suppressed that information he would
not have won the election. (#118, SFC, 30 May)
Some commentary brought out the serious consequences of JFK's behavior.
William Safire wrote that "peccadilloes with a partner who shares a bed with a
Russian agent (Profumo) or a Mafia don (Kennedy), or by a head of state
arriving at a summit conference with a harem of stewardesses (Brezhnev) bear
on national security and deserve to be reported." (#119, in SFC, 12 May)
Hugh Sidey, of all people, printed the most bizarre report: "One insider
claimed that Kennedy reinjured his weakened back during a bedroom tussle at a
party in Bing Crosby's Palm Springs... house, which the President was using in
September 1963, thus forcing him to return to a rigid back brace. That brace
held him erect in his limousine two months later in Dallas after the first
gunshot struck him. The second shot killed the still upright President."
(#120, Time, 18 May) If a buff wrote that, it would be called bad taste.
At the time, JFK evidently did not take the risks seriously. In 1960,
Janet DesRosiers, his "'girl Friday' and stewardess aboard the Caroline, the
Kennedy campaign plane," saved some of the notes he scribbled when he was
under doctor's orders not to use his voice, because of laryngitis. She has
now offered the notes for sale. (#121, WP in SFC, 30 May, printed along with
an account of a 70th-birthday eulogy for JFK in Cambridge ceremonies, 2 pp.)
"In a clear, expansive hand, Kennedy continued, 'I suppose if I win -
mypoon days are over' - using an old Navy expression for sexual activity.
'Isuppose they are going to hit me with something before we are finished' -
apparently a reference to the possible exposure of his adventures by the Nixon
camp." Another apparent sexual reference, to an unspecified blonde (or
blondes), remains unexplained.
JFK's prediction was off-base as well as off-color. His most important
affair, of course, was the one with Judy Campbell Exner. We have not heard
the last of that. According to Liz Smith, she "is now going to tell her real
story. The previous little book she wrote [with Ovid Demaris, published in
1978] was obviously done a bit under duress, or maybe at the time she felt
intimidated and feared for her life. Now, seriously ill in California, Judith
feels she no longer has anything to lose. She has turned over exclusive
rights... to the sensational author Kitty Kelley." (#122, SFC, 23 Sep)
Expect a magazine article, not a book; a deal with "20/20" is a possibility.
"This is all just a footnote to history, but what a footnote." (If you have
any out-of-the-ordinary information or analysis about Exner, let me know and I
will forward it to Kelley.)
JFK's closest brush with public exposure of his alleged affairs may have
involved neither Marilyn Monroe nor Exner, but another of Safire's examples of
a scandal with clear security implications:
Tony Summers and Steve Dorril have written "Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds
of Stephen Ward." (Published in London by Weidenfield & Nicolson.) The title
includes a tradecraft term for an intelligence operation with a sexual lure.
In this case, British Intelligence set up a "honeytrap" for Soviet Naval
Attache Eugene Ivanov; Ward was to some degree witting, and certainly
cooperated with MI5. But when War Minister John Profumo stumbled into the
trap, and the affair became a public scandal (in interesting ways), the game
changed. Profumo only lost his job, but Ward was thrown to the wolves, tried
on exaggerated vice charges, and committed suicide in July 1963, just before
the verdict. The coverup of the intelligence angles was formalized in the
report of Lord Denning - far worse than the Warren Report, I gather.
The Summers-Dorril book is not available in the U.S., as far as I know.
A brief excerpt, not mentioning the U.S. angles, appeared in the September
"Cosmopolitan." A second new British book ("An Affair of State: The Profumo
Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward," by Philip Knightley and [another]
Caroline Kennedy) has been published here also. The books are generally
consistent. "Honeytrap" has more on the U.S. connections, but "An Affair of
State" includes some different details about them.
Understandably, the British reviews I have seen say little about the
American material, but they provide useful summaries of the books as a whole:
123. 17 May 87 (London Observer) "Disappointing the vultures," by
Anthony Burgess. "Morality seemed more important than British security, which
became a rabid concern of the FBI at that time of blustering Khrushchev, the
Bay of Pigs, and the belief in a universal call-girl conspiracy which might
have entrapped President Kennedy.... 'Honeytrap'... also provides intriguing
irrelevancies that cling stickily to the main theme of dirty sex...."
124. 30 May (Spectator) "Ward of Court" [3 pp.] "Summers and
Dorril... draw a convincing picture of how the Establishment closed ranks
against the interloper Ward." (The radical perspective familiar to readers of
"The Lobster," which Dorril produces with Robin Ramsay, comes through
effectively in the book.)
125. 21 May (Listener) [2 pp.] Reviewer Ludovic Kennedy thinks that
the claim by Summers and Dorril that "the presidency itself was put in
jeopardy" is "an exaggeration... despite their unearthing of numerous heavily
censored FBI papers on the case."
126. 23 Jul (London Review of Books) "Poor Stephen" [2 pp.]
"Summersand Dorril make too much of the 'Kennedy connection' - of the great
interest the FBI and CIA took in the case. Much of their story depends on the
London playgirl, Mariella Novotny, who claimed she slept with John Kennedy.
[See 2EOC 11.7 and 6 EOC 1.9.] Knightley dismisses most of her evidence as
lies. The story comes to little more than Hoover's obsession with the
Kennedys, and with Communist-inspired international vice rings."
"Honeytrap" does credit a surprisingly large part of the Novotny story,
but not without reason. Their story does not depend excessively on her; much
attention is given to Suzy Chang, whose alleged affair with JFK was alluded to
in a New York Journal-American article which caused quite a flap. Summers and
Dorril even located Chang, who admits only to knowing JFK.
This flap was discussed briefly in Herbert Parmet's 1983 book, "JFK."
Ostensibly based on information from Novotny, that front-page NYJA article
linked Chang to a "very high" elected official. In a meeting described by the
FBI as having "almost an air of hostility," RFK called the reporters to task
on the absence of corroboration. Parmet noted that "Once again Bobby handled
a presidential lapse, or if not an actual lapse, vulnerability that came
directly from both his behavior and reputation."
"Honeytrap" puts this account into the context of the Kennedy admin-
istration's concern about various aspects of the Profumo case, with quite a
bit of new detailed information based on interviews and additional FBI
records. RFK flew the two New York reporters down to Washington on the
family's own plane, and later is said to have threatened the paper with
antitrust action. Courtney Evans, who served as RFK's liaison with the FBI,
confirmed to Summers that the flaws in British security were taken very
seriously. "And then to find that the President was perhaps involved with
somebody in the British security scandal. Nobody was grinning...."
"Honeytrap" is a good read, reflecting impressive investigative work.
There are about fifty pages on the American angles. Of general interest to
JFK buffs is the question of coverups generated by the vulnerability of JFK's
image, based on information known to Hoover and others.
Also, a number of familiar names appear in this story, most notably
Michael Eddowes. He was involved, apparently by chance as a osteopathic
patient of Dr. Ward, in the exposure of the scandal in the British press.
Heseems to have continually emphasized the political (i.e. KGB) implications.
In his own mind, the attempted character assassination of JFK in the Profumo
case led him to immediately suspect KGB involvement in Dallas. (See 3 EOC
1.3.) So, Eddowes as assassination buff is far more interesting than he
appears in his later incarnation, with nothing but a thinly supported argument
about a fake Oswald.
"Honeytrap" may well not include all that the authors learned about the
American connection. There certainly seems to be room for further analysis;
I will be watching "The Lobster," hoping to see more. A typical minor point:
one person involved in getting the Keeler-Profumo story out was Nina Gadd, who
later claimed that a diplomatic contact of hers was the real source of Comer
Clarke's spooky story about Castro's alleged admission (outside a pizzeria)
that Oswald had threatened JFK at the Cuban Consulate. (See 6 EOC 4.8.)
An American involved in telling the story to U.S. Ambassador David Bruce,
unnamed in "Honeytrap," is identified in "An Affair of State" as Billy Mellon
Hitchcock, evidently the same rich American who later became a financial
patron of the LSD movement. (See "Acid Dreams," by Lee and Shain.)
A more general provocative question is the role of forces hostile to the
Kennedys in getting the story out. (This question also arises in the Monroe
case.) A key player was Thomas Corbally (who cooperated to some degree with
both books); as the scandal unfolded, he hired the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn.
"Honeytrap" suggests that Hoover may have helped get the Chang story to the
Hearst paper in New York. Defenders of the Kennedy family should especially
be inclined to pursue this aspect of the Profumo case.
Understandably, there is less than we might like to see about the JFK
assassination in "Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist" (Basic Books, $19.95).
His career has been so wide-ranging that the extinction of the dinosaurs gets
just one chapter, and other "scientific detective work" shares a chapter with
about ten pages on the JFK case.
The history and technical aspects of Alvarez' 1969 work on the Zapruder
film, including the "jet-effect" explanation for JFK's backward head motion,
are covered in more detail in the paper which was reprinted by the HSCA.
(1HSCA 428-442) The book provides a readable summary but I don't think there
is any new information.
Alvarez reveals that the offer of the chair of the JD-sponsored acoustics
committee came from Philip Handler, the president of the National Academy of
Sciences. "Since the buffs would automatically have rejected any report
published under my name, I agreed to be a committee member but suggested
Norman Ramsey as a competent and acceptable chairman." (Incidentally, Alvarez
served with Ramsey and Daniel Ellsberg on a panel on limited war for JFK.)
The book shows little of the intense and persistent critical style which
is familiar to Alvarez' colleagues. (I was fortunate enough to address the
"Luis meeting" seminar on my physics thesis project a couple of weeks after he
got his Nobel Prize, when he was quite mellow.) One of the few instances of
this style in the book is in the discussion of the testimony of an unnamed
HSCA acoustics expert to the Ramsey Panel. "I was distressed by my inability
to get a simple point across. One of his illustrations showed that many of
the recorded [re-enactment] echoes... had reached the microphone array as
concave wave fronts. Even a high school physics student would know that
almost all such wave fronts must be convex.... It was a new experience for me
to watch a Ph. D. physicist stonewall in a technical argument. Some hours
later he backed down, claiming that he hadn't understood my point and that a
draftsman had connected some unrelated points with lines, a minor error that
had escaped his attention and in no way influenced his conclusions."
Some reviewers found the JFK material worth mentioning. (Among "the
book's best moments," [#127, California, Apr 87]; "the most convincing
refutation of the multiple assassin theory I have read" [#128, SFC, 24 May])
A generally favorable NYT review (#129) noted the "incandescent egotism" of a
"genius who eventually endears himself with his astonishing honesty."
Alvarez recounts at length his role in the development of the atomic
bomb. His forthright defense of its use against the Japanese has raised
eyebrows among some readers (e.g., #130, Daily Cal, 14 Aug) - although the
book effectively sets forth the context of that work, as Alvarez saw it.
Hisclosing thoughts are not hawkish; although he feels that the "nuclear
winter" scenario may well be wrong, the fact that nobody had thought of it
"has sobered everyone concerned with fighting a nuclear war."
I enjoyed reading this memoir; if I had read something like it before I
joined Alvarez' group in high-energy physics as a graduate student in 1966,
Iwould have realized early on that I didn't have the enthusiasm and skill to
become a physicist myself. By all accounts, however, Alvarez' ability and
style are exceptional even among his professional colleagues.
The book is particularly readable for the technically inclined, but there
are some good lines which apply to some assassination buffs: about a fellow
researcher, "his theory is that our theory is wrong." And, on "intellectual
phase lock": "Most people are concerned that someone might cheat them; the
scientist is even more concerned that he might cheat himself."
Anyone who wants to help Gandolfo nail down my CIA sponsorship will note
that Alvarez served on the CIA's UFO Panel in 1953. (Alvarez gives UFO's just
one dismissive paragraph; see also Jim Hougan's article, "The CIA Saucer
Watch" [Crawdaddy, Dec 77, #131, 5 pp.]) Also, Alvarez calls EOC
"exhaustively researched and well written," although he dismisses the buffs'
conspiracy books as "both unconvincing and incredibly dull," mostly "mutually
inconsistent," and linked by the theme "that those in power are congenital
liars" (which is certainly not Alvarez' view).
Before his death in 1983, Dealey Plaza witness Howard Brennan wrote
"Eyewitness to History," with his pastor, J. Edward Cherryholmes. (The book
is $18 postpaid from M & A Bookdealers at P.O. Box 2422, Waco, TX 76703; the
descriptive material which M & A sent me [#132, 2 pp.] does not indicate the
length of the book.) Brennan reportedly gave only one press interview in
twenty years. I do not know if the book indicates any doubts that the man he
saw was Oswald, or if it includes an account of his treatment by the WC.
There is a chapter on the JFK case in "Kelley: The Story of an FBI
Director," by Clarence Kelley and James K. Davis. (Andrews, McMeel & Parker,
$17.95; PW ad: #133) It seems largely consistent with SA Hosty's analysis;
Kelley thinks Oswald would have been thwarted if Hosty had been given more
information. (More on this and other books in a later EOC.)
A major article by Dan Moldea features an interview with Thane Eugene
Cesar. (Regardie's, Jun 87, 30 pp., #134) I do not feel expert enough on the
RFK case to evaluate it. Moldea concludes that Cesar "may be the classic
example of a man caught at the wrong time in the wrong place... - an innocent
bystander caught in the cross fire of history," and the Cesar interview seems,
to me, played down. However, I hear that in some public appearances Moldea
has indicated much stronger suspicions about Cesar.
Also, Sirhan has been denied parole again (UPI, 29 May, #135), and some
LAPD files have been transferred to the State Archives in Sacramento to be
processed for release. (Sacramento Bee, 7 Aug, 2 pp., #136) More details
will appear in EOC as space permits; RFK-case buffs should be in touch with
Phil Melanson and/or Greg Stone.
"The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."
(Attributed to science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison.)
Thanks to D. Davis (#95), M. Ewing (108, 110, 112-3), L. Haapanen (90,
94), G. Hollingsworth (133, 136), J. Lesar (78-80, 82), P. Melanson (91),
R.Ranftel (87, 120, 123-6, 131), E. Tatro (86, 106), S. Van Wynsberghe (103-
104), H. Weisberg (129), and D. Williams (89, 92-3).
News on the JFK case is now sparse, and I am getting busier with my
programming work. I don't plan to abandon EOC for at least another year, but
I don't want it to keep me from digging into other projects, perhaps including
documentary research. For news on the case, I am quite dependent on what EOC
readers provide. I read everything sent to me on the assassination, and pick
out what particularly interests me for EOC. Some unlisted material gets
copied for people whose special interests I know about.
I would like to make my assassination-related material available to
others, although I may eventually do so simply by sending it to AARC. If any
EOC readers want to take on the task of making annotated listings of "low-
grade ore" on the case, in exchange for copies at cost or less, let me know.
I will probably not get around to listing the bulk of what is sent to me if it
is not directly related to the assassination, although I try to read it all.
I will continue to make "fair use" copies as time permits. For people
who are actively doing research, with the expectation of writing about it for
general distribution, and for people who send me material on the case, I will
gladly find time to make a reasonable number of copies.