Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Someone jumped the White House fence, again!

CNN) -- A man jumped over the White House fence on Wednesday night, but this time, the man barely made it onto the lawn before being taken down by a K-9 and quickly detained by Secret Service agents.

"Dog got him," a Secret Service spokesman said.

It was the first fence jumper since Omar Gonzalez, who made it into the White House before being detained.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Washington Post on Ben Bradlee

Go get 'em Eddie!

WASHINGTON — It was nearly four decades ago that Eddie Lopez was hired by a congressional committee to reinvestigate the 1963 murder of President John F. Kennedy, a role that had him digging through top secret documents at the CIA.

In the end, the House Select Committee on Assassinations reported in 1978 that it believed the assassination was probably the result of a conspiracy, although it couldn’t prove that, and its conclusions are disputed by many researchers.

But now Lopez is seeking answers to a lingering question: Could still-classified records reveal, as he and some of his fellow investigators have long alleged, that the CIA interfered with the congressional investigation and placed the committee staff under surveillance?

While Lopez’s latest effort to uncover new information may seem quixotic, given the seemingly endless spate of JFK conspiracy theories, it has taken on new meaning in the wake of revelations that the CIA earlier this year spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee in an unrelated case.

CIA employees hacked into the computers of Senate staffers reviewing the agency’s counterterrorism tactics. When the allegations were corroborated, the CIA apologized and vowed to take disciplinary actions.

While this year’s controversy has no direct relation to the Kennedy inquiry, it has raised new questions about how far the CIA has undermined congressional oversight, including the investigation into Kennedy’s murder in Dallas.
“It was time to fight one last time to ascertain what happened to JFK and to our investigation into his assassination,” Lopez, who is now the chief counsel for a school district in Rochester, N.Y., said in an interview. He is joined in the effort by two other former investigators, researcher Dan Hardway and G. Robert Blakey, the panel’s staff director.

Lopez, 58, charges that the CIA actively stymied the probe and monitored the committee staff members as they pursued leads about the events leading up to the assassination.

Lopez and his two colleagues are asking the CIA to release “operational files you have regarding operations aimed at, targeting, related to, or referring to” the House panel they worked for, along with records about the “surveillance of any and all members of the staff.”

Their attorney, James Lesar of the Assassination Archives and Research Center, in Silver Spring, Md., asserts they have a right to any CIA files about themselves under provisions of the CIA Information Act of 1984 and the Privacy Act of 1974, which could “shed light on the confused investigatory aftermath of the assassination.”

Blakey, who is now a professor at the University of Notre Dame, said he is anxious to know what the CIA was up to. “I was at Danny’s home and it looked like there were surveillance vans,” he recalled. “I would like to know what they had.”

The CIA declined to comment directly on the case, but said in a statement it intends “to treat these inquiries as we would any others, in full accordance with the respective laws and regulations.”

Some observers said the CIA has a long history of blocking congressional oversight of its activities.

“I think there is a pattern,” said John Prados, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive at George Washington University and author of “The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power.”

He cited two congressional investigations in the mid-1970s of the agency’s assassination plots against foreign leaders and the arms-for-hostages operation known as the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s. In those cases, Prados and other historians allege, the CIA withheld information, spread false stories, or did not make available all witnesses.

Lopez, Blakey, and Hardway contend they were rebuffed during their investigation when they asked about a CIA-backed group of Cuban exiles who had been seeking to overthrow Castro that had widely publicized ties to alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. They were informed that such a case officer did not exist for the so-called Revolutionary Student Directorate -- also known by its Spanish-language acronym DRE . Their suspicions grew when they learned from a lawsuit in the late 1990s that one of the agency’s chief liaisons to the assassination panel, the late George Joannides, was operating “under cover” and it was Joannides, a career intelligence operative, who helped manage the Cuban group before the assassination.

He, the [DRE] case agent, denied that there was a case agent and they could not find the DRE file,” Blakey said of Joannides in an interview. “He was an inhibitor, not a facilitator, which is what he was supposed to be.”

Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter whose lawsuit against the CIA shook loose some of the revelations about Joannides’ true identity and covert background, maintains that a host of files about the mysterious officer remain secret.

“Was there a mission to deceive [the panel]?” asks Morley, who runs the independent research organization

The former House investigators believe so but now want the CIA to fully come clean.

Said Hardway: “I hope to learn some more parts to the puzzle that the agency has kept hidden.”

Bryan Bender can be reached at

Ben Bradlee dies

(CNN) -- Ben Bradlee, the zestful, charismatic Washington Post editor who guided the paper through the era of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate and was immortalized on screen in "All the President's Men," has died. He was 93.

Bradlee began end-of-life care at his home last month after suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia for several years. He was the executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991, during which time the paper covered the downfall of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

"He was diagnosed a while ago, but it became obvious that he had a serious problem about two years ago," his wife, Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, said in a C-SPAN interview Sunday.
In November, President Barack Obama awarded Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians.

"Ben was a true friend and genius leader in journalism," Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein -- the Post duo who broke and pursued the Watergate story -- said in a statement. "He forever altered our business. His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit."

Bradlee was, in his way, Washington royalty: friend to John F. Kennedy, overseer of the capital's most important newspaper, a mover and shaker in a tailored suit. In one era, when politicians and journalists were chummier, he kept the capital's secrets; in another, he exposed them. He was descended from Boston Brahmins and easily hobnobbed with the wealthy and eminent.

Still, even as he became one of them, Bradlee always maintained his skepticism of Washington power players. And it only grew stronger over time.

In a 1995 interview with CNN's Larry King, Bradlee said he had observed "an enormous increase in not telling the truth, lying" during his career covering government. Asked whether it was Democrats or Republicans who lied more, Bradlee said, "Well, the whole mob."

It was a pair of scandals that made Bradlee a national figure.

In 1971, the Post and The New York Times decided to publish the Pentagon Papers, leaked classified documents that showed that the war in Vietnam was not going as political leaders and the military brass portrayed it. Bradlee, publisher Katharine Graham and the Post fought the objections of Richard Nixon's administration all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the newspapers' right to publish the documents.

The editor said the fight propelled the Post into the upper echelons of American journalism.

"The Post was still looking for a seat at the big table," he recalled. "We weren't at the big table yet. We very much wanted to go there."

A year later, Post reporters Bernstein and Woodward led the way in unraveling Watergate, the story of the break-in and coverup that ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

"The stakes were enormous," Bernstein recalled. "Every day the White House, the leader of the free world, his spokesman would get up and attack The Washington Post, attack Ben Bradlee by name. Attack Bob Woodward and myself. And (Bradlee) backed us up."

In the movie version of Woodward and Bernstein's "All the President's Men," Bradlee -- played by Jason Robards, who won an Oscar for his performance -- put it succinctly while bucking up his reporters: "We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country."

Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.

An early start in journalism
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was born August 26, 1921, in Boston, Massachusetts. Though his immediate family wasn't wealthy, the family tree included 17th-century Bay Staters, wealthy New York lawyers, ambassadors and artists. His great-uncle, Frank Crowninshield, was the first editor of Vanity Fair.

Bradlee survived a childhood battle with polio. He served on a destroyer in the Navy during World War II and was a veteran of more than a dozen battles, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After the war, Bradlee helped start the New Hampshire Sunday News, a small paper in Manchester, which folded after two years. He was hired as a reporter for the Post in 1948 but left after three years to become assistant press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

He jumped from that position back into journalism in 1954 as a European correspondent for Newsweek magazine and returned to Washington with it in 1957, becoming bureau chief after the Post bought the magazine in 1961.

Bradlee paid a key role in the transaction. In the '50s, Newsweek was a sleepy publication, a distant second in the newsweekly world to the towering Time magazine. "Newsweek was a shambles," recalled Osborn "Oz" Elliott, who edited the magazine from 1961 to 1976, in an oral history. "The whole staff was shot through with drunks, incompetents, and hacks."

Bradlee encouraged Phil Graham, the publisher of the Post, to buy the downtrodden magazine. Graham "loosened the purse strings on every front," recalled Elliott.

Meanwhile, Bradlee had established a key friendship. As a reporter in the 1950s, Bradlee became friends with John F. Kennedy, who had moved into a house on the same block after winning his first election to Congress. Bradlee later wrote two books about his onetime neighbor and future president, the first in 1964, just after Kennedy's assassination.

A story that changed the country
In 1963, Phil Graham committed suicide and his widow, Katharine, took over as owner of the Post. In 1965 Bradlee became managing editor and, three years later, executive editor. The Post's most tumultuous and heroic era was about to begin.

The Pentagon Papers consisted of a history of the Vietnam War commissioned by Lyndon Johnson's secretary of defense, Robert McNamara. After one of the report's compilers, Daniel Ellsberg, slipped copies to The New York Times, the resulting articles prompted the Nixon administration to issue a temporary restraining order against publication. The Post joined with the Times in a case that threatened the livelihood of both papers. They were vindicated when the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, to lift the ban against publishing.

Then came Watergate.

The scandal that brought down a president started with a "third-rate burglary," in the words of Nixon's press secretary, at the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex.

Woodward and Bernstein, assigned to the story, started realizing that the crime was no local matter -- and that it appeared to reach into the government's highest offices.

Woodward was aided by a source inside the government nicknamed "Deep Throat" after a controversial porn movie of the era. Only Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein knew his identity, which remained a subject of speculation for more than 30 years. Only after Mark Felt, the associate director of the FBI under Nixon, came forth in a 2005 Vanity Fair article did Bradlee confirm that, yes, Felt was the man.

Bradlee said his instincts told him that Felt's information was reliable, but one worry nagged him:

"If this is such a good story, where in the hell are the rest of the newspapers?" he recalled.

During a CNN interview a few days after Felt's identity became known, Bradlee discussed the risks that anonymous sources can be unreliable: "I think there was danger of that, and I suspect that a lot of young reporters who were attracted to the business faced that danger. But, you know, that's what editors are for."

One lesson of the "Deep Throat" saga, he said, "Is that when the press says they will protect a source that they will, in fact, protect a source."

The Post won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service -- the first time a Washington newspaper won the Pulitzer board's most prestigious award -- for its Watergate coverage. "All the President's Men," Woodward and Bernstein's book about breaking the story, was made into a movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the two reporters and Robards as Bradlee.

"It's awfully hard to beat the truth, to beat being right," he said in the 2005 interview with CNN. "And the fact of the matter is that Woodward and Bernstein were right. 'Deep Throat' was right."

"He was demanding, but in just the right measure," said Bernstein in 2012. "You want to please him."

After Watergate

The Watergate scandal inspired a generation of students to go into journalism, many hoping for a big investigative story like Watergate. At the high-flying Post, Bradlee was taken down a peg when one such story caught him off guard.

A reporter named Janet Cooke wrote a piece, "Jimmy's World," about an 8-year-old drug addict. The story won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981, but also raised questions about Cooke's reporting. The reporter soon admitted that she had never interviewed Jimmy and that the story was fabricated.

"It is tragedy that someone as talented and promising as Janet Cooke, with everything going for her, felt that she had to falsify the facts," Bradlee said at the time. "The credibility of a newspaper is its most precious asset, and it depends almost entirely on the integrity of its reporters. When that integrity is questioned and found wanting, the wounds are grievous, and there is nothing to do but come clean with our readers, apologize to the Advisory Board of the Pulitzer Prizes, and begin immediately on the uphill task of regaining our credibility."

The Post returned the Pulitzer and Cooke resigned from the paper.

In other ways, however, the Post was personally rewarding. Bradlee met his third wife, reporter Sally Quinn, at the paper. The two married in 1978 and had a son, Quinn.

Bradlee also has three other children by his first two marriages. Son Ben Bradlee Jr. was a longtime reporter and editor for the Boston Globe and has written four books, most recently a biography of Boston Red Sox icon Ted Williams.

Ben Bradlee's memoir, "A Good Life," was published in 1995.

Bradlee was 91 in 2013 when he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama spoke to his impact on journalism and democracy.

"With Ben in charge, the Post published the Pentagon Papers, revealing the true history of America's involvement in Vietnam; exposed Watergate; unleashed a new era of investigative journalism, holding America's leaders accountable and reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press," Obama said at the ceremony.

Bradlee, though, insisted he just did what he loved.

"There's nothing like a good story," he said in a 2012 interview with the Post. "If it's true, and if you've got it, and you can get some more, you're in business."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Was RFK and JFK conspiracy theorist?

Philip Shenon has an article in the Boston Globe.

He shows an affidavit the WC wanted Bobby to sign.  He didn't sign it. 

What else did Bobby Kennedy know? Last year, the son and namesake of the late Attorney General Robert Kennedy revealed publicly that his father had considered the Warren Commission’s final report, which largely ruled out the possibility of a conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to be a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” Robert Jr. said his father suspected that the president had been killed in a conspiracy involving Cuba, the Mafia or even rogue agents of the CIA. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a close friend of the Kennedy family, would disclose years later that he was told by Robert Kennedy in December 1963, a month after the president’s murder, that the former attorney general worried that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was “part of a larger plot, whether organized by Castro or by gangsters.” Schlesinger said that in 1966, two years after the Warren Commission report, Kennedy was still so suspicious about a conspiracy that he wondered aloud “how long he could continue to avoid comment on the report—it is evident that he believes it is was poor job.”

Newly disclosed documents from the commission, made public on the 50th anniversary of its final report, suggest that the panel missed a chance to get Robert Kennedy to acknowledge publicly what he would later confess to his closest family and friends: that he believed the commission had overlooked evidence that might have pointed to a conspiracy.

The documents show the commission was prepared to press Kennedy to offer his views, under oath, about the possibility that Oswald had not acted alone. An affidavit, in which Kennedy would have been required to raise his right hand and deny knowledge of a conspiracy under penalty of perjury, was prepared for his signature by the commission’s staff but was never used. Instead, the attorney general became the highest ranking government official, apart from President Lyndon Johnson, who was excused from giving sworn testimony or offering a sworn written statement to the commission.

The decision to scrap the affidavit is another example of the extraordinary deference paid to the attorney general and his family by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the commission’s chairman. In an unsworn August 1964 letter to Warren—already public and long seen by historians as evasive, if not as an effort to mislead the commission outright about what he really knew and suspected—Kennedy said he was aware of “no credible evidence to support the allegations that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy.” Kennedy’s private papers, however, suggest he struggled over signing even the unsworn letter to Warren.

The newest documents were released on the personal website of a former top commission staff lawyer, Howard P. Willens, who was deployed to the commission by the Justice Department and served as the department’s day-to-day liaison with the investigation. Willens, an 83-year-old Washington lawyer whose recent book, History Will Prove Us Right, defended the commission’s legacy, saved files from the investigation and is releasing hundreds of them this year, for the Warren Report’s 50th anniversary.

Willens did not reply to emailed questions about the files, including why several of his documents, or at least copies of them, do not appear to be have been retained in the vast library of the commission paperwork now stored at the National Archives. On his website, Willens said he was releasing the documents “to shed light about the truth of the investigation and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy” and to dispel conspiracy theories about the president’s murder. “It is clear that theories asserting Oswald did not act alone remain popular. However, as a member of the Commission staff, I assure you that if you’ll consider the evidence, you will find that the Commission conclusion is the correct one.” (An effort to determine exactly which of his documents are duplicated at the National Archives would take a mammoth research effort, given the archives’ collection of hundreds of thousands of pages of commission files. In researching my recent book on the assassination, I spent many days at the archives with the  paperwork and am convinced I did not see duplicates of several of the documents in Willens’ files, including the affidavit prepared for Robert Kennedy.)

Some former commission staffers are troubled today that the panel never questioned Kennedy, especially given the disclosure in recent decades by congressional investigators about his deep involvement in directing plots by the CIA to oust, if not kill, Fidel Castro; the Cuban dictator was always seen by the commission’s staff as a prime suspect in Kennedy’s assassination. If Robert Kennedy or others had been forced to reveal the Castro plots, these former staffers say, the commission would have been much more aggressive in trying to determine if Castro or his agents, possibly aware of the plots, ordered the president’s murder in retaliation. In an interview for my book, former White House aide Joseph Califano, who was part of the anti-Castro plotting, said he was convinced that “Robert Kennedy experienced this unbelievable grief after his brother’s death because he believed it was linked to his—Bobby’s—efforts to kill Castro.”

The affidavit above was prepared for Robert Kennedy to sign stating that he knew of "no credible evidence" of a "domestic or foreign conspiracy" in his brother's assassination, but Kennedy never signed the document.

David Slawson, another key commission staffer, told me that the files released by Willens were a reminder of the error made by the commission in not insisting that Robert Kennedy testify. “With hindsight, he absolutely should have been required to testify,” said Slawson, who is retired from the faculty of the law school of the University of Southern California. He stressed that he had no involvement in the commission’s interactions with Kennedy or with the Justice Department in 1964. “But looking back, of course it was a mistake not to make Bobby testify,” Slawson said. “If we questioned Jackie, why didn’t we question Bobby?” In addition to the first lady, the roster of senior officials required to give sworn testimony to the commission included FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Director of Central Intelligence John McCone.

For my book, which focused on the history of the Warren Commission, I found Robert Kennedy’s relationship with the commission to be deeply disturbing, since he insisted in public that he believed the commission’s report and accepted that Oswald acted alone—but said precisely the opposite to the people closest to him.

What would he have wanted to hide from the commission? Many things, including his hands-on involvement in the war on Castro, possibly including CIA plots in which the spy agency recruited the Mafia to carry out Castro’s murder. The disclosure of the existence of the CIA-Mafia plots could have damaged, or even destroyed, Kennedy’s future political prospects since he had made his reputation, first on Capitol Hill and then at the Justice Department, as a Mob-buster.

Other commission staff members said that Willens had been in an awkward position on the staff, since he was serving as both a senior member of the commission’s staff—he was chief deputy to J. Lee Rankin, the commission’s general counsel—and as the panel’s representative to his ultimate boss back at the Justice Department: Bobby Kennedy. Previously released commission files show it was Willens who relayed the message to the commission that Kennedy wanted to be excused from testifying—a request that Warren accepted, apparently believing it would be unseemly to ask the grief-stricken Kennedy to answer questions about his brother’s death.

The Willens files, in addition to suggesting that Kennedy was paying closer attention to the investigation than was previously known, contain other revelations, including that the attorney general was the key intermediary in helping the commission set up a brief sworn interview with former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. In a private memo to the attorney general in June 1964, Willens sought Robert Kennedy’s help in arranging a meeting to take sworn testimony from Jackie, suggesting that the attorney general had veto power over whether the former first lady would testify at all.

“As I understand the situation, it is agreed that Mrs. Kennedy may be questioned at any place convenient to you and her and with only those persons present that you wish,” Willens wrote to the attorney general. “Everyone associated with the commission would prefer not to question Mrs. Kennedy regarding some of the events of last November 22,” but “we feel it is necessary for two reasons,” Willens wrote. “First, all the other persons directly involved have testified before the commission, and the commission has to do a complete job. Second, she may have particular recollections about the events which will help clarify some of the still unresolved questions.”

Attached to the memo was a list of dozens of proposed questions for the former first lady, including how many shots she had heard and how her husband had reacted to the first bullet that hit him. Ultimately, few of the detailed questions were asked when, later that month, Warren and Rankin, the general counsel, went to her home in Georgetown, with her brother-in-law in attendance. In her testimony, Jackie Kennedy recalled the events in Dallas of the day of the assassination, including some of the gruesome details of what went on in the president’s limousine when shots rang out in Dealey Plaza. The session, which was transcribed and appeared in an appendix to the commission’s final report, lasted just nine minutes. 

Other files on Willens’ site offer new evidence of the Warren Commission’s hostility toward the FBI; inside the commission’s staff, the bureau was seen as hindering the investigation to hide its own blunders before the assassination.

The files include a draft letter to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in which the commission effectively accused the bureau of trying to cover up evidence that documented the extent of the FBI’s surveillance of Oswald in the weeks before Kennedy’s murder. The February 1964 draft, which was ultimately not sent, possibly out of fear of the wrath of the powerful Hoover, said that Warren was “seriously disturbed by what appears to be a deliberate effort to conceal the facts from the commission.” The draft letter was prepared after the discovery by the commission’s staff that, in a typewritten account of the contents of one of Oswald’s notebooks, the FBI had omitted a key item that had appeared in Oswald’s handwriting in the notebook—the name, phone number and license plate number of an FBI agent who had him under surveillance in the weeks before the assassination. Commission staffers said in interviews for my book that they believed the FBI had omitted the information in hopes of hiding just how closely the FBI had been trailing Oswald in the fall of 1963.
“As you know the commission is charged with the responsibility of developing and reporting the complete facts relating to the assassination of President Kennedy,” according to the draft letter, which was being prepared for Rankin’s signature. “Up to this point in its activities, the commission had assumed that it would have the full cooperation of federal investigative agencies.” The draft said that “omissions of such vital information from your reports not only lend credibility to otherwise unsupported allegations” but “also cast doubt on the ability of the commission to fulfill the task assigned to it by President Johnson.”

The documents released by Willens may hint at what revelations are still to come about the workings of the commission and other secrets kept from the investigation. The National Archives has confirmed that more than 1,000 documents related to the president’s murder are still being withheld from public view, most of them at the request of the CIA. Under a 1992 law passed as a result of the furor over Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-laden film JFK, all of those documents must be released publicly by October 2017. Some historians and other scholars suspect the still-secret files must reveal the names of people still living who worked for American intelligence in the early 1960s and who might be in danger if that spy work was revealed.

Will the release of those last files end the dark suspicions of a conspiracy in President Kennedy’s death? Almost certainly not. If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.