"... remarkably unconvincing ... revisionist ... censorship and tortured logic ... nonsense ... fabricated ... outlandish ... not scholarship ... a pretext to do a new spin on a Mob did it book ..."
Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann wasted little time in writing a sequel to their first book Ultimate Sacrifice. That long and portentous volume was originally published in November of 2005. Some authors take awhile to fill the tank between new entries in assassination research. But not them. Just three years after their original foray they have now come out with a new volume. This one is called Legacy of Secrecy. And, at 864 pages, it is almost as long as the first book. Taken together, the length of the two volumes begins to approach Vincent Bugliosi territory. Which, of course, is a dubious distinction. The authors write that the original length of this book was a little more than three hundred pages. The reason the book clocked in much longer was their desire to include the RFK and MLK cases. What is so odd about their attempt to do so is that, in their discussions of those two cases, they do not come close to relating them to their main thesis about the JFK case.
The reader will recall that this is the concept of C-Day. That is, the so-called plan for a coup in Cuba that was scheduled for December 1, 1963. This was to partly consist of a Cuban exile invasion from the USA organized by the Pentagon and CIA. The plan was to have the so-called "coup leader" — who was acting as a double agent on the island — murder Castro, blame it on the Russians, call a state of emergency, and arrange for a flotilla of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. The Pentagon would wait in the wings in case they were needed. Since the sizeable Russian force remaining in Cuba would hardly take this laying down, they probably were going to be needed. Yet when David Talbot asked Kennedy's Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara if he was aware of the upcoming invasion, McNamara said he never knew about it. And as I mentioned in that earlier review, neither did the other two Cabinet level officers who not only should have known, but had to have known. Namely Secretary of State Dean Rusk and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy. A truly fantastic state of affairs to present to the reader. But the authors proceeded anyway. Even presenting meetings at which some officials knew about C-Day and some did not.
Who was the so-called "coup leader" who was going to pull off bloody treason in the new socialist state? In the hardcover edition of the book, he was not actually named. But it was very strongly hinted that he was Che Guevara. For reasons I stated in my review, this was topping an incredible scenario with an incredible choice for a double agent. David Talbot also called them on this point in his review in Salon. So on the way to the soft cover edition, aided by Liz Smith, the name was now revealed to be Juan Almeida. But here's the problem. For such a daring and bold plan one needed a coup leader the size and stature of Guevara. If for no other reason, to galvanize the Cuban public into turning on their Russian allies. Which would be no easy feat. Almeida had no such outsize stature. And the possibility exists he would have been rolled over by a combination of the Russians plus the Cubans still loyal to Castro. Which, in light of the objective, would have made things even worse than before.
In this new volume, for the first three parts of the book, the authors essentially discuss the JFK case, with the accent on C-Day again. That is up until about page 470. From there until about page 700 they mainly discuss the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy cases. Here's the problem with their presentation: I could find no credible linkage between the C-Day plotting and the other two cases. And since their argument about the other two cases is remarkably unconvincing, I really do not understand why they included King and RFK. But even the scope of those three epochal cases wasn't enough for these two radical - and insatiable - revisionists. The authors include a closing section on Watergate. Again, I don't know why. But I will make a guess later.
Although I have briefly summarized the key concept of Ultimate Sacrifice, I strongly recommend that the reader read the first section of my original review for a more detailed discussion of the concept of C-Day. (That can be read here.) One of the problems the authors have with their thesis is that writers who have since read these documents e.g. Jeff Morley and William Davy, do not agree with the spin Waldron and Hartmann place on them. (After my review came out, Davy told me, "Jim, those are contingency plans, and they are labeled as such.") Not even Peter Dale Scott, who had some praise for aspects of the book, buys into them as C-Day.
But perhaps the most devastating response to the book is by the writer who helped launch Lamar Waldron and his C-Day thesis into the research community. In my previous review, I detailed how Waldron was introduced by none other than Gus Russo at the 1993 Dallas ASK Conference. So one would think that the man who introduced the co-writer of the volume would stand beside the book. One would be wrong. Apparently, Russo got a bit perturbed at the authors for taking credit for revealing the documents to the world for the first time. Which they did on page two of the previous volume. Why did he feel like that? Because Russo discussed them in Live By the Sword eight years earlier.(Russo, pgs 176-179)
In fact, in his conversations with Vincent Bugliosi, Russo goes after the C-Day concept with abandon. Russo actually tackles one of Waldron's prime sources, Harry Williams. Russo questions how Williams could have known about these plans since it is "abundantly clear" that the documents refer to Manuel Artime's "Central American operation and have nothing to do with a December 'coup' or 'C-Day"' as Waldron refers to it." (Reclaiming History, End Notes, p. 762) In fact, parts of the plans actually refer to Artime's group, the MRR, in code. And right below this, Artime himself is also mentioned in code. (CIA record of 6/28/63) Waldron tries to counter this by saying that Williams told the authors that Artime was actually serving under him. But where is the documentary proof of this? Because to anyone who knows anything about Artime's special place in the CIA, it seems ridiculous on its face. This, I believe, is the beginning of a serious questioning of Williams as a source for the authors. It is an issue I will take up later.
Vincent Bugliosi, agreeing with Davy, quotes from parts of the plans to demonstrate their true nature. For instance, the CINCLANT (Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet) OPLANS 312 and 316 were prepared "in case of a revolt in Cuba." (op. cit. Bugliosi, p. 758, italics added) The plans were prepared by the US Army under the Joint Chiefs of Staff and are entitled "State-Defense Contingency Plans for a Coup in Cuba". (ibid) The fact that they are labeled State-Defense makes it even more incredible that neither McNamara nor Rusk knew about the upcoming invasion. But in light of the use of the word "contingency" in the title, that fact is made understandable. In other words, it was never a "go" project. In fact, one draft of the plan, under the above Contingency Plan title, was dated October 21, 1963. Just one month before the assassination. So it must have been clear to everyone what the nature of the project really was by the time of Kennedy's murder. In fact, one of documents even says that no invasion should be contemplated unless there is active aggression by Castro and/or the Soviets "that threaten the peace or security of the Hemisphere." (Undated Army memo to the President by Sterling Cottrell. Record No. 198-10004-10072) Since I have taken a lot of space in criticizing Reclaiming History, I am glad to give Bugliosi credit for this part of the book. Especially when he is backed up by the likes of William Davy.
Now let's get back to the late Harry Williams. Williams first surfaced on the JFK case through the work of William Turner and Warren Hinckle (especially the former) in their fine book The Fish is Red. Turner spent hours interviewing Williams for that book because the volume largely focused on American relations with Cuba during the Kennedy years. But when I talked to Turner about Waldron's thesis he told me that Williams never mentioned anything about the C-Day concept to him in any of their interviews. Further, when Waldron sent him a thank you note with a copy of Ultimate Sacrifice, Turner told me he wanted no thanks for that book. But with Legacy of Secrecy, this situation gets even worse. Because in this installment, Williams now talks about things that are not only not in The Fish is Red, but they are not even in Ultimate Sacrifice. Or at least, I don't recall them. And some of these belated revelations are so bombastic, I am sure I would have.
For instance, as I said, in the hardcover version of Ultimate Sacrifice Juan Almeida was not mentioned as the "coup leader". The emphasis was clearly on Che Guevara. But now, the authors write that Williams told them that Cyrus Vance of the Army was fully aware of Almeida's role. (Legacy of Secrecy, p. 22) Since Vance helped supervise plans that were labeled as "contingency", one might ask: His role in what? There is an incredible passage on page 287 that is supposed to describe a meeting that RFK had with President Johnson after Kennedy's assassination. The subject was C-Day. Since, conveniently, only Johnson and RFK were there, the source for this discussion is Harry Williams, allegedly channeling RFK.
According to the roundabout sourcing LBJ told RFK he was not continuing with the C-Day plans, but he would continue to fund some of RFK's favorite Cuban groups. This paragraph is actually not footnoted at all. But since the authors date other interviews that they did with Williams as taking place in 1992, they had to have known this for the first book. But yet it appears here for the first time. As does the following information (p. 296). RFK made sure that the CIA provided for Almeida's family members after LBJ decided to halt the C-Day plans. (How one can halt a contingency plan remains the authors' secret.) This bit of information comes from 1992 interviews with Williams. Again, it first surfaces here. Finally, through an unnamed RFK aide, Williams kept in contact with RFK all the way up to 1968 - even during the presidential campaign (p. 621). They even met privately during this hectic campaign time. And when they did, amidst all the swirling campaign pressures and furious updates, the subject of Almeida and his family "always came up". (The entire paragraph that contains this information has no footnotes.)
But there is one last bit of belated info from Williams that needs to be noted. In Ultimate Sacrifice, I discussed and criticized the authors' treatment of Oswald in Mexico City. One of the reasons I did so is that the authors seemed to accept the CIA's story that it was Oswald there the entire time. Well, in Legacy of Secrecy they surface a relevant piece of belated information from Williams in that regard. According to Waldron and Hartmann, Harry Williams saw a picture of Oswald entering the Mexico City Cuban Embassy. (p. 234) Somehow, this wasn't deemed important enough to include in their previous discussion of Oswald in Mexico City in 2005. Even though the discussion then was much more detailed than it is here. How did Williams see this photo? Through an unnamed Cuban exile linked to Artime. The reason he showed the photo to Williams is not mentioned. And worse, the authors apparently never were curious enough to ask that question of Williams. What makes it odd is that very, very few people have ever mentioned any picture of Oswald. Or claimed to have seen it. And when they have, it is described as shot from an angle and behind. So the identification is not really probative. The only person who has ever stated that such a photo definitely did exist was Winston Scott, the Mexico City station chief at the time of Oswald's visit. Why he, or anyone else inside the CIA's surveillance operation, would show such a photo to some unnamed Cuban exile escapes me. And why this exile would be allowed to keep such a photo is even more of a mystery. Especially in light of the fact that the CIA, under intense pressure by the investigators for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), could produce no such picture. Which, of course, fed suspicions that Oswald never really entered the Cuban Embassy. But somehow, over lunch or a baseball game, an anonymous exile showed Williams this invaluable photo.
With what the authors have now done to Williams' credibility, plus the near universality of agreement on the true nature of the "C -Day plans," the end should be spelled out for this entire "second invasion" thesis. Because the only other "on the record" source they had for it the first time around was Dean Rusk. Yet Rusk made it clear that he only heard of such a plan after he left office. Which makes me believe that, while in office, the contingency plans were so contingent that they never even made it to the Secretary of State's desk. And with the collapse of the C-Day scenario, their use of it is now seen as what I argued it was before: a pretext to do a new spin on a Mob did it book.
Let's return to the frequent and disturbing use of unnamed sources in the book. This kind of sourcing for crucial and controversial pieces of evidence is something that recurs throughout Legacy of Secrecy. For instance, the authors just happened to have an unnamed Naval Intelligence source who was monitoring Oswald. And guess what? This anonymous source also saw this photo of Oswald in Mexico City! (ibid) So, by accident, Waldron and Hartmann have found almost as many people who have seen this photo as are mentioned in the entire Lopez Report. How do the authors know that it was the Mafia that killed JFK? Well, an unnamed top Kennedy aide revealed to them "the leading roles of Marcello, Trafficante, and Roselli in JFK's murder". And guess what? This top Kennedy aide knew all about C-Day. Must be nice to have sources like that.
But its even better to have one like the following. Every serious commentator on the JFK autopsy (e.g. Gary Aguilar, David Mantik) has noted the overwhelming evidence that the military controlled that medical procedure and not the Kennedys. (I used many of these sources in Part Four of my review of Reclaiming History.)
These sources extend to the autopsists themselves, and even to Commander Galloway of the Bethesda Medical Center. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), and the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) both did extensive investigations about what happened that night. Every significant witness was talked to at least once. And many were talked to twice. In fact, there is a road map to follow in this regard. The FBI agents on hand, Jim Sibert, and Frank O'Neill, had a list of those people present. But apparently they missed someone. Because the authors have yet another crucial unnamed source who says he was at the autopsy. And, you guessed it, this guy also knew about C-Day. And contrary to dozens of other witnesses, including the autopsists themselves, this mysterious source — who escaped the HSCA and ARRB dragnet — knew that RFK had full knowledge of what happened that night. And further, that RFK probably even directed the autopsy. (p. 184) Hmm. Then why did Bobby Kennedy sign a document that granted "no restrictions" during the procedure? Why did Galloway testify that there were no instructions coming into the autopsy room from the Kennedy suite above? Why did Pierre Finck testify that it was the military that interfered with the autopsy during his famous appearance at the trial of Clay Shaw? But most importantly, in regard to the value of Legacy of Secrecy, why do the authors not mention any of the above proven and pertinent facts? Maybe because it brings into question the information rendered by their unnamed source?
But the prolific use of unnamed sources for crucial information does not end with the JFK case. It also figures importantly in this volume for the King case.
According to the authors, prior to the King assassination, a man named Hugh Spake collected money used in the King plot from workers at an Atlanta auto plant. And further, the authors posit that James Earl Ray called Spake the morning of the assassination. (pgs. 496-498) What is the basis for these rather dramatic revelations? Well if one turns to page 814 in the footnotes, the following sourcing appears:
" ... from confidential interviews conducted from early 1976 (when author Lamar Waldron was briefly employed at the Lakewood General Motors Auto Plant) to 2007."
This does not inspire confidence. Especially in light of the fact that Spake passed away three years ago. Therefore I don't understand the need to shield these sources after the subject is dead. Further, the southern rightwing racist groups the authors say he was associated with have gone into eclipse. Secondly, the author never explains why he was doing an investigation of the King case 34 years ago. I know Waldron says he has been studying the JFK case for a long time. But the King case?
In addition to the ready use of unnamed sources, there is an all too frequent use of unreferenced information in general. It is almost as bad here as it was with Joan Mellen's A Farewell to Justice. The authors have always been desperate to bring Carlos Marcello into the nexus of the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. So here they say that some recently declassified files relating to Cuban operations reveal that a certain unnamed case officer was a liaison between the CIA and Marcello. (p. 102) The entire paragraph in which this is revealed lacks footnotes. A few pages later (p. 106), we are informed that three unconfirmed reports place Roselli in Dallas on 11/22/63. This information is also not footnoted. But since the sources they do use also say that a woman drove Roselli and a Miami sharpshooter to the grassy knoll at the far end of Dealey Plaza, we can imagine what the unconfirmed reports are like. In mentioning CIA officer John Whitten and his investigation of Mexico City, the authors write that Richard Helms "knew that Oswald was also linked to his unauthorized Castro assassination operations ... "
This is an extremely puzzling statement. This information does not appear in the Inspector General report on the subject. It also does not appear in the Church Committee volumes. To my knowledge, neither Helms nor the CIA has ever uttered a word to this effect. So from where did the authors garner this? Its almost like they are indulging in posthumous mindreading. (As we shall see, they do this with Helms in another instance.)
It gets worse. According to Legacy of Secrecy, LBJ learned about the C-Day plans in the aftermath of the assassination from Hoover and CIA Director John McCone. (pgs. 171-172) Again, this goes unsourced. And it does not appear in the declassified phone transcripts made available by the ARRB. According to even more secret sources, Naval Intelligence began to shred files from its "tight surveillance" on Oswald on the afternoon of November 24, 1963. ONI also did their own secret investigation of the JFK murder. The authors' anonymous source actually saw the summary report and its "hundreds of supporting documents". (p. 247) And another anonymous source, independently vouched for this report. (ibid) Finally in this unfootnoted, anonymous sourcing field, the authors state that RFK knew about David Ferrie's relationship to Carlos Marcello back in 1963, maybe even earlier (p. 403). Again, this is strange. Not even Jim Garrison knew about this in 1963. And as everyone knows, when Garrison passed the Ferrie lead onto the FBI, they at first dropped it. And they then covered it up for the Warren Commission. But RFK knew about it before all this. But the prize in this regard goes to a paragraph on page 404. This paragraph deals with New Orleans matters. Mainly an alleged connection between Marcello and Dean Andrews, plus Clay Shaw's ties to the CIA. The attached footnote to this information reads as follows:
1994.05.09.10:43:33:16005 (p. 810, footnote 19).
That's right. Just a line of numbers related to nothing. And no one noticed this pre-publication. Maybe because they didn't care?
The continual use of this unscholarly practice — I could have named a dozen other similar instances — is a grievous shortcoming. Especially in a book that is attempting to revise the historical record on a serious subject. It indicates that, unlike with John Newman's JFK and Vietnam, the writers do not have the factual data to fulfill their new paradigm. Probably because the paradigm doesn't exist.
Another sure sign of this lack of a factual basis is their recurrent use of the assumptive mode. When they need something to happen, they just assume it did. As I demonstrated in my earlier review, one of their aims is to shift the cause of the JFK cover-up. It did not occur because Oswald was some kind of intelligence operative. Oh, no. The main reason was fear of exposing C-Day. Now, since Hoover was the mainspring of the cover up, the authors must write that, "over the coming days, Hoover would no doubt learn more about the ... coup plan ... " (p. 171)
They offer no evidence for this and no source I have ever read on Hoover refers to it. After JFK is assassinated, Santo Trafficante is carefree and smiling. Why? Because "Trafficante knew Jack Ruby, and he apparently felt confident that Ruby would be able to take care of silencing Oswald." (p. 180) Yet I could find no evidence in the book to certify Trafficante's arrangement with Ruby in advance.
Why is the tape of the Hoover/LBJ call on November 23rd, at 10:01 AM missing? According to the authors, "one possibility" is that if LBJ had been briefed on C-Day he could have mentioned it in passing to Hoover on this call. (p. 225) Even though, as I said earlier, there is no evidence that Hoover-or LBJ for that matter-ever knew about C-Day. And certainly nothing would indicate that these plans caused the FBI or Warren Commission cover-up. When RFK met with Helms after the 1967 Jack Anderson story first publicly exposed the CIA-Mafia plots, they "probably discussed" not just that subject, but the 1963 C-Day plan and "the current status of Almeida and his family." (p. 419) Even though there is no mention of C-Day in the CIA's Inspector General Report on those plots.
The most objectionable part of this whole fatuous C-Day cover-up story is that it detracts from the real cause of the cover-up. As demonstrated by writers like John Newman and John Armstrong, that would be the fabricated Mexico City tapes that were sent to Washington and Dallas the evening of the assassination. And which were then made to disappear. Why? Because the voice on the tapes was not Oswald's. And that would have exposed the whole charade in Mexico City. And as both Newman and the Lopez Report reveal, the three main culprits in that pre-planned charade were James Angleton, David Phillips, and Anne Goodpasture. Which completely vitiates what the authors write at the end of Chapter 17. Namely, that no evidence exists implicating any CIA official above David Morales in the JFK murder.
They also write that there is no confession to indicate any CIA officer's participation besides Morales' either. They neatly avoid David Phillips' teary-eyed, deathbed confession about being in Dallas on the day of the assassination. Which he himself made to his own brother. (Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much, 2003 edition, p. 272) And, if you can believe it, in the entire volume there is not one mention of Richard Case Nagell. In fact, I don't recall his name being in Ultimate Sacrifice either. So in 1,700 pages of writing about the JFK assassination Waldron and Hartmann choose to profusely quote liars like Frank Ragano and Ed Partin. But they couldn't find the space to mention the man who Jim Garrison called, "the most important witness there is".
Which brings us to their discussion of Jim Garrison, who was largely avoided in Ultimate Sacrifice. Although they mention aspects of Garrison's inquiry earlier, the main part of this discussion leads off at Chapter 29. Their first page makes for an interesting intro. They try to disarm the reader by saying they have reviewed all the "books, articles, and documents" about the DA and have come to the conclusion that he "emerges as neither devil nor saint". (p. 373) The implication being that after a long and painstaking review, Waldron and Hartmann are going to be fair-minded and objective about a controversial subject. As we shall see, that doesn't happen. They also add that they will focus on things not talked about previously that reveal the Garrison investigation in a new light. Again, that is not done. With the agenda the authors have, how could it?
I should note, the Garrison inquiry is mentioned prior to this chapter and its earlier treatment foreshadows what will come. For instance, the authors try to explain David Ferrie's trip to Texas on the day and night of the assassination as an attempt to retrieve his library card from Oswald. (p. 177) This is odd. It is true that Ferrie was asking for that card from Oswald's former landlady in New Orleans. But as Dick Russell notes in On the Trail of the JFK Assassins, Ferrie told his friend Ray Broshears that he was waiting for a phone call at the skating rink concerning flying participants in the plot out of Texas. (Russell, p. 107) Secondly, wouldn't it be kind of stupid for Ferrie to look for that card in Dallas? I mean, was he going to go to Ruth Paine's house and ask her if the police found it yet? Or walk into the Dallas jail and ask Chief Curry if he could have his card back? With those greased eyebrows and that mohair wig?
A second instance prior to Chapter 29 indicates the quality of their scholarship on the Garrison inquiry. They say that in 1964 Garrison called Robert Kennedy to talk to him about some of his ideas on the JFK case. But RFK hung up on him after some desultory conversation. (p. 254) The source for this piece of nonsense? None other than trashy biographer C. David Heymann. The authors never realize that Garrison could not have any theories to discuss with RFK at the time of this call because he was not investigating the JFK case in 1964. As I thoroughly demonstrated in my review of the book Regicide, Heymann cannot be trusted on anything concerning the JFK case. As is likely here, he has been shown to manufacture interviews. (This reliance on untrustworthy writers is another problem with the book that I will address later.)
What is the "new light" that Waldron and Hartmann shed on the Garrison investigation? Well they hint at it early on, before they even discuss Garrison in a systematic way. They say that the FBI backed off the investigation of David Ferrie and Guy Banister not because of their ties to Oswald and Clay Shaw. But because of their links to Marcello. This is bizarre since no one knew about any Banister-Marcello tie until 15 years later. And it wasn't what the authors present it as anyway. As I pointed out in my review of Ultimate Sacrifice, the HSCA stated that Ferrie got Banister some investigative work through Wray Gill, one of Marcello's lawyers. And Waldron and Hartmann shorthanded this into a Banister-Marcello connection. They continue this eccentric characterization here. Yet, as anyone knows who has studied what Garrison called the "Banister Menagerie", Banister did not do investigative work. This was just a front for his Cuban exile/CIA missions and other intelligence work he did e.g. planting infiltrators into college campuses. The people around his office who actually did investigative work were hangers-on like Jack Martin and Bill Nitschke. By this kind of logic, Martin and Nitschke were tied into the Mafia.
Why is it important to note this bizarre interpretation? Because when all is said and done, the "new light" the authors shed on the Garrison inquiry is really a hoary and disproven platitude. By about the middle of Chapter 37 Waldron and Hartmann are merely echoing the likes of their trusted authorities like John Davis, Dan Moldea, and David Scheim. They say that by 1968 Garrison's inquiry and his pursuit of Clay Shaw became a "grotesque sideshow" (p. 466). Why? Because it was a diversion away from the true perpetrators of the crime. Who of course were Marcello, Trafficante and Roselli. (pgs. 405, 421, 465) The origins of this discredited concept actually goes back almost forty years. To the infamous Life magazine hatchet job penned by FBI toady Sandy Smith. (William Davy, Let Justice Be Done, p. 162)
One of the strongest indicators of their faulty scholarship about Garrison is their use of some questions that allegedly the New York Times sent to the DA. (p. 370) They say they found a copy of these questions in Garrisons' files. One of the questions was about Ferrie's rumored, at that time, association with Marcello. The questions were dated November 21, 1966. What the authors do with these questions and Garrison's famous airplane trip with Senator Russell Long has to be detailed to understand their agenda on the subject. They actually try and say that because Long allegedly had ties to Marcello, and because Long's trip with Garrison came after the date of the questions, therefore Long convinced Garrison not to go after Marcello. (ibid) This is fevered John Davis propaganda of a virulent strain. And they have nothing of substance to back it except the NY Times questions. And they then cheat on this. How? By moving the Long/Garrison plane ride back to December of 1966. This way Garrison's discussion with Long about the JFK case comes after the alleged letter from the Times. But there is a big problem with it all. They are wrong about the date of the trip. The function that Garrison attended in New York occurred on November 13, 1966. In other words, it was before the date of the letter. (Davy, p. 57) But this is silliness anyway. Garrison had briefly investigated Ferrie back in 1963. And there are indications that he had intermittently started back onto the JFK case prior to the Long conversation. But his primary focus at these early points was on Oswald. And in 1966 and early 1967 it was on Oswald's connections as an agent provocateur being run by Banister. Which Marcello had nothing to do with.
What the authors do with Garrison and Bernardo DeTorres is even worse. De Torres is an incredibly intriguing personage who the HSCA showed a strong interest in. In fact, he was actually questioned in Executive Session. Gaeton Fonzi writes about DeTorres in his fine book, The Last Investigation. Except he conceals his name by calling him by the pseudonym "Carlos". DeTorres had been a military coordinator for the Brigade 2506 part of the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Davy, p. 148) He was strongly suspected of being in Dallas on 11/22/63. And even of having pictures of Kennedy being killed in Dealey Plaza. He had been offered a large sum of money for the photos by Life magazine. (See Probe Vol. 3 No. 6) Further, DeTorres claimed to know that Oswald was not involved in the assassination since he knew who actually was involved. And he knew this because "they were talking about it before it even happened." (Fonzi, p. 239) Later on, DeTorres worked with legendary CIA arms specialist Mitch Werbell, who some suspect of being involved in designing the weaponry used in Dealey Plaza. (See Spooks, by Jim Hougan, pgs 35-36)
What few people knew prior to the ARRB process is that DeTorres first surfaced as a suspect during the Garrison investigation. He was one of the very early infiltrators sent in by the CIA. Allegedly recommended to the DA by a policeman, he told Garrison that he had important information about the murder. He also used Miami DA Richard Gerstein as a reference. (Davy, ibid) Since he was from Miami, Garrison gave him the assignment of questioning Eladio Del Valle, Ferrie's colleague who Cuban G-2 strongly suspected of being part of the JFK plot. Not very long after DeTorres was sent to question him, Del Valle's mutilated corpse was found near the front stairs of DeTorres' Miami apartment. (ibid) This was at the same time that Ferrie was mysteriously found dead in his apartment. The HSCA later developed evidence that DeTorres was filing reports on Garrison for the Miami CIA station JM/WAVE as he was serving as a double agent in his office. By the time he worked with Werbell, the Cuban exile community knew that Bernardo was the man to see if you had a problem. Why? Because he had "contacts on a high level with the CIA in Washington D.C." (ibid)
All of this is absolutely riveting information. And it was not readily available until the time of the ARRB. The backward light it shines on Garrison is nearly blinding. Why? One reason is that Clay Shaw defenders sometimes say that the CIA was "monitoring" Garrison because he was accusing them in the press of being involved in the JFK conspiracy. But the DeTorres penetration occurred before the Garrison inquiry was even made public. And it also occurred before the DA had decided on the CIA as his prime suspect. So before Garrison made any public comments about the CIA, a highly connected Agency plant was sent in and was filing reports with JM/WAVE. And further, DeTorres may have been involved in the setting up of Del Valle because of his association with Ferrie. And it should be noted here that Richard Case Nagell was on the trail of both Ferrie and Del Valle in the spring of 1963 (Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much, 2003 edition, p. 182). Which, of course, is months before the assassination.
What Waldron and Hartmann do with all this remarkable information about DeTorres is kind of shocking. (pgs 387-88) They do refer to him as a spy in Garrison's camp. But they never mention him by name! Then, differing with Garrison authority Bill Davy, they say he was recommended to the DA not by the police, but by another Cuban. And finally Del Valle, "Garrison's [unnamed] investigator", and Rolando Masferer (What?) all had ties to Santo Trafficante. So the implication is that the Florida Don had Del Valle killed. Why? Because if he was linked to the JFK assassination, his empire would collapse. That's what they write. (p. 387) How he would be linked to the Kennedy assassination at this point in time is never explained. In fact, I don't think we are supposed to ask. But by concealing DeTorres' name, his background, his ties to JM/WAVE, and the circumstances of Del Valle's murder, it reverses the logical deduction of what happened to Del Valle. In other words, the censorship and tortured logic conceals a CIA operation and deliberately disguises it as Mafia oriented. The exposure of the above information about DeTorres proves this could not have been by accident. So does their concealment of his name. They didn't want you to know his name because then you would find out how tied in with the CIA he was. It's the same thing they did with Edwin Black's work on the Chicago plot. And as before, this had to have been done by design. ( I will return to Black's work later.)
Predictably, the flip side of the coin is also manifest here. If the deluded DA was being led astray, his attacker Walter Sheridan was on the right track. Because, of course, Sheridan suspected the Mafia, especially Carlos Marcello. (p. 465) A lot of their material about Sheridan and Garrison is drawn from David Talbot's book Brothers. In my review of that volume I minutely examined why Talbot was wrong about his depiction of what Sheridan was doing in New Orleans for NBC, and why he was doing it. The idea that Sheridan strongly suspected that Marcello was behind the JFK killing was brought into question by a conversation that Irving Davidson had on the day the HSCA report was issued. Lobbyist Davidson was a lifelong friend of Marcello's who also knew Sheridan. And Sheridan, who is sourced in those HSCA volumes, told Davidson that the HSCA report was a piece of crap. (Bugliosi, op. cit., p. 1175) As I said in my review of Brothers, the question now becomes: What did Sheridan actually believe about the JFK case? And further: Was he deliberately leading the HSCA astray? This is a question that Talbot sidestepped. And so do the present authors.
As in the first book, the authors make some truly unbelievable statements that are almost perverse in their logic and sense. For instance, they write that if the idea behind the assassination was to provoke an invasion of Cuba, the conspirators would have kept Oswald alive longer so he would have been the focus of an outcry against Fidel. (p. 239) In reality, the longer Oswald was kept alive, the higher the risk was that he would betray who he really was to the authorities. In fact, this risk was seriously broached while he was being held. First, through his attempted call to Raleigh, North Carolina, and second, when the FBI listened to the Mexico City tapes and discovered the voice on them was not Oswald's. And at this point, Oswald did not even have a lawyer. So the longer he was held, the higher the risk he would declare himself an undercover agent.
Why did suspicion fall upon Oswald after the assassination? Legacy of Secrecy poses a novel approach to that mystery. Waldron and Hartmann posit that it was due to Oswald's friendly relations with minority employees. This created suspicion about him in the aftermath of the crime. (p.121) Of course, they present no evidence for this rather strange and revolutionary theory.
The Tom Tilson story about a man escaping down the railway embankment behind the grassy knoll has been discredited for many years (p. 116), most notably by Canadian author Peter Whitmey. But it gets trotted out here again. And in fact, it gets embellished. They say the man running to a car and throwing something in the back resembled Jack Ruby.
The interpretation that Waldron and Hartmann put on the alleged attempt by Oswald to shoot General Edwin Walker is startling-even for them. It begins with an incredible report that Oswald was in a New Orleans jail around April 1, 1963. (p. 263) Yet, he had not moved there yet. The authors insinuate that this was somehow part of the congressional investigations into the ordering of weapons through the mail. They then imply that somehow the Walker shooting was manipulated by Walker and his allies to divert attention away from themselves and also people like Marcello, Banister and Joseph Milteer. (p. 265) Conveniently left out of how the Walker tale was manipulated are two key elements. The first is Ruth Paine. She produced the note about the escapade allegedly left by Oswald, which had no fingerprints on it. This was turned over to the police on November 30, 1963. So even though the police had searched the Paine residence twice, they did not find it. It was this note that first caused the FBI to look at Oswald as a suspect in the Walker shooting. (John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 512) Second, it was this note which caused the FBI to switch both the caliber and the color of the bullet the Dallas Police retrieved from the Walker residence to match the ammunition of the Mannlicher Carcano. (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust, p. 49) Incredibly, the authors do not even mention Ruth Paine's role in this charade and they minimize what the FBI did to transform the bullet. Even though McKnight shows that the FBI knew they were participating in a deception. (ibid pgs 49-50)
In this regard I must note that the authors pay me a backhanded compliment in this book. My review of Ultimate Sacrifice was fairly coruscating and it received some notoriety within the research community. Waldron and Hartmann clearly read it and took it seriously because they try and counteract several of my criticisms. One of the most serious ones was my relating of an anecdote in Richard Helms' autobiography entitled A Look Over my Shoulder. On November 19, 1963 Helms visited Robert Kennedy's office and told him that Castro was shipping a large amount of arms into Venezuela in order to upset their upcoming elections. (Helms, pgs 226-27). Helms has RFK saying nothing. He looks at the evidence the CIA took in—a foreign made submachine gun allegedly retrieved from an arms cache-and told Helms to go see President Kennedy. Helms and his assistant do so and JFK asked a couple of questions about how that large a shipment of weapons got through. They then left and later that day, Helms asked Kennedy's assistant, Ken O'Donnell, for a picture.
Now, in my original critique I posed the question that if C-Day was coming up in 12 days, and if all the principals involved in this episode were knowledgeable about it i.e. RFK, JFK and Helms, why would the CIA Director of Plans even bother to see the Kennedys if he knew we were invading Cuba shortly? This story shot a harpoon into the guts of their whole C-Day scenario. Because the authors maintained that even though McNamara, Rusk, and Bundy did not know about C-Day, Helms did. And it would be impossible for all four not to know. But this story, in Helms' own book, indicates he did not. When they relate this tale in Legacy of Secrecy (p. 36), they leave out the capper. In his book, Portrait of a Cold Warrior (p. 383), CIA analyst Joseph B. Smith mentions this specific arms seizure. And from the reports on it, he deduced that the CIA planted the weapons. So if Helms knew about C-Day, why did he go to the trouble of planting those weapons if he knew we were invading Cuba anyway?
This is their hapless reply to that question: Helms was testing JFK to see if he was getting cold feet about the invasion. But the problem is there is not any indication of this in Helms' book. On anyone's behalf. But further, the authors now contradict themselves in another important way to give their phony spin a pretext in reality. In their first book, they characterized JFK's back channel to Castro through people like Lisa Howard, Jean Daniel, and William Attwood as going nowhere. In my review, I showed this was false. There was progress being made and JFK was very interested in that progress continuing. I postulated that what Helms was actually trying to do with the planted arms cache was to scuttle those talks since he knew that JFK did not want Cuba interfering in Venezuela's elections. Now, sit down before you read the next sentence. Waldron and Hartmann have stolen my explanation and try and make it work for them! Now they say that Helms was doing all this to ensure the invasion against the back channel's imminent success. Without noting that in their previous volume they said there would be no point in doing such a thing since the talks were useless.
To me, the rearranging of facts, recasting of events, and posthumous mindreading into Helms' psyche, all this is not scholarship. Plain and simple, it is CYA.
Another instance where they try and counteract my critique is in regards to their alleged "confession" from Santo Trafficante about his role in the JFK assassination. Using Tony Summers' work (Vanity Fair, 12/94), I showed that the originator of this tall tale, Mafia lawyer Frank Ragano, was almost surely lying. Why? Because Ragano placed Trafficante in Tampa on the day of his phony confession. He could not have been there since 1.) He was undergoing dialysis treatments and was using a colostomy bag, 2.) Summers interviewed two witnesses who placed him in Miami on the day, 3/13/87, he made the ersatz confession in Tampa. 3.) His doctor in Tampa did not see him on the day in question, and 4.) His relatives said he had not been to Tampa in months. In the face of all this, the authors still vouch for Ragano's veracity. (p. 757) But they do not tell the reader about the colostomy bag, which would make the 280 mile drive or flight to Tampa ludicrous. And they leave out the two witnesses who placed him in Miami, and the fact he did not see his doctor while in Tampa.
A third effect of my review is that now the authors properly source Edwin Black's groundbreaking work on the attempt to kill President Kennedy in Chicago. If one recalls, in Ultimate Sacrifice they tried to disguise the proper source of this essay by footnoting that magazine article to a book by one George Black. A book that did not even discuss JFK's assassination. Here, they properly source it but incredibly, they never even note how they failed to do so in the first book. They then indirectly confirm my worst fears about why they did not. On page 787, in the Acknowledgments, they write the following sentence: "The work of the following people was useful in our research, even though at times we may differ with some in our conclusions". The first name listed of people they disagree with in conclusions is Edwin Black's. In other words, they didn't like what Black did with the Chicago plot. So they apparently wanted no one to find his work since it would contradict their own. With no thanks to Waldron and Hartmann, you can read Black's essay here.
What can one say about this kind of scholarship and honesty? Except that in each instance I mention, the evidence indicates that the authors knew about the information that I used. They chose to ignore it. And in the case of Black, they tried to bury it.
One of the reasons they desperately hang on to the Ragano/Trafficante fantasy is because they want to ballyhoo this "confessional" motif as evidence that they were right about the actual JFK culprits in Ultimate Sacrifice. That is, the Mafia killed JFK. So they hang on to the specious Ragano declaration because they need it for the Trafficante part of their confessionals. Even though it almost certainly did not happen.
They also use "confessions" by John Martino and David Morales. These are also dubious. In the case of Morales (p. 97), how can you call what he said a "confession"? After raging against what JFK did at the Bay of Pigs, he then said "Well, we took care of that son of a bitch didn't we." (Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation, p. 390) As John Simkin, among others, has commented, this can be fairly interpreted as being nothing but cheap braggadocio. Going further than that, I would be willing to wager that you could have heard dozens of remarks by both the Cuban exiles and CIA operators about JFK down through the years. Does that mean they were all involved in his assassination? But further, Morales was a CIA man all the way. So how does this prove their Mob-did-it thesis?
In my review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked, I commented on the case of John Martino. The information Martino allegedly conveyed through friends and relatives — which is hard to keep track of since, 35 years later, it keeps on growing — does not connote Martino being part of a plot. To quote myself in my critique of that book, "As summarized above, the information Martino had could have been communicated to him through several of his Cuban exile friends. None of it connotes Martino being part of the plot. And Hancock advances no affirmative evidence to prove that point." And as I noted in that review, the other person Hancock uses, Richard Case Nagell, is a much more valuable witness than Martino. For me, and in practical terms, Nagell is worth ten times what Martino is worth.
Another "confession" Waldron and Hartmann use is allegedly by John Roselli. This one they source to Richard Mahoney's book Sons and Brothers. This is the sum and substance of the "Roselli confession" as it appears on page 229 of that book: "Washington attorney Tom Wadden, a longtime friend and attorney of Roselli's, subsequently confirmed Roselli's role in plotting to kill the president." One natural question in response to this single sentence is: What plotting was he talking about? What exactly did Roselli do? Because if there are no details, there is no confession. But it's actually worse than that. Because Mahoney never even interviewed Wadden. He got this from Bill Hundley, a former Justice Department lawyer under RFK. Wadden is mentioned exactly one other time in Mahoney's book. That is on page 333 along with a group of other Mafia attorneys like Jack Wasserman. Before I read about this "startling confession" I wondered why I did not recall any other author sourcing it in the ten years since the Mahoney book had been published. Now I know.
Obviously, in light of the above, the authors were getting desperate to come up with something of substance. So early on in the book, they foreshadow what will be their "crown jewel" in this regard. (pgs 46-51) That is a confession by Carlos Marcello. They refer to this as the "CAMTEX documents" since Carlos Marcello was in a Texas prison when they originated. And they mischaracterize them at the start. They say that these documents were discovered at the National Archives in 2006 (p. 47) The implication being that no one ever saw them before. Which is false. Ace Archives researcher Peter Vea sent them to me in 1997. Which is ten years before Waldron and Hartmann found them. They also write that the contents are being published in Legacy of Secrecy for the first time. (p. 46) Again, this is misleading. Vincent Bugliosi referred to them in Reclaiming History. (See the End Notes file, pgs. 658-659)
Both of the above shed light on why no one used them before. When Peter sent me the documents, he titled his background work on them as "The Crazy Last Days of Carlos Marcello." Peter had done some work on Marcello's health while he was incarcerated. And between that, and the reports that came out at the time of his 1993 death, he and I concluded that at the time of the CAMTEX documents Marcello was suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Today, the accepted gestation period for the disease is about seven years. There is little doubt that by 1988-89 Marcello's Alzheimer's was in full and raging bloom. And at this time period, Marcello's general health was beginning to collapse through a series of strokes. Now, the time period of Marcello's talks with the jailhouse informant who is one of the sources for the CAMTEX documents begins in 1985. So if you do the arithmetic you will see that Marcello's Alzheimer's was very likely well along by then. And later on, when told about the jailhouse informant's accusation that he had Kennedy killed, Marcello replied that this was "crazy talk". (Bugliosi op cit p. 658)
And in fact it is. The CAMTEX documents actually have Marcello meeting with Oswald in person and in public at his brother's restaurant. (p. 50) But that's nothing. According to CAMTEX, Marcello set up Ruby's bar business and Ruby would come to Marcello's estate to report to him! And so after being seen in public with both the main participants, he has the first one kill Kennedy and the second kill Oswald. But yet, the authors are so intent on getting the CAMTEX documents out there that they don't note that these contradict their own conclusion written elsewhere in the same book. Namely that Oswald didn't shoot Kennedy. (p. 121)
This is already too lengthy to go into any long discussion of the parts of the book devoted to the King case, the RFK case, and Watergate. But, in my view, these are even worse than the JFK section of the book. Which is saying something. For instance, they conclude that James Earl Ray killed King. Without telling the reader that the rifle he allegedly used needed to be properly calibrated by machine. And it wasn't. Who put Ray up to it? Well it was Joseph Milteer, with the help of Carlos Marcello. (Talk about the Odd Couple.) What's the evidence for this? Almost all of it is the unnamed sources I noted above. ( In fact, Chapter 52 about Milteer and Spake meeting Ray in Atlanta comes off as near self-parody.)
And what these two do with Grace and Charlie Stephens is simply appalling. They actually smear her and try and rehabilitate him! This is the woman who, when the authorities went to her to get an ID on Ray, refused to sign the papers because the man she saw in the boarding house the day of the murder was smaller and older. She still refused when they offered her a 100,000 dollar reward. Even though she was poor. When they took the same deal to her husband Charles, he readily made the identification. Even though he was falling down drunk at the time of the shooting. When he tried to collect on the money, the offer was withdrawn. He sued and his efforts failed. So this drunk became the witness that got Ray extradited back for his phony trial. Just so his lawyer Percy Foreman could sell him down the river.
And what happened to Grace? She got stashed away in a mental institution for ten years. When Mark Lane finally found her there he asked her if he could talk to her about the King case. She agreed. But she told him she was not going to lie about the man she saw at the boarding house. Lane said that was fine. He just wanted her to tell the truth. She did, and the man she saw was not Ray.
Attempting to rehab Charlie Stephens is like rehabbing Howard Brennan in the JFK case. (All this information on the Stephens matter is reported in Code Name Zorro by Lane and Dick Gregory.) Further, if you can believe it-which you probably can by now-they ignore all the new material generated on the MLK case in the nineties. That is during the attempt by Judge Joe Brown to get the case retried at the time. But yet this is the newest material generated on that case. But it doesn't fit their agenda. So they ignore it.
They also strongly imply that Sirhan shot RFK (p. 686). Yep, hypnotized himself into doing it at the request of the Mafia. (p. 666) And that night at the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan had those drinks to steel himself to kill RFK. (p. 629) See, Sirhan was a compulsive gambler who was losing hundreds of dollars. (p. 626) And ... you get the drift by now, don't you? Incredibly, in the entire section on the RFK case there is not one mention of either MK/Ultra or William J. Bryan. And Bryan is the man who most suspect of programming Sirhan. In fact, there is much evidence to show this is the case. Further, they say it was not Thane Cesar who shot RFK. (p. 641) Even though he was the only person in perfect position to deliver the fatal shot. In fact, any of the RFK shots. Shane O'Sullivan disconnected Michael Wayne from Khaiber Khan in Who Killed Bobby? to minimize that conspiracy angle. Waldron and Hartmann do the opposite: they discount Khan and do not even mention Michael Wayne. (pgs. 660)
What was the reason for the RFK cover-up? According to them one of the reasons was whether or not drug trafficking played a role in the case. (Read it yourself on p. 680) See, the LAPD acted then and now "not as part of a massive orchestrated cover-up, but to avoid embarrassment and scandal for the department." (p. 686) If you read Lisa Pease's review of An Open and Shut Case, you will see that what caused the cover-up. It was the probable 14 shots fired that night when Sirhan's weapon could only fire eight. Further, the acoustics tape indicates the shots came from two directions and therefore from at least two assassins. And Sirhan was not one of the assailants of RFK. Because if he was, they would not have had to substitute the bullet evidence at the Wenke Panel hearings. Which is what the evidence indicates happened. Incredibly, the book does not even mention those proceedings supervised by Judge Wenke. Which would be like discussing the JFK case and never mentioning the HSCA. Further, and perhaps even more shocking, the work done on the newly discovered audio tape of the shooting by sound technician Phil Von Pragg is also never discussed. Even though the cable TV special based on this key discovery was broadcast a year before the book came out.
Their section on Watergate is just as outlandish. They say that the whole motivation behind the two year scandal was Nixon's attempt to get the Inspector General's Report on the CIA-Mafia plots. When that seems like thin gruel (because Nixon is not in the report), they shift over to the Inspector General's Report on the Bay of Pigs operation. (pgs 716-17) The point of all this thrashing about? The usual. The arrests at the Watergate were not engineered by Helms and the CIA. (p. 720) Even though, as Jim Hougan has proven in Secret Agenda, CIA agents James McCord and Howard Hunt deliberately sabotaged the break-in that night. And there are two sources-one through Hougan and one through Washington lawyer Dan Alcorn— that say Helms was alerted to the arrests as they happened.
I don't want to leave the impression that the book is utterly worthless. It's not quite that horrendous. There are some good tidbits in it. For instance, a CIA agent actually reviewed Edward Epstein's book Inquest when it was published. And this became the model for the famous "Countering the Critics" CIA memorandum prepared for Helms. (p. 380) There is a good description of how LBJ, Earl Warren, and Hoover plotted against the critical movement. (pgs 356-61) The authors note how quickly Johnson shifted the tone and attention in South Vietnam after Kennedy's death. (p. 275) Finally, they show that it was Arlen Specter who actually composed Dave Powers' false affidavit about where the direction of the shots came from in Dealey Plaza. (p. 308)
Unfortunately, that's about it for the positives. Which is a really bad batting average for a book of over 800 pages. Yet none of the travesty listed above stops people like Rex Bradford and John Simkin from having Waldron do interviews on their web sites. Which makes me think the assassinations are really more of a business interest for these two entrepreneurs than a pursuit of historical truth.
Let me conclude with one last point. One which I actually was not going to bring up at all. But I have to. Because, near the end, the authors bring it up themselves. Some of the supporters of Ultimate Sacrifice, like Mark Crispin Miller, have said that I accused Waldron of being some kind of agent in my review of that book. I did not. If you read the review carefully, I was talking about Gus Russo in that regard. And I have analyzed the Russo issue at length in my essay "Who is Gus Russo?" But the authors go out of their way to address this charge by saying that they "want to make it clear that they have never worked for the CIA." (p. 768) This may be technically true. But it is not the whole story. And we know this from the proverbial Horse's Mouth. A few years ago, Hartmann was giving a talk in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania about one of his many other books. Two JFK researchers were in attendance, Jerry Policoff and Steve Jones. They were both taken aback by one of his early statements. He admitted quite openly to having past ties to both the CIA and corporate America. The question then becomes: If he was open about that then, why is he being disingenuous about it now? To give Legacy of Secrecy the credibility it does not have on its own? Another question: Does Waldron know about this? Or is he just along for the ride?