Filmmaker denies JFK conspiracy theories

January 20, 2012 - One Response

Filmmaker denies JFK conspiracy theories
Indiana Student
By Katie Mettler | IDS
Jan. 18, 2012

At 88 years old, John Barbour is a man made for the hills of Hollywood. His golden-brown skin, shiny jewelry and blue-and-brown pinstripe suit allude to his early pursuits in gambling, acting and stand-up comedy.

But the passion in his raspy and convincing voice reveals the second half of Barbour’s life, the half consumed by conspiracy theories that have baffled America for almost 50 years.

Wednesday, Union Board presented Barbour’s 1992 documentary “The JFK Assassination: The Garrison Tapes,” followed by a question-and-answer session with Barbour.

The film features Barbour’s exclusive interviews with late New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who was ridiculed for his investigation into the CIA’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The questions surrounding who shot Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, are infinite, and Kennedy-themed literature has lined bookshelves for decades. But Barbour dismissed these accounts; in his opinion, there is no such thing as conspiracy theories, only an abundance of facts.

And he said the facts that convinced him came from Garrison’s book: Lee Harvey Oswald was involved with members of the CIA, and the CIA killed Kennedy.
In 1970, Gallop polls indicated that more than 80 percent of the public believed Oswald didn’t act alone, if at all. But only 22 percent thought there should be another investigation, Barbour said.

“How do you say your mother’s not a virgin? It just sounds ugly,” Barbour said. “How do you say your leaders are murderers? It just sounds ugly. When it’s obvious, it sounds ugly.”

Garrison published “Heritage of Stone,” a book that spelled out what he found during his investigation into the CIA. In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that four shots had been fired at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, vindicating the potential for conspiracy theories.

In 1980, Barbour invited Garrison to come on his hit NBC show “Real People,” Garrison was on film for three hours, and Barbour said it was “… the most frightening, exhilarating, terrifying three hours I have ever spent in my entire life.”

When Barbour tried to make a documentary, critics ran amuck, and he lost “Real People” in the early 1980s.

Finally, in 1992, Barbour released the documentary. It won the 1993 San Sebastian Film Festival award the same day Garrison died.

Since then, Barbour has traveled the globe, answering questions about the documentary at film screenings. However, his documentary has never aired on public television in the United States.

But Barbour said he is less concerned by money and more motivated by educating people about what he thinks truly happened in 1963.

Barbour talked about the injustice of the 24-hours news coverage of recent wwmurder cases, involving Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson, Laci Peterson and Natalee Holloway.

“Those murders were tragic,” he said. “But they only affected one person. The murder of John Kennedy changed the economy, changed our foreign policy, changed our political structure. … I guarantee you, if we had cell phones or the Internet on Nov. 22, 1963, there would be at least a dozen prominent Americans hung or shot for the murder of John Kennedy.”

“The Railroading of Terri Pike” by William Kelly

November 14, 2011 - Leave a Response

The Railroading of LCDR Florence “Terri” Pike USN Over Release of ONI Assassination Records.

The package came in the mail from an anonymous source. It contained copies of official Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and JFK Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) documents concerning the Review Board’s request for ONI records related to the assassination of President Kennedy that were ordered released by the JFK Act of 1992.

The documents refer to official requests for records made by the ARRB and the response of the ONI, specifically ONI records officer Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Florence “Terri” Pike, USNR, who was assigned to respond to the ARRB requests for ONI records.

The first dozen or so pages in the packet are a series of documents from the ARRB requesting specific records that have a direct bearing on the assassination of the President,

The list of Certain Archive Records To Be Retrieved By the Navy and Reviewed For Assassination Records included all relevant US Marine Corps and US Navy records, specifically “a) the relevant records of the Commandant of the Marine Corp. for the period 1957 to 1964, including any chronological, subject, work or ‘soft’ files. b.) All communications to and from the Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, on the day and week of the assassination. c) Cuban or Fidel Castro intelligence material from 1962-64 that may relate to the assassination or discuss Cuban complicity in the assassination. d) Documents that relate to any mail cover or mail surveillance program or operations in the 1959-62 time period…e) documents and files that relate to the defections of military personnel to Communist Bloc countries from 1959 through 1962. f) Records of the Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretaries of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence for the period 1957 to 1964,…l. Records of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and any related offices, for the period 1957-64, including records of the Director for the Office of Naval Intelligence (OP-921E), the District Intelligence Office for the Ninth Naval District (Chicago, Illinois), and the District Intelligence Office for the Eighth Naval District (New Orleans, Louisiana) for any communications regarding Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union. Any records indicating ONI maintained an office in Dallas in 1962-63,…Records of Oswald’s two operational units,…Any records relating to any investigation of Oswald that may have been conducted in Dec. 1963…any audio tapes…the unedited audiotapes (and transcripts, if available) of all radio transmissions to and from Air Force One (26000), the Pacific Cabinet plane (SAM 86972), Andrews AFB, and various State, military and White House officials in Washington that were recorded on November 22, 1963, particularly by uniformed military personnel at Andrews AFB who were working for the White House Communications Agency……records related to helicopters used at Bethesda,…Request DOD records, LHO, USMC, SS & DOD for president’s visits to Florida and Texas, the use of military cover for CIA, the Russian language rosters for Monterey, CA., Defense Language School, the surveillance in Mexico of Cuba, USSR embassies, 61-64, DOD counter-intel-in Mex., Cuba., Cuban émigré groups in USA, surveillance of dissidents in USA, contingency plans Cuba, records of the Day of Assassination: November 22, 1963…”

Well, you get the idea. They were pretty thorough and very specific. While the ARRB was itself not conducting an investigation, they were certainly asking for the assassination related records that a good investigator would have asked for, just to get started.

After these requests were officially made on November 14, 1995, the Director of ONI responded on Nov. 27 by letter stating that “the Office of Naval Intelligence holds no records responsive to the tasking of 14 Nov..,” but that didn’t satisfy the ARRB. Then months went by without a response and eventually some ONI records officers were assigned the task of responding to the ARRB requests, including LCDR Florence “Terri” Pike and LCDR Paul Doolittle.

A March 3, 1997 – A ARRB staff memo notes that “LCDR Pike is our main point of contact in the ONI records review. She works for the Information Management Department,” and a Meeting Report on the Disposition of ONI, NCIS Records, by Christopher Barger/ARRB staff reports that they “met with the ONI team responsible for heading the search for records under the JFK Act. This team is directed by Lieut. Cmdr. Terri Pike; LCDR Doolittle works in the ONI FOIA office; Pike reports to Capt. Peiaec; LCDR Bastien is the JAG.”

“For reason not entirely clear to either the ONI team or ARRB,” Barger notes, “the tasking for this project only trickled down to them on Friday, March 7, 1997. They were a little confused as to why they were only being tasked with this now, but expressed a willingness to do everything they possibly could to achieve the objectives of the Act.” Among other topics discussed, “…(Tim) Wray provided extract from HSCA Staff Report regarding alleged Marine Corps CID post-assassination investigation into activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, and asked for any advice or assistance they might be able to provide regarding where such records might presently be stored, if they exist. Best recommendation: personal papers of the Marine Corps Commandant, Marine Corps CID records. Subject investigation, if authentic, may have been handled outside normal investigative channels.”

“…LCDR Pike identifies ONI action taken and intended searchers. Intended searches would begin at Suitland at the Federal Records Center, but would later include district offices within CONUS.”

“Pike then presented us a small written briefing package detailing what they had identified that they are required to do and the process they will use to go about the review. She noted that their first priority was to identify the records collections they need to search, then determining the physical location of the records. Most of these will be at Suitland, she said, but there will be others located in district offices round the country in locations like Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Louis and Boston. They have also identified a need to determine standard subject identification codes which should cause a document to be searched, and she concluded by detailing the records disposition procedures within ONI.”

“Despite the fact that they had only learned of this tasking on Friday, they had located and designated approximately 125 cubic feet of documents that directly relate to subjects we mentioned in our letter to the Navy. These will be reviewed page by page. She anticipated being able to complete the review by the stated deadline set by the Navy and ARRB of April 30, 1997.”

“In addition, she said that ONI had identified about 950 cubic feet, or approximately 2.4 million pages of records which might be related to the topics we were interested in, but that we had not specifically mentioned…LCDR Pike stressed that she, and ONI, understood that all information, even negative result, is important to our process, and that they will be providing reports on everything they search, whether relevant documents are found within or not. Pike provided us with a ‘flow chart’ documenting the normal records disposition process within ONI, explaining what each step of the process is and where documents go during each phase of the process. The final page of her briefing package was a sample of the ‘clue sheets’ being provided to each reviewer for the April 30 documents. Approximately two dozen subject headings are listed along with ‘clues’ or keywords for each subject and a time window for each subject…”

In summary, the ARRB meeting report notes, “In closing, it should be reported that this team and LCDR Pike in particular, are very impressive, they appear very much to have their act together on this project. They provided details and planning we have rarely seen from other agencies, yet they have had this project assigned to them for less than a week. They were extremely helpful, and have taken an aggressive and proactive approach to complying with the JFK Act. We can expect more impressive work from this team.”

Christopher Barger/ARRB reported in a memo that, “I telephoned Terri Pike (and) explained that…we were doing what we could call some “stock taking,” that is, trying to determine what has been done and what is outstanding from each agency that we are working with. In that light, I asked her if she could give me a brief status report on what they have done so far. She said that they have completed their review of about 40 cu. ft. of the 127 cu. ft. ONI has committed to having reviewed for us by the April 30 deadline. She also said that they have found one box based on our SF 135 requests. This box has to do with defections, both Cuban and Soviet; they plan on turning this box over to us ‘in Toto.’ She said that most of the records in that box are CIA originated or have CIA equities, so they will need to be coordinated with CIA. She ended the call by telling me that if we want to come out there at any point and personally review any of their work, we are welcome.”

Then ARRB staffers meet with LCDR Pike and LCDR Doolittle of ONI. LCDR Pike stated that review of the first 123 cubic feet of ONI records had been completed, and that as a result .8 cubic feet of records (18 district files) on defectors had been identified as responsive to the CNO tasking; these records were presented to ARRB staffers at the meeting for cursory review. Completion of declassification review and delivery of the original records to the ARRB was tentatively promised within 2 – 4 weeks. LCDR Pike also mentioned that approx. 950 cubic feet of additional records had been identified which –might- be responsive to the topics the ARRB was interested in, and said that review of this material would take approximately 6 months. (ARRB Meeting Report memorializes the result of this meeting.)

The ARRB meeting report said that, “Pike explained that most of the relevant records they found were discovered ‘by accident;’ that is to say, they were misfiled in boxes outside where they should have been. This is important for two reasons. 1) If they had been filed where they ‘should’ have been, they would have been routinely destroyed by this point, and 2) as they continue their review of the approximately 900 cu feet of records they have self-identified, they expect they might well continue to discover records of interest to us…LCDR Pike further stated that ONI remained responsible for searching an additional 950 cubic feet of records located in Suitland, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco, and stated those searches were scheduled for completion during fiscal year 97…”

LCDR Pike Faxed the ARRB; indicating that she had finished a declassification review of the.8 cubic feet of defector records, and had prepared a page-by-page index of same. She indicated that transmittal of these documents would occur in the near future.

That appears to be the beginning of the end of such cooperation and the end of LCDR Terri Pike, as there are two different copies of this meeting report in two different typefaces, one with the first sentence of the fourth paragraph highlighted by two circles on one and completely redacted in the other. The line redacted reads: “There are a total of 18 folders of material which ONI has determined should go into the JFK collection and have earmarked for delivery to us…” Another redacted paragraph follows: “Pike said that ONI is going through review of all records covered by the EO; in most cases, they have been willing to release in full about 96% of the documents. She said that for the other 4% they expected that the Board has the power to overrule them anyway, but they had to at least make the request. [Ed. Note: this implies that they might perhaps be resigned to ‘losing’ some of the information they want to protect and would not appeal a Board decision to release some of this information.].”

The redacted paragraph reads: “Pike concluded her report by suggesting that we might find more of the records we suggested we wanted in BG38 the records of the CNO. She said that currently ONI is currently organizing a review team…to look through this group…however, ARRB staff may also wish to personally review these records for relevant material. She suggested that changes in alert status, etc. might also be found in CNO records…”

It appears that the main point of contention between Lt. Commander Pike and the rest of the brass at ONI is the disposition of ONI records outside of the main records storage center at Suitland.

Then the Review Board came up with some additional leads from former servicemen who had handled assassination records and they requested them. ARRB staffer Doug Horne noted in a memo that, “Terri Pike called to say she had received my voice mail inquiring about an NIS-ONI post-defection investigation of Oswald at El Toro in 1959 or 1960, would do immediate checking, and would try to fax us results of her search sometime on Thursday of this week.”

A Chronology of Key Events in ARRB-ONI Interface notes that on “…ARRB staffer Doug Horne called Terri Pike and requested that ONI look for ‘119 Reports’ covering an alleged ONI investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald’s October, 1959 defection to the Soviet Union. LCDR Pike accepted the tasking, but ARRB never received any feedback on its results.”

One of the key liaisons between the ARRB and ONI, at least in the eyes of the Review Board staff, had simply disappeared.

A Memo Terri Pike sent to ARRB Military unit member Doug Horne amplified the situation when she wrote to them that, “…I was relieved from the leadership position on this project in late August (1997) by the ONI Reserve Directorate Head….As you know, it was my responsibility to identify all records required under 44 U.S.C. 2107. I felt a personal commitment to ensure this effort was conducted ‘with vigor’ and as thoroughly as possible…”

Another memo from Pike dated 10 Nov. 97 notes that, “In its questioning to date, the ONI IG has narrowly focused on my travel requirements and has declared that the taskings of…The Kennedy review did not include the requirement for searches for all records regardless of physical location, just those available locally.”

She was charged with “fraudulent” official travel because her “tasking did not say to search regional record centers.” She was accused of work and travel “fraud” in regards to the travel from DC to the remote ONI records storage centers, obviously a trumped up charge, and one designed to make sure that everyone else in a similar position didn’t take the same initiatives she did. In a memo Pike wrote that, “We fundamentally disagree on the project requirements. I maintain that under all taskings, the ONI is required to identify and dispose…ALL of its records, not just those of the former Naval Intelligence Command stored in Suitland.”

One hand written ARRB note, probably written by Ex. Dir. T. J. Gunn reads: “Terry Pike – She had been accused of travel work fraud, she suggested that she had found some things – Navy records…she retained a lawyer.” The documents note that the lawyer’s name is David Sheldon, who is with the firm of Feldman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell & Bank, Military Practice Group.

Then Terri Pike reached out to Doug Horne asking him to, “Please contact me as soon as possible so that I may informally speak to you about the attached memo. Am I correct that the requirement is to search all sites for responsive records? I am losing a lot of sleep defending the position that we are supposed to ‘do the right thing,’ not necessarily the easiest. Thanks, Terri Pike.”

At that point Pike notes that after she was relieved from leadership position on this project by the ONI Reserve Directorate Head, the project was moved by the Chief of Staff (Capt. Joan Darah) from the Reserve Directorate to the Staff Judge Advocate, and her associate, LCDR Doolittle, was recalled to active duty and transferred to San Diego. The new point of contact was the FOIA office Staff Judge Advocate (ONI-OCB) LCDR. R. Bastien.

An ARRB staffer who dealt with Bastien said he, “…was a real bastard, the nastiest individual I encountered within the military structure. He seemed actively opposed to what we were doing at the ARRB…He was a Navy legal officer, a military attorney, acting as the pit bull guard dog protecting the ONI family jewels.”

T. Jeremy Gunn, the senior counsel for the ARRB who became Executive Director, took a personal interest in the Pike case, and his notes indicates that he wanted to know, “When was she transferred? Who were her superiors? How long after she discovered this info was (she) terminated? What were the reasons given for her termination?” On Dec. 3, 1997, Gunn sent a fax to Pike’s attorney David Sheldon, asking to speak to Pike to learn of, “any discussions she had with ONI officials regarding the content and disposition of records for which she was searching and…any information she might have regarding the location of ONI records and of ONI record-keeping policies.”

In a letter to Pike’s attorney, David P. Sheldon, Esq. Feldesman, Tucker, Leiffer, Fidell & Bank, 2001 I Street, N.W. Suite 330, Washington D.C., T. Jeremy Gunn Ex. Dir. ARRB wrote:

Dear Mr. Sheldon, I would like to thank you for returning my call and for your willingness to consider our request. As I mentioned, we would like to speak, on an informal basis, with your client, LCDR Terri Pike. We anticipate that the discussion would likely take no more than one to one and one half hours. There are two principle issues that we would like to discuss: first, any records she located or pursued that were relevant to the assassination or to requests made by the ARRB,; second, any discussions she had with ONI officials regarding the content and disposition of the records for which she was searching; and third, any information she might have regarding the location of ONI records and of ONI record-keeping policies. We do not anticipate any need to discuss issues other than these with LCDR Pike, although you or she may know of other issues that might be of interest to us. The two people from our office who would meet with her are Doug Horne, Chief Analyst for Military Records (who Ms. Pike knows) and Kim Heard, a Senior Attorney…”

An ONI document says directly that the department “…strongly objects to Pike’s cooperation in investigation being conducted by Mr. Jeremy Gunn of ARRB. ONI is unaware of any unauthorized investigation regarding this issue. If Mr. Gunn wishes to conduct an investigation or inquiry, such an effort should be coordinated through the Office of Naval Intelligence. Your objections are noted.”

There is no indication that Gunn got any of his questions answered, but there was a hearing and LCDR Kenneth B. Brown, JSGC, requested Doug Horne testify as a defense witness, but he was unable to attend on that date. Horne doesn’t recall whether he had a real conflict of interest that day or if he was ordered not to get involved.

There is also mention of some issues being, “sufficiently addressed by Psychiatric Dept. of Walter Reed,” though no mention of what was addressed. We can easily imagine however, that Pike’s sanity was questioned and tested.

An Article 32 hearing was held in the courtroom located at Building 200, Washington Navy Yard, 2nd floor on Monday, 16, March, 1998. LCDR. Stephen Jamrozy, JAGC, USN was the Investigating Officer.

[Article 32 a) No charge or specification may be referred to a general court-martial for trial until a through and impartial investigation of all the matters set forth therein has been made. This investigation shall include inquiry as to the truth of the matter set forth in the charges, consideration of the form of charges, and recommendation as to the disposition which should be made of the case in the interest of justice and discipline. (b) The accused shall be advised of the charges against him and of his right to be represented at that investigation as provided in section 838 of this title (article 38) and in regulations prescribed under that section…] [http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/ucmj/blart-32.htm]

One member of the ARRB staff met with Pike and her counsel, and part of the meeting was with the attorney alone, at his request, when he said that she had received psychiatric testing and, “Her attorney was somewhat disloyal, speaking of her diagnosis as ‘bipolar’ as if she were somewhat unstable or unreliable, (though) she seemed completely lucid and under control when I spoke with her at this meeting.”

[Note: “bipolar” simply means that you experience greater mood swings than other people. (This can sometimes lead to impulsive behavior. Different types of people exhibit different impulsive behavior. It varies with the individual. Manic behavior—working extremely hard for long periods of time, at a high level of energy, without rest—can also typify bipolar behavior, in between periods of lethargy and depression.) Many talented artists—writers and actors—and politicians are bipolar. Some examples are Joshua Logan, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Theodore Roosevelt. So the stigma is generally unwarranted.]

The assistant legal counsel to the ARRB, Kim Herd, who was brought in at the end to help wrap up loose ends before the Review Board’s deadline terminated, called LCDR K.B. Brown of Dept. of Navy Trial Service Officer regarding Terri Pike’s Article 32 hearing. “According to Brown, David Sheldon (Pike’s attorney) wants to get the Government privilege lifted in order to discuss SCI and Top Secret Materials. Sheldon told Brown that he had just met with the Review Board. Brown was under the impression that the Review Board staff had told Mr. Sheldon something that now was causing him to make this stink about the classified documents. According to Brown, Sheldon stated that the prosecutors needed to make this stuff go away because he was planning on dragging it all out and it would hit the newspapers, etc. Sheldon stated that there was some feeling that ONI was trying to shuffle some of the JFK stuff to the side.”

“Brown wanted to know what we told Terri Pike. I stated that we had been interested in learning what she had done with regard to the JFK project. I stated that Pike was the one who had done most of the talking. Brown then said that he wanted to know what we had learned from Pike. I told Brown that I would get back to him.” Kim Herd then reported that, “I called LCDR Brown back after having spoken with Jeremy Gunn. Brown wanted to know about our conversation with Terri Pike. I told him that we had spoken with her about her search efforts pursuant to the JFK Act. I suggested that he review that material. I also talked with Brown about the discovery requirements in an Article 32 hearing, and he stated that the defense would have to provide information about any witness they were calling – ie. What they would testify about, etc.”

Although Doug Horne, author of Inside the ARRB, mentions his dealings with Terri Pike in some of his ARRB meeting memos and was requested to attend a hearing as a defense witness on her behalf, he does not mention LCDR Terri Pike or the conflicts over the ONI records in his book(s). Nor does he recall the circumstances of the dispute or why he could not attend and testify at the Pike hearing.

Horne’s boss Jeremy Gunn on the other hand, launched an investigation into the Pike Affair, and should remember what happened, what became of her and why the record abruptly stops without a determination as to what became of her and the ONI records the ARRB originally requested.

After leaving the ARRB under a cloud two months before it was finished with its work, Gunn began working for the ACLU.

From the perspective of a JFK Assassination researcher, I don’t know Terri Pike, but just from reading these records she’s a hero of mine. And I want to know more, especially what became of her after she was railroaded by the military brass for doing her job. She should get a medal for what she did.

From a review of the documents, it is clear that Pike was removed from her job, reprimanded, demoted, and wrongly disciplined under trumped up charges. Her career was effectively ended because she took the initiative to retrieve and catalogue ONI records pursuant to the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Act.

Another researcher who read the documents independently concluded, “She was disciplined and (probably) kicked out of the Navy solely because she traveled to ONI document storage holding locations and retrieved records, rather than just rely on records at her location in DC. She seems to be a genuine American hero, trying to do the right thing and getting guillotined for it. This is a shocking case that exhibits the level of abuse that can occur in ONI when that office wants to stonewall and hide records. It is also instructive to see the massive quantities of records that were destroyed prematurely and improperly, according to the records.”

Final Report of the ARRB:

Chapter 8 Compliance with the JFK Act by Government Offices

14. Department of the Navy

1. The Review Board considered records of the Department of the Navy essential in view of Lee Harvey Oswald’s tenure with the Marines, which is administratively a part of Navy. Under the JFK Act, the Navy identified and placed into the JFK Collection at NARA certain core files relating to Lee Harvey Oswald(1) the personnel and medical Marine Corps files for Oswald and (2) Office of Naval Intelligence records on Oswald.
2. After passage of the JFK Act, the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service transferred, in 1994, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) records that had been maintained on Lee Harvey Oswald.6 In 1995, the General Counsel of the Navy directed that a further review of the Navy’s files be undertaken pursuant to the JFK Act. This directive went to the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Naval Historical Center. The Navy identified no additional assassination records.
3. In early 1997, after the Navy consulted with Review Board staff regarding categories of potentially relevant records, the General Counsel’s office issued another search directive to the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Secretary of the Navy’s Administrative Division, and other components within the Navy. The Review Board asked the Navy to search for files of high-level officials of the Marine Corps, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Navy during the years 1959 through 1964.
4. The Navy conducted an extensive review of files, including a review of files from the Secretary of the Navy’s Administrative Office, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Marine Corps. The Navy located miscellaneous documents relating to the Warren Commission and HSCA from files of the Administrative Office for the Secretary of the Navy as a result of this search. Among the records found was an unsigned copy of an affidavit by the Director of ONI, prepared at the time of the Warren Commission, stating that Lee Harvey Oswald was not used as an agent or informant by ONI. The Navy confirmed that it had not, however, located the 1959-1964 files for the Director of ONI.
5. The Department of the Navy submitted its Final Declaration of Compliance dated December 3, 1997.

a. Office of Naval Intelligence.

6. The Review Board pursued the matter of ONI records separately. Accordingly, the Board requested that ONI submit its own certification of its compliance with the JFK Act. In its Final Declaration of Compliance, ONI stated that it conducted an extensive review of ONI records held at Federal Records Centers throughout the country. ONI did not identify any additional assassination records. ONI was unable to find any relevant files for the Director of ONI from 1959 to 1964. ONI also acknowledged that there were additional ONI records that were not reviewed for assassination records, but that these records would be reviewed under Executive Order 12958 requiring declassification of government records.

7. The Office of Naval Intelligence submitted its Final Declaration of Compliance dated May 18, 1998.

8. 5. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)

9. The Review Board requested that the Navy and ONI search for the records of Director of Naval Intelligence Rear Admiral Rufus Taylor. The Review Board acquired a copy of an unsigned September 21, 1964, affidavit regarding Oswald that Taylor appears to have executed and forwarded to Secretary of Defense McNamara. The affidavit states that that ONI never utilized Lee Harvey Oswald as an agent or an informant. ONI did not locate any files belonging to (Rufus) Taylor (Director of Naval Intelligence at the time of the assassination).

BK Note: For some reason it is hard to believe that the ONI could not locate any of the records, files or documents of its former director, other than an unsigned statement saying that the accused assassin of the President was never utilized as an agent or an informant.

Prominent Civil Rights-Era Photographer Was FBI Informant

September 17, 2010 - Leave a Response

I met Withers at a commemorative march for Dr. King on the anniversary of the assassination, April 4, some years ago in Memphis. He saw our banner for the Coalition on Political Assassinations and our call to release the files on Dr. King from the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He was angry and adamant that there was no conspiracy to kill Dr. King and that the files should remain closed to protect Dr. King. Researcher Lyndon Barsten also recalls a visit to Invaders activist Charles Cabbage in Memphis and a call from Withers during his interview to Cabbage. This was before the last appeal trail afforded to James Earl Ray before Judge Joe Brown and Withers was adamant again that Ray should never be afforded any new trials, an opinion that confused Barsten. Now we both know why Withers so angrily opposed the truth being revealed. This recent release to the Commercial Appeal of unredacted records and agent identify numbers that could finally be matched to Withers and then to earlier documents and reports from 30 years ago underlines the need to introduce the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Records Act to effect the release of all the files held by Congress and the Executive Branch agencies, as well as state, local, court and international classified files on the life and death of Dr. King. Our history belongs to us not to those with something to hide so many decades later. COPA is working with the offices of Senator Kerry, Rep. John Lewis and the appropriate House and Senate subcommittees and committees that would hold hearings on and pass such legislation to the floor, years after it was drafted in the 109th Congress by Rep. Cynthia McKinney. The King family, the civil rights leaders still with us, the national African American community and anyone who cherishes the truth and the real hidden history of this country in regard to Dr. King should welcome such a release of files in full. It will unquestionably embarrass and expose the informants who were betraying him far more than it could damage the reputation of Dr. King and reveal his role as a victim and target of a corrupted military-industrial-intelligence complex and a national security state that was treating American citizens as the enemy instead of protecting the Constitution and upholding legal and civil rights. John Judge

Prominent Civil Rights-Era Photographer Was FBI Informant
Associated Press

And newly disclosed records show that one of the most prominent photographers of the civil rights era, Ernest Withers, was also a paid informant for the FBI. According to the

Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Withers worked closely with the FBI to monitor civil rights activists during the 1960s. Withers is said to have provided photographs, background information and scheduling details to two agents in FBI’s Memphis spying office. Withers photographed Dr. Martin Luther King at several marches and was the only photographer to cover the entire trial of those accused in the murder of the black teenager Emmett Till.

In January 2007, months before his death, Amy Goodman interviewed Ernest Withers at his studio in Memphis, Tennessee. He talked about one of his most famous pictures: a mass of striking sanitation workers holding signs reading “I am a man” at what would turn out to be the last march led by Dr. King.

Ernest Withers: “The last march of his, of Martin King, they were lined up there at [inaudible] and Hernando outside of Cleveland Temple Church, and they were there with all those ’I’m a Man’ signs. And I thought it was dramatic and historic in what it was, but I didn’t know it was ending up to be as popular. But it was the last march of Martin King.” Withers’s alleged involvement was revealed because the FBI forgot to redact his name in declassified records discussing his collaboration.

Photographer Ernest Withers doubled as FBI informant to spy on civil rights movement
Memphis Commercial Appeal
By Marc Perrusquia
Published Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chronicler and informant: Ernest C. Withers is shown in 1968 in front of his Beale Street studio. That same year, the respected chronicler of the civil rights era passed photographs and information to a now-defunct wing of the FBI that was spying on Americans. (©
Ernest C. Withers Trust, courtesy Decaneas Archive, Boston, Mass.)

At the top of the stairs he saw the blood, a large pool of it, splashed across the balcony like a grisly, abstract painting. Instinctively, Ernest Withers raised his camera. This wasn’t just a murder. This was history.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood here a few hours earlier chatting with aides when a sniper squeezed off a shot from a hunting rifle. Now, as night set over Memphis, Withers was on the story. Slipping past a police barricade, the enterprising Beale Street newsman made his way to room 306 at the Lorraine Motel — King’s room — and walked in. Ralph Abernathy and the others hardly blinked. After all, this was Ernest C. Withers. He’d marched with King, and sat in on some of the movement’s sensitive strategy meetings.

A veteran freelancer for America’s black press, Withers was known as “the original civil rights photographer,” an insider who’d covered it all, from the Emmett Till murder that jump-started the movement in 1955 to the Little Rock school crisis, the integration of Ole Miss and, now, the 1968 sanitation strike that brought King to Memphis and his death.

As other journalists languished in the Lorraine courtyard, Withers’ camera captured the scene:

Bernard Lee, tie undone, looking weary yet fiery. Andrew Young raising his palm to keep order. Ben Hooks and Harold Middlebrook gazing pensively as King’s briefcase sits nearby, opened, as if awaiting his return.

The grief-stricken aides photographed by Withers on April 4, 1968, had no clue, but the man they invited in that night was an FBI informant — evidence of how far the agency went to spy on private citizens in Memphis during one of the nation’s most volatile periods.

Withers shadowed King the day before his murder, snapping photos and telling agents about a meeting the civil rights leader had with suspected black militants. He later divulged details gleaned at King’s funeral in Atlanta, reporting that two Southern Christian Leadership Conference staffers blamed for an earlier Beale Street riot planned to return to Memphis “to resume … support of sanitation strike” — to stir up more trouble, as the FBI saw it.

The April 10, 1968, report, which identifies Withers only by his confidential informant number — ME 338-R — is among numerous reports reviewed by The Commercial Appeal that reveal a covert, previously unknown side of the beloved photographer who died in 2007 at age 85.

Those reports portray Withers as a prolific informant who, from at least 1968 until 1970, passed on tips and photographs detailing an insider’s view of politics, business and everyday life in Memphis’ black community.

As a foot soldier in J. Edgar Hoover’s domestic intelligence program, Withers helped the FBI gain a front-row seat to the civil rights and anti-war movements in Memphis.

Much of his undercover work helped the FBI break up the Invaders, a Black Panther-styled militant group that became popular in disaffected black Memphis in the late 1960s and was feared by city leaders.

Yet, Withers focused on mainstream Memphians as well. Personal and professional details of Church of God in Christ Bishop G.E. Patterson (then a pastor with a popular radio show), real estate agent O.W. Pickett, politician O. Z. Evers and others plumped FBI files as the bureau ran a secret war on militancy.

When community leader Jerry Fanion took cigarettes to jailed Invaders, agents took note.

Agents wrote reports when Catholic Father Charles Mahoney befriended an Invader, when car dealer John T. Fisher offered jobs to militants, when Rev. James Lawson planned a trip to Czechoslovakia and when a schoolteacher loaned his car to a suspected radical.

Each report has a common thread — Withers.

As a so-called racial informant — one who monitored race-related politics and “hate” organizations — Withers fed agents a steady flow of information.

Records indicate he snapped and handed over photos of St. Patrick Catholic Church priests who supported the city’s striking sanitation workers; he monitored political candidates, jotted down auto tag numbers for agents, and once turned over a picture of an employee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission said to be “one who will give aid and comfort to the black power groups.” In an interview this year, that worker said she came within a hearing of losing her job. “It’s something you would expect in the most ruthless, totalitarian regimes,” said D’Army

Bailey, a retired Memphis judge and former activist who came under FBI scrutiny in the ’60s. The spying touched a nerve in black America and created mistrust that many still struggle with 40 years later. “Once that trust is shattered that doesn’t go away,” Bailey said.

In addition to spying on citizens, Hoover’s FBI ran a covert operation, called COINTELPRO, a counterintelligence or “dirty tricks” program that attempted to disrupt radical movements. It did this with tactics such as leaking embarrassing details to the news media, targeting individuals with radical views for prosecution or trying to get them fired from jobs. First launched in the 1950s to fight communism, by 1967 it was aimed at a range of civil rights leaders and organizations deemed to be threats to national security. Congressional inquiries later exposed it for widespread abuse of personal and political freedoms, including a fierce campaign against King.

Yet much of the detail of the FBI’s domestic spying, including the inner workings of its informant network in Memphis, remain untold. Tracing Withers’ steps through thousands of pages of federal records reveals substantial new details about the extent of the FBI’s surveillance of private citizens.

In Withers, who ran a popular Beale Street photography studio frequented by the powerful and ordinary alike, the FBI found a super-informant, one who, according to an FBI report, proved “most conversant with all key activities in the Negro community.”

“He was the perfect source for them. He could go everywhere with a perfect, obvious professional purpose,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Garrow, who, along with retired Marquette University professor Athan Theoharis, reviewed the newspaper’s findings.

Many political informants from the civil rights era were unwitting, unpaid dupes. Yet Withers, who was assigned a racial informant number and produced a large volume of confidential reports, fits the profile of a closely supervised, paid informant, experts say.

“It would be shocking to me that he wasn’t paid,” said Theoharis, author of the books “Spying on Americans” and “The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition”.

“Once you get to this level if you’re a criminal informant versus a source of information they’re at a higher level. They’re controlled. They’re supervised,” said Theoharis, who discerns a valuable lesson in the revelation of Withers’ political spying. “It speaks to the problem of secrecy. The government is able to do things in the shadows that are really questionable. That goes to the heart of our (democratic) society.”

It’s uncertain what impact the revelation will have on Withers’ legacy. The photographer was lionized in the final years of his life. Four books of his photography were published, exhibits of his work made international tours and a building on Beale Street was named for him. Congressman Steve Cohen proposed a yet-unfunded $396,000 earmark for a museum, set to open next month, to preserve Withers’ archives.

Yet, even 40 years after the fact, the FBI still aggressively guards the secret of Withers’ activities. The one record that would pinpoint the breadth and detail of his undercover work — his informant file — remains sealed. The Justice Department has twice rejected the newspaper’s Freedom of Information requests to copy that file, and won’t even acknowledge the file exists.

Responding to the newspaper’s requests, the government instead released 369 pages related to a 1970s public corruption probe that targeted Withers — by then a state employee who was taking payoffs — carefully redacting references to informants — with one notable exception.

Censors overlooked a single reference to Withers’ informant number. That number, in turn, unlocked the secret of the photographer’s 1960s political spying when the newspaper located repeated references to the number in other FBI reports released under FOIA 30 years ago. Those reports — more than 7,000 pages comprising the FBI’s files on the 1968 sanitation strike and a 1968-70 probe of the Invaders — at times pinpoint specific actions by Withers and in other instances show he was one of several informants contributing details. Witness accounts and Withers’ own photos provided further corroborating details.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this in my life,” said daughter Rosalind Withers, trustee of her father’s photo collection, who said she wants to see documentation before commenting at length.

“My father’s not here to defend himself. That is a very, very, strong, strong accusation. ”

A son, Rome Withers, who runs his own Memphis photography business, said he, too, was unaware of his father’s secret FBI work, but doesn’t believe it diminishes his courageous work documenting the civil rights movement.

“He had been harassed, beaten, shot at. He was a victim” who often faced hostile mobs and violent police forces. “At that time, when you are the only black on the scene, you’re in an intimidating state.”

Andrew Young, now 78, said he isn’t bothered that Withers secretly worked as an informant while snapping civil rights history.

“I always liked him because he was a good photographer. And he was always (around),” he said. Young viewed Withers as an important publicity tool because his work often appeared in Jet magazine and other high-profile publications. The movement was transparent and didn’t have anything to hide anyway, he said. “I don’t think Dr. King would have minded him making a little money on the side.”

* * *

There was a time in 1968 and 1969 when Lance “Sweet Willie Wine” Watson was considered the most dangerous man in Memphis. As “prime minister” of the Invaders, a self-styled militant organization whose rhetoric included overthrowing the government, Watson frightened black and white Memphians alike. The FBI assembled a huge file on him.

Today, Watson, who goes by the name Suhkara Yahweh, is more conciliatory. He runs a community development organization in his impoverished South Memphis neighborhood and ministers to youths and the needy.

Still, he decorates his living room with mementos: A bumper sticker reading “Damn the Army, Join the Invaders”; a glass case containing a military-styled jacket with “Invaders” emblazoned on the back; and a portrait of Ernest Withers displayed prominently over his fireplace.

“That’s my daddy,” Yahweh, 71, said one afternoon last winter, relating how Withers often gave him money and advice. “If he was (an informant) I don’t know anything about it … He would call me his son. Right now, I’m still part of the family. I talked to Rome (son Andrew Jerome Withers) just the other day. I talked to (Ernest) on his death bed.”

It’s a testament to the FBI’s effectiveness that the dreaded “Willie Wine” had no clue that Withers was constantly informing on him. Wine was in Atlanta possibly to “con” money out of the SCLC, reports indicate the informant told agents. He reported Wine’s girlfriend was pregnant; that Wine was a thief. That Wine and his cohorts had cat-called voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer at a gathering at old Club Paradise.

As informant ME 338-R, Withers had plenty to tell the FBI in November 1968 when Willie Wine and others seized the administration building at LeMoyne-Owen College.

What started as a dispute over student grievances escalated into rebellion when student leaders called in the Invaders and the local chapter of the radical anti-war group, Students for a Democratic Society. Withers, who shot pictures of the crisis for Jet and was seen by newsmen going into Brown Lee Hall the night of the takeover, told FBI agents that Wine planned and directed the operation.

ME 338-R said the building was held “in a state of siege” with school president Hollis Price inside, according to a Nov. 27, 1968, FBI report. Although local news accounts made no mention of weapons, the informant said occupants “definitely had a single-barrel 12-gauge shotgun, a rifle with a telescopic sight, a bayonet, at least one Derringer, and one pistol” — details confirmed by another FBI source that night and Willie Wine 42 years later.

“I carried a .25-caliber pistol,” the ex-militant recalled. The only time he used his gun that night was when another Invader rifled through an administrator’s cabinet. “I pulled out my pistol. I said we’re not here for that purpose,” he said. No charges were filed after officials at the private school chose not to prosecute.

Over time, however, the FBI would break the Invaders. Utilizing tips from Withers and other informants plus three undercover Memphis police officers who had infiltrated the group, authorities prosecuted as many as 34 Invaders on charges ranging from petty street crime to arson and the sniper wounding of a police officer.

Although one undercover cop was famously exposed, the Invaders seemed to have little clue about Withers, who often visited the group’s headquarters on Vance and shot publicity photos for them. “Ernest, he was a dear friend,” said Charles Cabbage, who founded the Invaders in 1967.

Like Wine, Cabbage kept a memento on the wall, a picture Withers took in 1968 of Cabbage as a radical. “Anytime he’d see us, he’d start snapping,” Cabbage recalled. Cabbage, interviewed last winter, four months before his death in June at age 66, said he’d come to wonder what Withers was really doing. “C’mon man. We weren’t that interesting. Why would he take our pictures constantly?”

As the FBI cast its net, it encountered a range of people whose beliefs and personal details landed in the bureau’s spy files despite little more than a tangential connection to the Invaders.

An Aug. 7, 1969, report shows the FBI collected 14 photographs of Father Charles Mahoney of St. Patrick Catholic Church. Notations on the report, along with other corroborating details, indicate Withers shot the photos and handed them over to agents.

The report quotes the informant as saying Mahoney “is a close friend” of Invaders defense minister Melvin Smith and notes that Mahoney and two other priests allowed the Invaders to use church facilities.

“The FBI was off base on the civil rights thing,” one of those priests, Charles Martin, said in a recent interview. An urban outreach ministry brought St. Patrick in regular contact with the Invaders. And when the priests there openly supported the sanitation strike, there was a backlash, Martin said.

“We were for the workers, the sanitation workers. And a lot of people in the town didn’t like us for that.”

* * *

The Rev. James M. Lawson came into the FBI’s focus in early 1968 during the height of the sanitation strike. It was Lawson, then pastor at Centenary Methodist, who invited Dr.

King to Memphis, where he spoke in support of 1,100 sanitation workers who had walked off the job to protest low pay and horrid working conditions that led to the deaths of two men.

“If one black person is down, we are all down!” King told 15,000 cheering people at Mason Temple the night of March 18, 1968.

Near the speaker’s podium, the ubiquitous Withers snapped photos. Images he shot that night would stand as timeless icons of the strike alongside those he took of marching sanitation workers carrying “I Am A Man” placards and National Guard troops policing

Downtown streets.

But the stout photographer with a chatty personality and quick smile had another, nonpublic, appointment that day, a secret meeting in which the topic was his friend, Rev. Lawson. Earlier that afternoon, Withers met with FBI agents Howell Lowe and William H.

Lawrence, who ran the bureau’s Memphis domestic surveillance program. A report summarizing the meeting indicates informant ME 338-R handed over a newsletter listing names and photographs of community leaders behind the strike — a virtual directory of strike-support organizers — and told agents who produced it.

“Informant pointed out that the paper is printed or laid out by Rev. Malcolm D. Blackburn … pastor of Clayborn AME Temple … The main editorial work therein is done by Rev. James M. Lawson Jr.,” the report said.

Withers had a lot to say about Lawson, a veteran civil rights leader and friend who marched during the strike alongside Withers’ wife, Dorothy, and his daughter, Rosalind. He portrayed Lawson as the type of left-leaning radical the government had come to fear — active in the anti-war movement, involved with the feared Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and someone who was planning a trip to the East Bloc nation of Czechoslovakia.

“I’m not surprised,” Lawson, now 81, said this month when told of Withers’ informant work. Lawson said “the police and FBI were very clever about entrapping” blacks and making them informants.

“Any activity in the black community, Ernie was going to be around,” Lawson said. “It was probably done innocently: ‘You just tell us what’s going on and what you see and you get paid for it.’ ” Lawson’s was one of many biographies the informant would flesh out for agents.

Reports linked to Withers show he was a font of information for the FBI during the strike, handing over documents, providing details from strategy meetings, connecting dots between pastors and suspected militants.

The informant told agents on March 6 that young militants — Cabbage among them — passed out literature at a rally at Clayborn Temple with instructions for making Molotov cocktail firebombs. Mainstream leaders “did nothing” to stop them, the report said.

On April 3, the day before King’s murder, the informant passed on details about a high-level strategy session at the Lorraine between Cabbage and King, who begrudgingly decided to give the young militants a role in the strike.

Well into the summer, after the strike was settled, ME 338-R continued to report on its impact. That July 26, the informant gave FBI agents a financial report showing the strike-leadership group, Community on the Move for Equality, had spent $2,600 of $347,000 raised for striking workers to pay attorney’s fees and expenses for members of the militant Black Organizing Project, an umbrella group encompassing the Invaders.

As Hoover cranked up his campaign against “black nationalist hate groups,” anyone giving aid — money, jobs, political support — could fall into the crosshairs of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s dirty tricks campaign.

The FBI had been spying on the civil rights movement for years, but in an August 1967 memo, backed by a more thorough order the following March, the bureau directed

Memphis and other field offices to begin efforts to “to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” a range of civil rights leaders and organizations, from the separatist Nation of Islam to King’s moderate SCLC. In May 1968 a similar initiative was launched against the so-called “New Left,” targeting Vietnam War protesters and socialists, among others.

A U.S. Senate investigation in 1975 found widespread abuse in the program, which lacked statutory or executive approval. COINTELPRO techniques ranged from contacting an employer to get a target fired to mailing an anonymous letter to a spouse alleging infidelity, leaking humiliating information to the press, encouraging street warfare between violent groups and alerting state and local authorities to a target’s criminal law violations.

Available records provide few details on specific COINTELPRO actions taken in Memphis. Yet, records indicate Withers fed agents plenty of raw material.

A schoolteacher loaned militant Cabbage his car, the informant said. Mary L. Campbell, a supposed black-power sympathizer, was running for the county Democratic Party’s executive committee. Real estate agent O.W. Pickett, who’d brought food to the Invaders during the LeMoyne takeover, was thinking of running for Congress. Pastor Malcolm Blackburn and activist Baxton Bryant were trying to find jobs for the Invaders.

A May 13, 1968, report indicates Withers gave the FBI two photos of Rosetta Miller, a field worker for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, telling an agent she is “one who will give aid and comfort to the black power groups.” Following up that fall, an agent typed a two-sentence report memorializing a rumor that Miller had recently married, noting the marriage broke up after just a week. The report was copied to Withers’ informant file.

Interviewed this spring, Miller, who now lives in Nashville, said her job with the commission came into jeopardy in 1968 when supervisors questioned her about ties to radicals. “I was never part of that crap,” she said.

Marquette’s Theoharis, who worked with the Senate committee that exposed many of the FBI’s abuses, said employment sabotage was a particularly insidious COINTELPRO tactic. “Once, (the FBI) got someone dismissed as a Girl Scout leader. It was crazy,” he said.

Records reviewed by the newspaper offered few details of the secretive COINTELPRO initiative. Yet, frustrated by continuing support for the Invaders, the FBI clearly was considering such actions in May 1969 against the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“All sources have been alerted to attempt to pinpoint any actual proof that employees of the AME Church are giving financial support to the Invaders,” said a May 8, 1969, report to headquarters in Washington.

“…If such proof is forthcoming separate communication will be written to the Bureau concerning any possible counterintelligence action which might be instituted with certain AME high church officials in this regard.”

* * *

Available files don’t indicate how or when Withers first teamed with the FBI. But it would have been hard for the bureau to have overlooked him.

Withers served as a city police officer, hired in 1948 along with eight other African Americans who composed MPD’s first black recruit class. He didn’t last long. He was fired in 1951 for taking kickbacks from a bootlegger.

By the early 1950s, Withers was making a name for himself on Beale Street, where he had operated since the mid-40s, chronicling the teeming night life and the everyday life of black Memphis. By night, he hung with bluesmen like B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Junior Parker and Rufus Thomas and, by day, he shot family portraits, weddings, church socials, political gatherings and sporting events, assembling one of the great Negro League baseball portfolios.

“He knew everybody,” recalled Coby Smith, a political activist who founded the Invaders with Cabbage and who would come to form his own suspicions.

Across the street from Withers’ studio, attorney H.T. Lockard ran a law office. When Lockard became president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP in 1955, a visitor started coming by — Bill Lawrence of the FBI.

In an interview for this story, Lockard, now a 90-year-old retired judge, spoke for the first time about his three-year association with Lawrence, a bespectacled G-man who came to

Memphis in 1945 and ran the bureau’s local domestic intelligence operations in the 1950s and ’60s. In the ’50s, as the Red scare was at its peak, the FBI kept close watch on the NAACP and other civil rights organizations believed susceptible to communist infiltration.

“Because of the nature of the work I was doing, there was a suspicious feeling that I was either a communist or a communist sympathizer,” Lockard said.

Like so many others recruited by the FBI, Lockard said agent Lawrence showed up uninvited and made regular unannounced visits to his law office with no evident purpose. “One stock question was how was I getting along,” he said.

Over a period, the agent asked if a certain suspected communist had joined the local NAACP. Eventually, the man named by Lawrence applied for membership. Lockard said he declined to enroll him.It’s unclear if the FBI considered Lockard an informant. He said he was never paid. The FBI visits stopped in 1957, when Lockard left the NAACP helm, yet he said he developed “an amiable camaraderie” with Lawrence that included exchanging Christmas cards for years after the agent retired in 1970. Lawrence died in 1990. Around the time Lawrence began calling on Lockard, Withers began his long and remarkable career chronicling the civil rights movement.

In 1955, Withers covered the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was beaten, shot and tossed in a river in Money, Miss., for whistling at a white woman.

The injustice of the crime — the defendants, both white, were acquitted by an all-white jury yet later confessed in a paid magazine interview — built the foundation of Withers’ fame. Defying a judge’s order that banned picture-taking during the trial, Withers captured the moment Till’s great-uncle Mose Wright stood up at the witness stand and pointed an accusing finger at the killers. The Till case helped galvanize the movement, and Withers soon had a wide array of assignments covering civil rights.

As a freelancer for the Sengstacke family, publishers of the Chicago Defender and the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Withers covered many of the seminal events of the era. He was beaten by police covering Medgar Evers’ 1963 funeral and harassed in small-town Mississippi following the 1964 murders of three Freedom Summer activists in

Neshoba County. He snapped pictures of King and Abernathy riding the first integrated bus in Montgomery in 1956 and photographed King in 1966 casually reclining in his room at the Lorraine where he would die two years later.

Trained in photography in the Army during World War II and equipped with a bulky twin reflex camera, Withers lacked technical skill yet managed to take profoundly powerful images, largely through his resourcefulness and unusual access.

Locally, Withers chronicled all the significant events, the Tent City voter registration drive in Fayette County, the desegregation of Memphis City Schools and the Downtown sit-ins of 1960.

It was around then that the FBI’s Lawrence began showing up at the NAACP offices, recalls Maxine Smith, the organization’s longtime executive director in Memphis.”We thought it was for our protection. We had nothing to hide,” Smith said. “Somewhere along the line we began to suspect” differently, she said.

What Smith and others didn’t know was that by 1963 the FBI had begun wiretapping King, initially because of the civil rights leader’s ties to adviser Stanley Levison, a suspected communist. The FBI tapped King’s phones, bugged his hotel rooms and, in one infamous episode, mailed surreptitious audio recordings including a taped sexual liaison to his Atlanta home along with a letter suggesting he commit suicide.

By 1967, as more-militant wings spun out of the movement, the FBI launched a “ghetto informant program” recruiting “listening posts” within the black community, many of them white shopkeepers and businessmen. Increasingly, headquarters pushed agents like Lawrence to develop information from black leaders.

“He used to come out here a whole lot, right here,” Smith said in the living room of her South Parkway home. Smith told how Lawrence, a music lover, fostered a relationship through her late husband Vasco Smith’s expansive jazz collection. When a 1981 book revealed the couple’s relationship to the FBI, the Smiths sued — and lost. Still passionate about the issue, Smith argues she and her husband were never paid.

“Nobody has ever offered Vasco or me one penny. No one dare say that,” she said. Benjamin Hooks, the former national NAACP director, agreed with her assessment.

“I don’t know if anyone is trying to say they were snitches. If that’s what they’re saying that is a lie,” Hooks said in January, 11 weeks before he died. “You couldn’t stop the FBI from coming and talking to you. If you did, they’d make it up anyway. They were talking to Maxine and Vasco and Hooks all the time.”

When details of the FBI’s domestic spy program later leaked in congressional hearings, officials said there were just five paid racial informants working in Memphis in 1968.

Officials have never disclosed the identities of those informants; it’s unknown if Withers was included in that group.

“I’d like to know who those devils are,” Smith said.

* * *

Perhaps the last man with firsthand knowledge of Withers’ covert life, retired FBI agent Howell Lowe, opted to take his secrets to the grave.

“I won’t have my name connected with this,” Lowe told a reporter last year, rejecting an interview for this story. He died Jan. 1 at age 83. Although Withers had died two years earlier, Lowe said he feared that discussing the photographer’s informant work might harm his survivors.

“Some of the things we did were sleazy. We were fighting what we thought was the possibility of uprising in this country,” Lowe said.

Lost, too, to history are Withers’ motives. A federal source who first told a reporter about the photographer’s secret life several years ago said Withers, who raised eight children and struggled financially, had a primary motive — money.

That same source said Withers’ secret informant status came dangerously close to exposure in 1978 when Congress re-examined the FBI’s investigation of King’s assassination. At the time, revelations about COINTELPRO and the FBI’s treatment of

King caused many Americans to wonder if Hoover’s hatred of the civil rights leader somehow morphed into an assassination plot. The U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations eventually found the FBI had nothing to do with the murder.

Yet, with the FBI’s Memphis office on trial, Lowe’s partner, agent Lawrence, testified before the committee on Nov. 21, 1978, speaking of a valued informant who “provided information on racial matters generally and the Invaders in particular.” The informant, paid up to $200 a month, helped track King in the days before his murder.

Lawrence said he frequently gave his informant instructions ahead of time, giving him names and topics to look out for and conferring almost daily with him during the sanitation strike.

“I would call him if I had occasion to alert him to something,” Lawrence testified.

“Otherwise, I would hope that he would call me, which he frequently did. Then periodically we would meet in person under what we hoped were safe conditions to personally exchange information, go over descriptions, any photographs, things of that nature.”

Was Lawrence discussing Withers? The congressional record is unclear. Nonetheless, as an FBI informant with a symbol number and a large volume of assignments, Withers would have been handled in a similar fashion, experts said.

“These are individuals who are going to be directed and paid… They saw you as a valuable source and a continuing source,” said Theoharis, the retired Marquette professor.

Researchers who study the government informant system say patriotism, desire to do police work, thrill-seeking and money often are motivating factors. Withers had served in the Army in World War II. In addition to serving briefly as a police officer, he ran successfully for Shelby County constable in 1974 and later was appointed a gun-carrying agent of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverages Commission.

Withers’ legal troubles also can’t be discounted as a possible motive. Withers would claim late in life he was set up in the 1951 kickback incident while working for MPD, yet his police personnel file contains transcripts that reveal admissions by Withers and detailed witness accounts supporting the allegations. He was fired but never charged criminally.

Years later, in 1979, he faced similar charges, this time in federal criminal court.

Then-ABC agent Withers pleaded guilty to extorting kickbacks from a nightclub owner.

Regardless of his motives, the revelation of Withers’ FBI work doesn’t harm his memory for some who knew him.

“It does not alter who he was a person,” said ex-Invader Coby Smith. “He did so many more things. That wasn’t a fulltime thing to be an informant for them.”

Rev. Lawson agreed. “It won’t tarnish his memory for his family and friends.”

Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas Opens Reading Room

July 31, 2010 - Leave a Response

Imagine if someone went there and found new evidence of a conspiracy – John Judge

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza announced its Reading Room, located on the first floor of the former Texas School Book Depository at 411 Elm Street, open to the public on June 29, 2010 at noon. The Reading Room represents the latest initiative by the nonprofit museum, which draws more than 325,000 visitors annually.

Available by appointment only from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, the Reading Room offers one of the world’s largest repositories of original photographs, film and video footage, documents and artifacts related to the assassination of President Kennedy. Staffed by a librarian/archivist, the Reading Room also showcases the museum’s efforts to acquire, preserve and strategically digitize and reformat its collections as part of the planning for 2013, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. The project, designed by Dallas- based Corgan Associates, includes dedicated spaces for conducting oral history and media interviews and teacher workshops.

Sixth Floor Museum Store + Café hours are Monday–Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.jfk.org.

Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas, TX
Reading Room
http://www.jfk.org/go/reading-room

Now open to the public, the Reading Room overlooks Dealey Plaza and provides a reflective environment for people of all ages seeking information and understanding about the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. The Reading Room provides access to more than 4,000 books, magazines, newspapers and videos and covers topics ranging from Kennedy’s life and legacy to conspiracy theories to 1960s pop culture.

To find out what is available in our library collection, check out our online catalog at http://catalog.jfk.org/

Hours and Contact:
Monday–Friday, 12 p.m.–5 p.m. (by advance appointment only)
Closed Saturday, Sunday and major holidays.
readingroom@jfk.org
214-747-6660 ext. 6646

Visiting Guidelines
The library collection of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza includes more than 4,000 books, media and serials accessible to the public relevant to the life, death and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. The purpose of the Reading Room and its services is to support scholarly research and educational programs. When visiting the Reading Room, visitors are expected to abide by the policy and procedures established by the Museum. Visitors failing to follow these guidelines will be denied future access and use of the Reading Room and its materials. The Librarian/Archivist provides research assistance including information about the Reading Room and its holdings, instruction on locating and using materials, and identifying relevant sources
http://www.jfk.org/content/pdf/reading-room/visitingguidelines.pdf

Make an Appointment
To schedule an appointment, fill out our Reading Room Appointment Request Form. Please submit the form at least two weekdays before the date you wish to visit. Your request must be confirmed before visiting the Reading Room.
http://www.jfk.org/go/reading-room/appointment-request

COPA blog has moved

July 30, 2010 - Leave a Response

COPA has moved all of its blogging to the homepage http://www.politicalassassinations.com
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Dealey Plaza vendor sues city of Dallas after police sweep

July 13, 2010 - Leave a Response

Robert Groden is no clown, as the comment rudely implies. He is a serious and committed researcher for decades into the truth of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the mendacity of the official version and the media that still denies reality to support it, including the Sixth Floor Museum, funded to perpetuate the lies. Groden was hired as a photographic consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations and is the author of many critical and groundbreaking books on the evidence in the JFK case. He sells videos of the actual footage of the assassination as well as those works on the Grassy Knoll and has for decades now. He has not failed to fill out any paperwork, none is needed and no permit has ever been offered. He was not ticketed 80 times for harassing anyone. It has been a long campaign of harassment and each time the court threw out the charge and voided the ticket. It is a matter of free speech, free thought and the protection of dissent in the face of the propaganda, lies, cover-up and even witness murders that have marred the lack of investigation into the Kennedy assassination from the start. I come to Dealey Plaza each year on November 22 to hold a moment of silence begun in the 60s by journalist and newspaper editor Penn Jones, Jr. who also knew and respected Bob Groen. I represent the national network of serious assassination researchers based in Washington, DC, responsible for freeing 6.5 million pages of classified records on the JFK case. I do not come to honor JFK’s life and record, which were impressive, but to talk about how those things got him killed, why and by what forces that are still in power in this country. I come, as Groden does, to speak truth to power in the dimming light of this democracy before darkness overtakes us all. Those who harass Groden for telling the truth are those who wish to extinguish one of the few remaining lights in this age of blind consensus. Shame on the Dallas police, and shame on the Dallas press for not searching the truth they were honor bound to pursue in the name of law and justice. Shame on a country where a man must spend his life at the scene of a murder, like the mothers of the disappeared in the foreign countries ruled by dictators we put into power, holding up the mirror to the lies incorporated at the Museum nearby. Oswald did not kill Kennedy, he did not shoot anyone that day. The forces that placed him as the patsy go to the top of the government and the Pentagon that removed him for their own venal agendas which to this day ruin our economy, our lives, our freedom and our future. Forgive my grief, as Tennyson and Penn Jones said. Forgive my refusal to bend down to a lie. Forgive the boldness of Robert Groden to spit in the eye of false history and demand the truth, much less to speak and spread it on the vile location where democracy died long ago.

Dealey Plaza vendor sues city of Dallas after police sweep

06:38 AM CDT on Monday, July 12, 2010
By DAVID FLICK / The Dallas Morning News
dflick@dallasnews.com
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/071210dnmetjfksuit.1d941e9.html

Alone among the newspaper vendors and self-appointed guides in Dealey Plaza who for years regaled tourists with conspiracy theories, Robert Groden suddenly has the grassy knoll to himself.

And he has his suspicions about the forces at work.

“A security guard from the Sixth Floor Museum told me they were behind it,” Groden said of the recent police crackdown. In addition, “Everybody knows they [city officials] want us out of here because of the Super Bowl.”

After his arrest June 13 for selling merchandise without authorization in a city park, Groden sued the city of Dallas in federal court, charging that he is being denied his constitutional right to freedom of speech. A hearing is set for Aug. 25.

Until then, the city has agreed to allow him to continue to sell his newspapers and DVDs from a folding table in an obscure corner of the plaza. His competitors, who sometimes outnumbered the tourists, were gone last week. Security patrols, sponsored by the private group Downtown Dallas, had a higher-than-usual presence.

Deputy Chief Vince Goldbeck said the crackdown was in response to complaints that visitors to Dealey Plaza – where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 – were sometimes harassed and intimidated by the vendors.

He acknowledged that some of the complaints have come from officials of the Sixth Floor Museum and Downtown Dallas, but said most were from individual visitors and organized tours.

“We were responding to quality-of-life issues that have generated complaints for quite some time,” Goldbeck said. “It’s been going on for several months, but lately it’s become more intense.”

An official at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza declined to comment on the museum’s role on the crackdown, noting that it was in litigation.

But she took issue with Groden’s contention that officials there were motivated by fear that competition from the vendors would take tourist money away from the Sixth Floor’s new museum store and cafe.

“I’m surprised he would say that,” said Nicola Longford, museum executive director. “We run our own business, and we only care what the Sixth Floor is doing.”

As for the charge that the sweep was a way to clean up a major tourist site before next year’s Super Bowl in North Texas, Chris Bowers, a city attorney, was blunt.

“This has nothing to do with the Super Bowl,” he said.

The vendors’ statesman

Many of the Dealey Plaza vendors frequent the site for only days or weeks before moving on. Some are homeless people trying to gain a few dollars. In that subculture, Groden has something like statesman status.

Groden, 64, moved to Dallas from New York in 1995. He has been a familiar figure in Dealey Plaza ever since.

Groden maintains the taped “X” along the extension of Elm Street, which marks, more or less, where Kennedy was shot.

Working in a film processing company in New York, Groden copied Abraham Zapruder’s famed home movie of the JFK assassination and aired it on Geraldo Rivera’s late-night television show in 1975. Groden later served as a consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and to Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie JFK, in which he also played a doctor at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

He was a paid witness for the defense in the O.J. Simpson civil trial, testifying that a photo showing Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes was faked. His expertise and testimony were battered in cross-examination by a plaintiff’s attorney, who demonstrated that Simpson appeared in the shoes in more than a score of other photos.

Some good, some bad

For his part, Groden acknowledges that there have been problems on the plaza.

“Some of the people are a bit pushy, some have gotten in the face of visitors,” he said. “No one is more against them than I am.”

He contends that the city has ticketed him 80 times for selling his newspapers over the years. But he said they agreed to tolerate his presence in the plaza after he threatened an earlier suit seven years ago. Bowers denied any such agreement existed.

Beyond official circles, visitors to Dealey Plaza interviewed one day last week expressed disagreement about the vendors.

“I thought it was interesting,” said Matt Tanner of Kansas City, Mo., of Groden’s newspaper JFK: The Case for Conspiracy.

“I didn’t like seeing the autopsy photos. But it was different from what you’d see up there [motioning toward the Sixth Floor museum]. It was another opinion.”

On the other hand, John Sekul of Biloxi, Miss., said he found the presence of newspaper vendors offensive.

“This is a national monument, they shouldn’t have vendors here,” he said.

“When I walked through the plaza and remembered that day, I had tears in my eyes. This is sacred ground.”

Comments:
CitySlicker
5:22 PM on July 12, 2010

Is the city interfering with Groden’s right to express himself, or just trying to protect tourists from another form of aggressive panhandling? Has he REALLY been ticketed 80 times? Why is he not in jail? The city is too soft with this clown.

Cuban ex-intelligence chief recalls JFK assassination

July 13, 2010 - One Response

This article supports the contention that Operation Northwoods, a plot by the Joint Chiefs to use a staged traumatic incident that could be plausibly linked to Fidel Castro and used to get public support for a US military invasion and toppling of the Cuban leadership, which had been rejected by President Kennedy at the time, was altered by the Joint Chiefs to make the assassination on November 22, 1963 into the triggering incident. This explains the doubling of Lee Harvey Oswald by a CIA impostor in Mexico City, trying to get into Cuba weeks before the JFK assassination, to make a plausible link to Castro for the framed patsy accused of the murder. Only Oswald’s survival of his arrest in the Texas Theater made him into a talking head that could compromise the whole operation, instead of a convenient Dead Red that could be used to justify attacking Cuba. The plan was called off at the last moment, despite Army transport planes loaded with troops for the invasion that day, as well as Navy Seals waiting off shore for the green light to kill Castro. Jack Ruby, with ties to Naval Intelligence, the Mafia and CIA operations in Cuba was sent in to silence Oswald before a trail could be held or he could say more. Researcher Mae Brussell wrote “The Last Worlds of Lee Harvey Oswald” in People’s Almanac #2, compiling all the public statement and reported statements of Oswald during his brief captivity. These alone tell us more about the assassination and his role as a patsy, a term he used himself, than do many of the official pronouncements by the media and the government over the last four decades. Castro’s similar analysis of the events and his framing appears in a transcript of his speech, given three days after Kennedy’s death, in the book History Will Not Absolve Us by Martin Schotz.

Cuban ex-intelligence chief recalls JFK assassination

By Martin Roberts
Reuters
Monday, July 12, 2010; 7:32 AM

GIJON, Spain (Reuters) – Like many, Fabian Escalante remembers what he was doing when he heard U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been shot: he was trying to stop the Central Intelligence Agency from toppling the Cuban government with the help of anti-Castro exiles.

Years later, when he had risen to head Cuba’s Department of State Security, he was well placed to consider whether those same exiles may have had a hand in the November 22, 1963 slaying of the dashing young president in Dallas.

Escalante does not claim to know who killed JFK, but says that Cuban exiles recruited by the CIA had planned to kill Kennedy twice in November 1963, because they felt the U.S. president had done too little to topple the government on the Caribbean island.

“They had the capability, the means and the intent,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Semana Negra crime writing festival in Gijon, northern Spain.

“How was this meant to turn out? To assassinate Kennedy, launch a furious campaign against Cuba, blaming it for the assassination, which they did, then kill Fidel Castro a few days later, on December 12, and invade Cuba.”

Escalante worked with members of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations investigating the JFK killing when they travelled to Cuba in 1978 to collect data on the activities of Cuban exiles.

In his retirement, he has published many of his findings in book form, along with research he has conducted since he set up the Centre for Security Studies in 1993.

LIFE INSURANCE

Escalante says one anti-Castro exile and former CIA operative who may hold clues to the JFK assassination is Luis Posada Carriles, who lives in Miami and is wanted in Cuba on charges of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines jet which killed 73 people.

Posada Carriles is also accused of involvement in a 1997 wave of hotel bombings, which were aimed at destabilizing Cuba and scaring away tourists, but Escalante doubts the U.S. government will deport him to Cuba to face trial.

“He has a life insurance policy, which is what he knows about the Kennedy plot,” Escalante said.

“He and (fellow exile) Orlando Bosch were in the thick of the Kennedy plot. Remember, both he and Posada were part of this terrorist mechanism set up in New Orleans, which is where the plot was hatched to assassinate Kennedy.”

POISON MILK SHAKE

Now 69, Escalante was just 18 when a revolution led by Fidel Castro took power in 1959. In the next few years, he and other young novices built up a counter-intelligence service from scratch.

He was invited to participate in the Spanish crime-writing festival because organizers say fiction falls short of a world Escalante has uncovered, in which the CIA plotted to make Castro’s beard fall off or poison Cubans with infected coins.

Escalante belonged to the Q Section in 1961, which had 50 case officers to thwart the efforts of the so-called JMWAVE CIA base in Florida assigned to conduct sabotage operations in Cuba with a $100 million budget and 4,000 agents.

In his book “Executive Action,” Escalante lists 634 conspiracies to kill Castro between 1959 and 2000, including 168 plots which may have succeeded.

He says the closest the Cuban leader came to death was when a CIA agent working at Havana’s former Hilton hotel tried to poison a chocolate milk shake Castro ordered

However, a capsule containing botulin stuck to the side of the freezer compartment in the bar and broke when the agent tried to prise it loose.

Escalante says the Q Section often intercepted false documents sent by the CIA to their agents in Cuba, which were as good as genuine ones, so he used one for himself.

“Security measures for documents in those days were very lax. There was just ordinary paper, a photo, stamp and plastic cover. So that was how I began to drive, with a CIA license.”

(Reporting by Martin Roberts, editing by Paul Casciato)

Dallas police crack down on Dealey Plaza vendors

June 19, 2010 - One Response

Our good friend and longtime researcher Robert Groden, who has sold his excellent books and films in Dealey Plaza for decades, in opposition to the official story being perpetrated by the Sixth Floor Museum, was arrested in this most recent raid, following dozens of other wrongful arrests for the same “crime” that were consistently thrown out of court. This time, he was kept in jail for nine hours. Many things are sold inside Dealey Plaza, including misleading books at the Museum, food and parking spaces. Only the truth about the Kennedy assassination seems to be disallowed for sale or permanent exhibition – John Judge

Dallas police crack down on Dealey Plaza vendors who peddle maps, conspiracy theories
11:43 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Dallas News
By REBECCA LOPEZ / WFAA-TV

No visit to Dealey Plaza is complete without a run-in with vendors selling maps, newspapers and conspiracy theories.

That may soon change as Dallas police crack down on the street peddlers, who can be ticketed and arrested if they lack the proper permits.

“When a visitor is coming to … Dallas, and the first thing they are being cussed at or spit on or harassed, that’s not the image we want portrayed,” Deputy Police Chief Vince Golbeck said.

Michael Brownlow talks about conspiracy theories and gives tours at the downtown plaza alongside the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Even Brownlow acknowledges that sometimes the vendors get out of hand.

“They walk up and say, ‘Would you like a tour?’ and you say no and they continue on and continue on and they actually intimidate people, and some people are scared,” he said.

But Brownlow says not all vendors are like that. He says some, like him, simply want to spread the word about different theories on the assassination.

He said he believes that police are heavy-handed when dealing with vendors, and he watched a good friend arrested last weekend.

“I feel like his civil rights were violated and his constitutional rights,” he said.

Dallas police say the vendors can give papers away or sell them on public sidewalks, but once they enter Dealey Plaza, which is considered a park, they are committing a crime.

“It is giving another perspective of that important piece of history,” Golbeck said, “and that is fine if they are doing so on public property.”

Do you remember where you were? He does: With JFK

June 19, 2010 - Leave a Response

Researchers will immediately notice the factual errors in this article, most of them related to the Secret Service’s clear and fatal errors in the motorcade route and procedures on November 22. This apologetic piece will probably mark the tone of the documentary mentioned for airing in November. If Lawson’s final conclusion is true, why even have a Secret Service protection system? Is it merely to discourage the faint-hearted? Note his Army Intelligence background and his role afterwards with protection of Vice-Presidents, which must be the equivalent of being put out to pasture for failed Presidential protectors. Given the actual circumstances one wonders why he was retained. But that begs a more important question about the Secret Service, the FBI, the CIA and the DIA and other federal agencies assigned to our protection and investigations of crimes, and their actual performance and agenda over many decades now – John Judge

Do you remember where you were? He does: With JFK

By Bill Bartel
The Virginian-Pilot
News Virginia Beach
June 17, 2010
http://hamptonroads.com/2010/06/do-you-remember-where-you-were-he-does-jfk#rfq

(VIRGINIA BEACH) Winston Lawson remembers the shots as clearly as if it was yesterday.

“I heard bang… bang-bang,” he said, slapping his knee for emphasis.

Lawson was riding in the front seat of an unmarked Dallas police car traveling just in front of a dark blue Lincoln convertible carrying President John F. Kennedy, first lady

Jacqueline Kennedy and the governor of Texas and his wife. It was 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. An assassin’s bullets mortally wounded President Kennedy and severely injured Gov. John Connally.

It was a national tragedy so shocking that many Americans can remember exactly where they were when they heard of Kennedy’s death. For Lawson, it was more personal. He was the Secret Service agent who had planned security for the Dallas trip.

Lawson, now 81 and living in Virginia Beach, is going back to Dallas this week for a reunion with Secret Service colleagues.

An Army intelligence specialist, he joined the Secret Service in 1959, working in its Syracuse, N.Y., office until being transferred to Washington in March 1961, two months after Kennedy was sworn in as president.

As part of a 34-man White House detail that handled security, he often worked long hours, accompanying JFK on his many weekends at the family’s compound in Cape Cod and other trips.

By the fall of 1963, Lawson was experienced at planning presidential security, having organized trips both in the United States and abroad. He handled security for JFK’s 1963 trip to Germany where the president told citizens of West Berlin – then surrounded by Communist-controlled East Germany – that “all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ ”

On Nov. 4, Lawson was told that he would be responsible for the Dallas stopover during Kennedy’s trip to Texas. Kennedy wanted to boost his political standing in the state, home of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Dallas visit was to include a slow-moving 45-minute motorcade through suburbia and part of downtown, followed by a luncheon speech and a four-minute trip back to the airport.

Ten days before Kennedy arrived, Lawson and other agents were in Dallas arranging security and evaluating potential hazards.

Early on Nov. 22, the Dallas weather was drizzly, and as agents awaited the president’s plane, they considered placing a clear plastic cover, or bubble, over the limousine. A

Kennedy aide told the Secret Service to leave it off – the White House staff wanted as many people as possible to see the president without obstruction.

As the motorcade eased its way through Dallas, crowds lined the route. Lawson, with another agent and the Dallas police chief and sheriff, were a few car lengths ahead of the presidential limousine.

He kept looking back at the limo and the crowd, then glancing ahead to overpasses, railroads and other hazards, trading advice with the police chief as they went.

The job of scanning buildings fell to agents in a car behind the limo and to local law enforcement officers.

Agent Roy Kellerman, riding in the front seat of Kennedy’s car, later said he looked at the Texas School Book Depository Building but saw nothing suspicious. Lawson was commenting to his colleague that it was a long trip when he heard the three bangs. He knew immediately what they were.

“The president was hit. Go to the hospital,” a voice on his radio ordered.

They raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital just ahead of the limousine. Lawson retrieved a gurney, and after Connally was removed from the car, he helped other agents take out Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy had been cradling her husband on her lap.

The president’s skin was gray, and he didn’t move as they placed him on the gurney. Lawson saw a huge hole in the back of the president’s head. “He didn’t look like he was going to make it,” Lawson said.

As the president was wheeled into the emergency room, Lawson followed. The agent stood at the president’s head as emergency personnel tried to save him. But the damage was so severe, they didn’t work for long.

At 1 p.m., the president was declared dead.

As the world outside the ER exploded with the news and, within two hours, the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, Lawson stayed with Kennedy.

He and other agents transported the president’s body back to the airport and loaded the casket onto Air Force One for the return to Washington. On board was the new president, Lyndon Johnson, and Mrs. Kennedy.

Lawson returned home the next day to his family in Falls Church. The day after, he watched on live TV as Oswald was shot to death outside the Dallas jail by Jack Ruby.

And the day after that, he stood guard down a slope from Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, part of the detail that provided security for the burial.

In the weeks that followed, he wrote detailed memos and spent hours testifying before the Warren Commission. He also returned to work.

He continued to do presidential advance work, handling security arrangements for President Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and, in the Nixon administration, Vice President Spiro Agnew.

The personal support he received from other agents helped him deal with the aftermath of the assassination, he said. “Just their attitude and the way they talked to me.”

He grimaces when asked how much credence he gives conspiracy theories that the Kennedy assassination involved multiple shooters.

“None,” he said. “There’s no shots from in front, kitty corner or from the side or anything like that.”

He has rethought his work in Dallas many times.

“The biggest ‘what ifs’ were, ‘What if the rain hadn’t stopped and the bubble had been on the car?’ ” he said. “Because everybody thought it was bulletproof, maybe he wouldn’t have tried it.”

Although the bubble wasn’t bulletproof, it might have distorted the shooter’s view or the metal frame might have deflected a shot, he said.

After the assassination and investigation, significant changes were made to the Secret Service. The Warren Commission said the agency was understaffed and did not have adequate sources of information and assistance from other law enforcement agencies in reviewing threats against the president.

The number of agents has grown vastly. In 1963, the 34 agents were assigned to guard the president 24 hours a day, with several hundred others on staff. Today, there are thousands.

On Friday, Lawson will travel with his wife back to the Book Depository building – now a museum – where he and a handful of other agents will tell their stories. The event will be taped as part of a Discovery Channel show to air in November. At the same time, a book,

“The Kennedy Detail,” will be released that tells the story of the agents assigned to JFK.

It’s an important and strenuous trip for him. He has been living at Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital since February 2008 after suffering a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body.

Lawson said he’s made peace with what happened in Dallas. In the end, he ascribes to a feeling, shared by many agents and the Warren Commission, that there’s no way to completely protect someone.

“I thought about it, but I was pretty confident that I had done everything I could do,” he said.

Jeff Parris, who worked with Lawson in later years, said he is an iconic figure within the Secret Service. His actions in Dallas and afterward are studied at their training academy, Parris said.

“Even though it was a bad situation, he did the job the way it was supposed to be done.”

FBI files show Edward Kennedy’s life was constantly threatened

June 16, 2010 - 2 Responses

In this version from the Washington Post the documents or “files” become witnesses that speak against Sirhan and are said to be the source of the accusation he was plotting to kill Senator Kennedy. We have language for a reason, but journalism seems to have left it behind long ago, along with all the other accuracy required of news reporting. Note that the FBI was monitoring Ted Kennedy, as it had both his brothers, for alleged ties to international Communism, based on informant claims, not on any real evidence, unless meeting and talking to someone with a Communist perspective automatically makes you one. The FBI are once again trying to put a positive spin on their efforts and activities, which did much more to endanger the Kennedy brothers, Dr. King, Malcolm X and many other social change leaders than to protect them. John Judge

FBI files show Edward Kennedy’s life was constantly threatened

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010;

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy lived with constant threats on his life after the assassinations of his brothers and was monitored by the FBI for his possible ties to communist radicals in Latin America, according to a trove of FBI files on the late senator released Monday.

The more than 2,200 pages, disclosed in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by news organizations, cover the FBI’s relationship with the Massachusetts Democrat from 1961 to 1985. Kennedy died of cancer in August.

The bulk of the material covers FBI investigations of threats of violence and extortion against Kennedy and other public figures, including Kennedy’s political rival President

Ronald Reagan. One anonymous letter sent in October 1968 threatened “assassination for Kennedy number three within twenty four hours . . . all Kennedy residents are in danger on that day.”

Sirhan Sirhan, who fatally shot Kennedy’s brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968, even offered $1 million to a fellow inmate in California to kill Edward Kennedy, according to the files, which say the prisoner declined.

Ted Kennedy was acutely aware of such threats but rarely spoke of them publicly.

Then-Sen. Walter Mondale recounted that Kennedy’s own fears bubbled powerfully to the surface on an infamous plane trip in April 1969, less than a year after Robert Kennedy’s death. Operating on little sleep and not much food, the senator suddenly burst out loud enough for the whole plane to hear: “They killed Jack and they killed Bobby, and now they’re trying to kill me. . . . They’re trying to kill me!”

Kennedy waited 12 years after Robert was assassinated before running for president, largely because of his family’s concerns about such threats, according to a longtime aide,

Robert Shrum. “You took precautions,” said Shrum, Kennedy’s speechwriter during his 1980 presidential campaign. “We had a doctor with us everywhere we went. We had ambulances in most places. The memory was there. But you just lived with it.”

Concerned about the threats, Shrum and other Kennedy aides asked President Jimmy Carter, Kennedy’s rival for the Democratic nomination, for Secret Service protection two months before Kennedy officially announced his candidacy. Carter granted the request.

Longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is a regular presence in the documents, which touch on some of the controversies involving Kennedy and his family — and Hoover’s own troubled legacy of spying on Americans. The FBI closely monitored Kennedy’s fact-finding trip to Mexico, Central America and South America in 1961, and one document shows that Hoover received a file from an FBI employee in Mexico City that said the senator “is interested in meeting with ‘leftists’ to talk with them and determine why they think as they do.”

The document added that “the Kennedy party” was meeting with a university official in Mexico “on whom this office and bureau has information indicating communist sympathies.”

In a statement accompanying the document release, the FBI said that “given the Bureau’s long interest in the influence of Central American revolutionaries and communists on American radicals, the Bureau took an interest in Kennedy’s travels.” During the trip, the documents show, the FBI recovered a notebook kept by Kennedy documenting his travels that was accidentally left on his airplane.

The files include 77 pages on the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island off Martha’s Vineyard in 1969. The pages are nearly all newspaper articles, but one internal FBI document informed Hoover of the accident and says the police chief in Edgartown, Mass., “confidentially” advised that Kennedy was the driver.

“Stated fact Senator Kennedy was driver is not being revealed to anyone,” the document said.