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March 25, 2007

Conspirators Black Ops

The argument you alway hear against conspiracy theories is that if a conspiracy involved a large number of people then surely someone would talk. But the truth is that people do talk, and no one believes them.

Consider E. Howard Hunt, the CIA officer, Bay of Pigs veteran, and Watergate "plumber" who has often been mentioned in connection with the JFK assassination, and about whom Richard Nixon said, "This fellow Hunt, he knows too damn much." Hunt died in January at age 88. Now two of his sons say Hunt told them, in the years before he died, details of the conspiracy to kill JFK.

First, the LA Times:

[B]efore his death at age 88 in January, E. Howard Hunt...left [his] sons one last tantalizing story, they say. The story, which he planned to detail in a memoir and could be worth big money — was that rogue CIA agents plotted to kill President Kennedy in 1963, and that they approached Hunt to join the plot but he declined. [...]

Hunt had been preparing for publication of "American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond," released this month.

[Son] St. John says it was he who suggested the idea of a memoir when he convinced his father that it was time to reveal anything he knew about the Kennedy assassination.

It had always been suspected that Hunt shared his Cuban exile friends' hatred of Kennedy, who refused to provide air cover to rescue the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion that Hunt helped organize.

"He told me in no uncertain terms about a plot originating in Miami, to take place in Miami," said St. John. He said his father identified key players and speculated that then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was responsible for moving the venue to Dallas, where the Texan could control the security scene.

But the memoir's published passages about the assassination have an equivocal tone. Hunt provides only a hypothetical scenario of how events in Dallas might have unfolded, with Johnson atop a pyramid of rogue CIA plotters.

The brothers insist their father related to them a detailed plot to assassinate Kennedy. Hunt told them he was approached by the conspirators to join them but declined, they say.

That information was cut from the memoir, the brothers say, because Hunt's attorney warned he could face perjury charges if he recanted sworn testimony. Hunt also had assured Laura before they married in 1977 that he had nothing to do with the assassination. [...]

St. John, who sports a mustache and longish graying coif combed back from a receding hairline, has a more personal reason to believe in his father's disclosures. He said he was instructed by Hunt in 1974 to back up an alibi for his whereabouts on the day Kennedy died, 11 years earlier.

"I did a lot of lying for my father in those days," St. John said. [Emphasis added]

Rolling Stone's account names names:

E. Howard scribbled the initials "LBJ," standing for Kennedy's ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under "LBJ," connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that's never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer's name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer's name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales' name, with a line, the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."

So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that's the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.

"By the time he handed me the paper, I was in a state of shock," Saint says. "His whole life, to me and everybody else, he'd always professed to not know anything about any of it. But I knew this had to be the truth. If my dad was going to make anything up, he would have made something up about the Mafia, or Castro, or Khrushchev. He didn't like Johnson. But you don't falsely implicate your own country, for Christ's sake. My father is old-school, a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, and that's the last thing he would do."

Later that week, E. Howard also gave Saint two sheets of paper that contained a fuller narrative. It starts out with LBJ again, connecting him to Cord Meyer, then goes on: "Cord Meyer discusses a plot with [David Atlee] Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City. . . . Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons."

David Atlee Phillips, the CIA's Cuban operations chief in Miami at the time of JFK's death, knew E. Howard from the Guatemala-coup days. Veciana is a member of the Cuban exile community. Sturgis, like Saint's father, is supposed to have been one of the three tramps photographed in Dealey Plaza. Sturgis was also one of the Watergate plotters, and he is a man whom E. Howard, under oath, has repeatedly sworn to have not met until Watergate, so to Saint the mention of his name was big news.

In the next few paragraphs, E. Howard goes on to describe the extent of his own involvement. It revolves around a meeting he claims he attended, in 1963, with Morales and Sturgis. It takes place in a Miami hotel room. Here's what happens:

Morales leaves the room, at which point Sturgis makes reference to a "Big Event" and asks E. Howard, "Are you with us?"

E. Howard asks Sturgis what he's talking about.

Sturgis says, "Killing JFK."

E. Howard, "incredulous," says to Sturgis, "You seem to have everything you need. Why do you need me?" In the handwritten narrative, Sturgis' response is unclear, though what E. Howard says to Sturgis next isn't: He says he won't "get involved in anything involving Bill Harvey, who is an alcoholic psycho." [Emphasis added]

Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing whether any of this is true. St. John Hunt says he's got notes in his father's handwriting, but there's no external corroboration. He and his brother David are looking to sell the story. So maybe they made the whole thing up. Or maybe they didn't.

Also in the news this week, professional hitman Charles Harrelson, father of Woody Harrelson, died in the Supermax prison where he was serving a life sentence for the assassination of a federal judge. When Harrelson was arrested, he confessed to a role in the JFK assassination, saying he was the shooter on the Grassy Knoll. He later recanted. Was he telling the truth when he confessed or when he recanted? Who knows. (By the way, when Harrelson was tried for a different contract killing in 1968, Wikipedia says his attorney was Percy Foreman, who also represented James Earl Ray, the reputed assassin of Martin Luther King.)

The notion that conspiracies can never remain secret seems silly on its face. Covert operatives and special forces personnel carry out any number of operations that never see the light of day. Loose-lipped people don't get invited to participate in the first place. And when the operation is of a particularly ruthless, high-stakes nature, you'd have every incentive in the world to keep your mouth shut. But it almost doesn't matter, because when someone does talk, unless they've got home movies or something — not exactly likely — nobody believes them. Hunt and Harrelson are both plausible as participating in or having knowledge of the JFK killing. But without corroboration, nothing they say makes a dent — and people go right on saying that none of the conspirators has ever talked. Are you sure?

It reminds me of the time I called a software company's tech support number to report a bug. When I finished explaining the symptoms I'd encountered, the person on the other end told me that it couldn't be a bug because no one had ever reported it. Right.

Posted by Jonathan at March 25, 2007 07:02 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


Of course conspiracies can be and have been kept quiet for long periods of time; the ones that don't pass the giggle test are those that require not just a handful to stay silent and never slip, but dozens and sometimes hundreds of people to do so.

Be that as it may, I find the story here fishy. It just doesn't feel right. Perhaps it's the idea that LBJ was not only ambitious, he was so recklessly ambitious that he would commit murder and do it through a conspiracy of people whose loyalty to him would be at best questionable.

Or perhaps it's that, if Hunt's account is to be taken at its word, Sturgis told him of the details of the plot *after* Hunt said he wouldn't be involved, which is the only way his chronology of the Miami meeting makes sense. And that Sturgis would implicate the head of the plot, LBJ, which seems a very odd thing for a conspirator trained on "need to know" to do.

Or perhaps it's the fact that Kennedy was killed in Dallas, not Miami, and Hunt can only "speculate" as to why.

Or perhaps it's wondering why Hunt would need a cover story for the day of the assassination if he wasn't involved.

Or perhaps it's wondering why the story didn't appear in his book, published at a point in his life where Hunt had nothing to lose and a lot of notoriety and money from book sales to gain.

Overall, all I can say is that, again, it doesn't feel right. It's like a mis-cut jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't quite fit.

Posted by: LarryE at March 25, 2007 10:39 PM

The nifty thing about conspiracy 'theories' is that the human mind tries to explain things that happen in a framework and a 'conspiracy theory' lets lots of weird bits 'fit'.

But their are plenty of conspiracies between people to act under the color of power to screw over others. And most of us won't ever know "the truth" on any of them.

Posted by: at March 26, 2007 12:54 PM