Thursday, July 03, 2014

Of C. David Heymann, lies and truths

I wrote this a while back for the site, but given that a new book from the author has been published, it's worth a reprint here.
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As a researcher into a controversial subject – the assassinations of the sixties – people often ask me this question: How do you know which sources to believe and which to disbelieve?

My answer is this: When you read an author for the first time, check every single fact you don't already know from elsewhere. If a nonfiction book isn't even footnoted, it's not worth your time other than as a source of leads you'll have to check out on your own. Leads are not data. They are only possible data.

Hearsay, what someone said when they were not under oath, when nothing was at risk for them personally, I also treat as a lead, not data. Personally, I don't trust interviews much because people often misremember things, or enhance or embellish the truth, sometimes without realizing it. And some will simply lie for their own reasons, and none of us is so good that we can "just tell" who is lying or not. But by interviewing people you can sometimes get a lead on data for which there is some sort of a verifiable paper trail. And that can be valuable.

If the book is footnoted, check out the footnotes. And I mean, really check it out – don't just see if there is a footnote. Go to the library, go to the book referenced, go to that page number, and see if the note is correct. Was the correct reference on that page? Or did the author miss it? (Sometimes book pages change from one printing to the next so check a few pages on either side of the reference in case it's nearby.)

Most important, check to see if what is in the footnoted text is accurately represented. I've gone through people's footnotes and found sometimes, to my dismay, that the author misread the original text or is deliberately misrepresenting it.

What about things you can't check out, like interviews with people? Then two additional considerations come into play: the credibility of the person being interviewed, and the reliability of the interviewer. Did either person have a reason to lie? Did either person work for an intelligence service, a career which requires one to lie well? Have they lied or misquoted people in the past?

It is with these considerations in mind that I read C. David Heymann's latest book, Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story. If I had to describe the book in a single word it would be this: puerile. But because this book has gotten so much media attention, I will say more than one word. And because the book depends nearly entirely on hearsay, I have to examine the overall credibility of the author, as well.

When I started reading the book, I tried to look up certain items to find Heymann's source. There were some footnotes, to be sure, but never for the items that interested me. Instead, he sourced the book generally, chapter by chapter, to a list of interviews conducted by Heymann and his researchers. Lacking access to those, the only way for me to evaluate the credibility of Heymann's claims of a so-called love affair between Bobby and Jackie was to evaluate the credibility of Heymann himself.

I've been researching Robert Kennedy for years. Early on, I picked up Heymann's book RFK: A Candid Biography of Robert F. Kennedy. At the time, I knew nothing about Heymann. I was writing about Robert Kennedy's ride to the Ambassador Hotel – a moment of no particular consequence. I just wanted to get the time correct and to quote something ironic that had been said on the drive.
Here is what Heymann wrote for this episode:
At six-fifteen, Kennedy and Dutton were driven by John Frankenheimer from Malibu to the Ambassador Hotel. ... As Frankenheimer cruised along the Santa Monica Freeway, attempting to make the thirty-minute trip in half that time, Bobby said, "Hey, John, take it slow. I want to live long enough to enjoy my impending victory."
The footnote for the above said this:
"At six-fifteen": Schlesinger, RK, p. 980.
If you go to page 980 in Arthur Schlesinger's book Robert Kennedy and his Times, you find nothing but a page of footnotes with no reference to those events. But a page number mistake is easy to make – and it was easy enough to find the correct page. So I wasn't going to be too hard on Heymann for such a simple error. I looked up "Frankenheimer" in Schlesinger's book to get the correct page (p. 913), and found this text:
About six-thirty Frankenheimer drove him to the Hotel Ambassador. He sped furiously along the Santa Monica Freeway. "Take it easy, John," Kennedy said. "Life is too short."
Schlesinger sources this quote to Robert Blair Kaiser's book R.F.K. Must Die!, page 15. Schlesinger's quote of what Kennedy said exactly matches the original in Kaiser's book, whereas Heymann's strange misquote added a touch of arrogance ("my impending victory"). Heymann evidently improvised his version, and moved the time he explicitly footnoted up fifteen minutes for no apparent reason. Add that to the wrong page number, and for this inconsequential item, Heymann managed to make three mistakes. That's way too high an error ratio for me. If he could make three errors on something so simple, what would he do with things more controversial or complex? At that point, I put away Heymann's book, realizing it would be worthless to my research.
Had I read further, I would have seen Heymann fabricating events from whole cloth. For example, on page 361 in his RFK book, Heymann wrote something wildly untrue:
[I]n May 1997, Gerald Ford publicly admitted that in 1975, while president of the United States, he had suppressed certain FBI and CIA surveillance reports that indicated that JFK had been caught in a crossfire in Dallas, and that John Roselli and Carlos Marcello had orchestrated the assassination plot.
Gerald Ford never said any such thing. What Gerald Ford did say in 1997 was in response to a document that surfaced showing it was his edits that changed the wound from Kennedy's "back" to the "back of the neck," a change of verbiage that managed to move the wound up five inches to support the single bullet theory. Never mind that the shirt (which was fitted and could not have bunched up five inches, as some have suggested) showed a bullet hole well down the back and definitely not in the "back of the neck." Here is the passage from the 1997 AP report regarding Ford's public comment:
Thirty-three years ago, Gerald R. Ford took pen in hand and changed – ever so slightly – the Warren Commission's key sentence on the place where a bullet entered John F. Kennedy's body when he was killed in Dallas.
The effect of Ford's change was to strengthen the commission's conclusion that a single bullet passed through Kennedy and severely wounded Texas Gov. John Connally – a crucial element in its finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole gunman.
A small change, said Ford on Wednesday when it came to light, one intended to clarify meaning, not alter history.
"My changes had nothing to do with a conspiracy theory," he said in a telephone interview from Beaver Creek, Colo. "My changes were only an attempt to be more precise."
So Heymann is freely mixing a real event (Gerald Ford's public comment) with a fictional one (admitting to participating in a cover-up and naming Roselli and Marcello as the conspirators).
How could Heymann be so wrong? Heymann wouldn't deliberately lie, not in a nonfiction book, right?
Wrong. Heymann not only would, he does, and provably so, right on the book's dust jacket. Under Heymann's picture, Heymann is described as a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee. Finding that impossible to believe, I decided to check it out. As I suspected, Heymann was never nominated for any award by the Pulitzer Prize committee. The Pulitzer Prize committee goes to some trouble to ensure that nominees, called "finalists," are listed on their Web site. Heymann is not there.
Was it possible that Heymann pulled one over on his editor? I had to find out, so I contacted his current editor, Emily Bestler, at Atria Books, a subsidiary of Simon and Schuster. It never occurred to me that an employee of a Simon & Schuster property would knowingly perpetrate a fraud regarding one of their writers. How naïve I was.

When I queried Bestler about the fact that he was not listed as a Pulitzer Prize nominee on the Pulitzer Prize committee's site, Bestler explained that his previous publishers had submitted his books for nomination.
Now, I don't know about you, but no one in Hollywood would dare call themselves an Academy Award nominee just because their agent submitted their reel to the Academy. They'd be laughed out of the business. The agent and actor would both lose all credibility.

The same should be true in the publishing world. You can't seriously claim to be a nominee just because your book, along with thousands of others, was sent to the Pulitzer committee. That's patently ridiculous. Any author anywhere on the planet could then send in their book and claim the same. Is this the industry's dirty little secret? Is this a widespread practice?

I emailed the Pulitzer Prize Web site asking what the Pulitzer Prize committee does when someone claims to be a "nominee" when they've only been submitted for nomination. Claudia Weissberg, the Web Site Manager for the Pulitzer Prize committee, wrote back:
Occasionally when we see misapplication of the term "nominated", we send a straightforward message informing an author about the misstep and usually get compliance. Also, when people contact us to confirm such a claim, we try to set them straight. Unfortunately, our staff of four is too busy with other things to regularly police the situation.
So the next time you see someone claiming to be a "Pulitzer Prize Nominee," don't believe it until you first confirm it for yourself. (Search If the author was truly a nominee or an award winner from the year, they will show up in the search, and the date and name of their nomination or prize will be listed. Gus Russo, author of Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, has also misused that term, claiming to be a nominee when he, too, was merely an entrant.) You would think some "truth in advertising" statute should apply here to protect consumers. Whatever else it is, it's simply dishonest, on any level, and shame on Heymann and Bestler for participating knowingly in a deliberate deception. Shame on Atria Books. Shame on Simon and Schuster for misusing the prestige of the Putlizer Prize to sell some books.
Why do I spend so much time on this false claim? Because if one is willing to lie about themselves to enhance the sales of their book, what else might they be willing to lie about?
That question should be foremost in mind when reading Heymann's book Bobby and Jackie because we, the readers, are not in a position to check the factual accuracy of his most sensational claims. First of all, the most outrageous claims are not footnoted specifically, but sourced generally to people who are now dead. We can't go question them to see if Heymann quoted them accurately. So how can we check this out?

We have to go back to Heymann's past work, and hear from people he has quoted in the past, to assess his accuracy with people when they were living. As it turns out, credibility has long been an issue for Heymann.
In his book Poor Little Rich Girl: The Life and Legend of Barbara Hutton, about the famous Woolworth heiress, Heymann inaccurately accused a doctor in Beverly Hills of overprescribing drugs for Ms. Hutton. The accused doctor was provably only 14 years old at the time and incapable of prescribing drugs for anyone, and sued Random House. Random House hesitated. They were not eager to destroy a book that had all the markings of a bestseller. After all, the film rights had already been optioned for $100,000.
Heymann blamed the mistake on one of his researchers, and was upset when Random House held him, the author who had received the $70,000 advance for the book, accountable.

Shortly after the doctor's suit, Ned Rorem, an author and composer, pointed out that Heymann had lifted a passage from one of Rorem's own books and attributed it to Hutton. That was enough, for Random House. The publisher recalled the book and destroyed all copies.

Heymann was so depressed at this episode, which threatened to destroy the only career he'd ever loved, that he attempted suicide. He then changed his mind, sought emergency medical treatment, and headed to a Manhattan psychiatrist.

How was it that Random House didn't review the book for accuracy? The publicity director said Random House relied on Heymann's assurances of accuracy. (Emily Bestler, his current editor, told me the same thing, that she never questioned him about his sources, never did any independent verification. "He's the expert," she said in all seriousness, the irony of which you will understand by the time you finish this review.)
Heymann's troubles with the Hutton book were still expanding. As reporter Curt Suplee described in his Washington Post article "The Big Book That Went Bad" (Feb. 8, 1984), "Meanwhile, the unthinkable got worse. Another author cried foul; some of Hutton's longtime chums claimed they had never seen her keep notebooks; several people quoted in the book either denied that they had been interviewed or disowned the quotations. And in Los Angeles, some old Hutton hands openly doubted that Heymann – who says he conducted six weeks of intermittent interviews with the enfeebled heiress during 1978 – ever met her at all."
Heymann said he made no tapes of these alleged conversations, but that he could prove his presence there in a court of law if he had to. (In a separate interview, Heymann said the only person who could verify he conducted the interviews with Hutton was his wife.) No one put that claim to the test, although Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau's office did investigate Mr. Heymann for fraud. (No indictment was ever issued from Morgenthau's investigation.)

A handwriting expert determined that the so-called "diary" (a collection of notebooks and scribblings on random pieces of paper) was not from Hutton. Regarding the authenticity of the handwriting, Suplee noted, Heymann displayed "photocopies of letters Hutton wrote decades ago in an idiosyncratic, loopy script; and apparently more recent sheets of embossed letterhead stationery on which incoherent, broken sentences are printed in big block letters. How could both be written by the same hand? 'They were written many years apart,' Heymann says. 'I didn't question it.'" Sadly, neither did his editors. Fortunately for history, however, some reporters did.

David Johnston, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, said the Times contacted several of Heymann's alleged sources in an attempt to verify Heymann's work. Most of the sources were long dead, but a few were still alive.

Of the nine people contacted, all nine seriously disputed Heymann's accuracy.

Seven of the nine said they never spoke to Heymann or his researchers. Heymann told the Times he had taken their anecdotes from Hutton's notes and that neither he nor his researchers had contacted those people. Heymann claimed to Suplee, however, that these people had spoken with his researchers, which contradicts his earlier statement that he had gotten the anecdotes from the disputed journal entries. The eighth person said that, while part of what was quoted was true, nearly a page-worth of quotes attributed to that person were false. The ninth said he had been contacted by an aide of Heymann's, but refused to be interviewed. (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 24, 1983)

Johnston also noted that one lengthy anecdote in the book involved a physician who didn't exist. Heymann explained that he used fictitious names in the book "in five or six cases." The book, however, contains no disclaimer indicating that any fictitious names were used. And in a later interview with the Washington Post, Heymann changed the number of fictitious names used to two. "That's not such an unusual ploy, is it?" Heymann asked the reporter. But, of course, it is. Nonfiction is supposed to be truthful in all aspects, with no made-up names, or, if necessary, with pseudonyms clearly identified as such.

When asked if he had alerted his editor at Random House to the fact that he had used false names, Heymann said, "Yeah – it would have been impossible otherwise." According to Suplee in the Post, "a company spokesman denies that Heymann said anything about fictitious names or mentioned that he would be using researchers for the preponderance of the interviews." "Clem was not forthcoming," said Heymann's agent Peter Matson, "about the way he was working."

Heymann even dared blame his editor for not insisting on the use of a pseudonym for the doctor who ended up suing. "It seems to me an experienced editor would have said, 'why use this guy's real name? Why not use a pseudonym?'" (Wash. Post, Feb. 8, 1984)

Philip Van Rensselaer, a one-time escort of Hutton's, told the Post he was thinking of suing Heymann for plagiarism, saying Heymann had copied dozens of sentences from his own biography of Hutton. Heymann had quoted a news article from Van Rensselaer's book without verifying its accuracy. Van Rensselaer had actually embellished the news item, itself a violation of journalistic standards. Yet Heymann had quoted it verbatim as if it was an actual news item, showing how poor a researcher he is.

It's odd, in retrospect, that Random House was so incurious about Heymann's accuracy, given that his two previous works by that time had already been challenged for accuracy. Had they actually bought Heymann's claim that, after any nonfiction book is published, "eight out of ten people will deny what they said"? That may be the standard for a Heymann book (and with good reason, if they didn't, in fact, say what was quoted), but he presents no evidence to support that claim on behalf of other nonfiction authors.

Random House's spokesperson told the Post that Random House had been unaware of the problems with Heymann's earlier books. The Village Voice had given Heymann's 1980 book American Aristocracy: The Lives and Times of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell a "Most Mistakes Medallion" for the huge number of inaccuracies in that volume.

One of Heymann's earliest books was on the poet Ezra Pound, who happened to be a close friend of none other than the CIA's former counterintelligence chief James Angleton. Heymann claimed he had interviewed Pound just before his death, which would have been at least four years before Heymann's book was published. Time magazine lauded Heymann's book, calling it "The most harshly realistic portrait of the poet so far produced." But in 1983, a noted Pound scholar, Professor Hugh Kenner of John Hopkins University, accused Heymann of claiming someone else's interview with Pound as his own. Heymann dismissed the charge, claiming Kenner was retaliating against Heymann for a negative review Heymann had given to Kenner's book. Both offered to take and pass a lie detector test supporting their view in this matter. (Wash. Post, Dec. 21, 1983)

In the wake of the problems resulting from the serious examination of his Hutton book, Heymann moved to Israel where, according to Heymann, he joined the Mossad. The Hutton book was eventually republished by Lyle Stuart (after Heymann rewrote nearly a third of it) and was made into a television miniseries.

Since Heymann was never really punished for his lax standards, if not outright dishonesty, is it any surprise the errors and misrepresentations continued in subsequent works?

When Heymann's book A Woman Named Jackie: An Intimate Biography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, came out, Mike Wilson of the Miami Herald did an in-depth review, similar to what the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post reporters had done with the Hutton book. Wilson opens his review with this:
C. David Heymann has called his book "A Woman Named Jackie" "a search for the real Jackie Kennedy."
Sometimes, it seems, the author didn't search farther than his own bookshelf.
Wilson goes on to quote a passage from Kitty Kelley's earlier biography of Jackie, and compares it to Heymann's. It's not a direct copy, but it's a very similar passage. He does this again with a passage from Ralph Martin's book and compares it to Heymann's passage, which is even more similar than the first example.

Wilson also noted that Heymann lifted material from one of Jack Anderson's columns. "No question about it. It's obvious. That's outrageous," Wilson quotes Anderson as saying. (Heymann's publicist Sandra Bodner tried to explain this away by suggesting the story was perhaps told to Heymann by Anderson's source in exactly the same words.)

Wilson notes some of the key allegations in the book, but adds, "much in the book is not new. And much, Heymann's sources are saying, is not true." For example, Larry O'Brien challenged several remarks in the book, telling the Miami Herald he had never said those things. And worse, Heymann has O'Brien essentially lying, saying something O'Brien couldn't, wouldn't have ever said because he'd already said the opposite in his own book! (Heymann claimed O'Brien said he refused to speak to Lyndon Johnson on the plane back from Dallas after Kennedy had been assassinated. But in O'Brien's own book he noted he spoke to Johnson twice on the plane – once on the ground in Dallas and a second time in the air.)

The first time I cracked Heymann's book on Jackie open, I randomly turned to a page where a name caught my eye. Heymann quotes "James T. Angleton, director of covert operations for the CIA" talking about Mary Meyer. Surely he meant James J. Angleton, director of counterintelligence for the CIA. But it's no wonder he got the name and title wrong. When I checked the footnotes, there was no source for the Angleton quote listed, and, according to the footnotes, Heymann sourced no interview with Angleton for that chapter. So whom was he quoting? What source gave him that Angleton quote about Meyer? How could his editor, Allan Wilson, have missed the fact that there was literally no source for that quote? That wouldn't pass muster in a History 101 course. I had expected more from publisher Lyle Stuart, Heymann's post-Random House sponsor.

Heymann does get Angleton's full middle name correct in his book The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital. Unfortunately, according to Washington Post reporter Roxanne Roberts, the book had little to recommend it. Roberts opens with this line:
There are lies, damn lies, and statistics ... and autobiographies, biographies and books by C. David Heymann.
As with so many before her, Roberts describes Heymann's work as "unfettered by live subjects," noting,
This makes it harder to determine what is true and what is not, assuming one cares about those things. "When you write about people who are dead, you're libel-proof," author Kitty Kelley says. "They can't sue and neither can their families. It just breaks your heart sometimes."
When Heymann wrote Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor, he told the press that "discussions will continue" with Liz Taylor about whether she would approve the biography as official. But Taylor's representatives responded they had never been in touch with Heymann and that she would definitely "not be participating" in his project. (Wash. Post, Aug. 15, 1989)

You would think Heymann would have learned some serious lessons about checking facts, not relying on researchers, verifying everything, and heeding the notion that extraordinary claims deserve extraordinary evidence. You would be so wrong.

Heymann came under the scrutiny of New York Observer reporter Andrew Goldman when, in the wake of John Kennedy Jr.'s death, Heymann put out the story that John hadn't wanted to fly to Martha's Vineyard, but that his wife made him do it. (See Goldman's article detailing challenges to Heymann's credibility with several of his books here:

In the wake of John's death, Heymann had told Cindy Adams, a New York gossip columnist, that Heymann had just spoken to John a few weeks before his death, and that John had complained about having to drop his wife's sister off in Martha's Vineyard the day his plane went down.

Curiously, this is the same Cindy Adams I wrote about years ago, who wrote a biography of the Indonesian President Sukarno during the period in which the CIA was trying to overthrow him, and the same Cindy Adams who interviewed the Shah of Iran in his last days – the man the CIA had installed as the leader in Iran after overthrowing Iran's democratically elected leader Mossadegh in 1953. Cindy wrote that Heymann was a frequent source of hers.

Cindy's story put Heymann in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, and got him interviews on Chris Matthews' MSNBC show Hardball, among others.

Heymann claimed to have had a ten-year relationship with John. But, as with the Hutton stories, people close to John found that impossible to believe. No one at John's magazine George knew of any association. John's appointment secretary had no appointments with Heymann listed.

The only person Goldman could find to in any way corroborate an acquaintance between Heymann and John was Heymann's girlfriend, who claimed only to have seen a man from behind as he departed whom Heymann told her had been John.

Even Cindy Adams came to believe Heymann had lied to her, and issued a probable mea culpa to her readers, having been assured by the Kennedy clan that Heymann had never spoken to John (New York Post, July 29, 1999). Indeed, it is hard to believe on the face of it that John would have spoken one word to the guy who had trashed his parents in print.

So who is Heymann? What drives him? His father was a German Jewish novelist, who fled the Nazis with his wife and came to New York in 1937. There, the family entered the hotel business, and Heymann sometimes worked behind the desk. Suplee quotes Heymann as saying, "When I looked at these people coming and going, I always made up imaginative stories of how fascinating their lives were."

After the Hutton episode, Heymann expressed a desire to write a novel based on his experiences with the book "to examine myself as if I were a biographical subject."

Did he really join the Mossad? If so, why does he openly acknowledge it? Isn't that, like the CIA, the kind of organization you cannot admit to being a member of?

And now we come, at last, to the book I started out to review: Heymann's Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story. I submit that even the title is false, because Heymann doesn't even attempt to paint a love story. He paints a lust story, and a lopsided one at that. And really, the title should have been: Heymann and the Kennedys: A Hate Story. That would have been a more honest description of the book.

Heymann goes after nearly all the Kennedys, starting with the father, who he accused of being an "ardent admirer of the Third Reich," a gross misrepresentation of Joe Kennedy's views. Joe was an ardent pacifist, who feared that another world war would bring socialism not just to more of Europe, but to America as well. For his reluctance to go to war, or, as historian Will Swift puts it, for his willingness to explore every avenue for peace, he was branded an appeaser. And for that, people made the leap that an opponent of war was a friend of Hitler, when in fact that is an unjustified leap. Those of us who opposed George W. Bush's war in Iraq did not do so out of any admiration for Saddam Hussein. It's a ridiculous meme about Joe Kennedy that has persisted for reasons beyond the scope of this book review.

Heymann goes after John Kennedy, portraying him in such sexual terms one wonders when the guy had a chance to govern. He even claims Kennedy's youthful glow in the debates was due to his having had sex just prior to the debate, saying "The results of the exercise were obvious to anyone who watched the debates. Kennedy looked refreshed and composed on camera, whereas Nixon seemed nervous and out of sorts." And pre-debate sex is his only possible explanation? Whatever else Kennedy was, he was ambitious as hell and believed in preparation. It's just not credible that he would have allowed a moment of pleasure to interfere with the most important political moment of his career.

Heymann sources this episode to "a longtime congressional and senatorial aide to JFK," Langdon Marvin. Author David Pietrusza, in his book 1960 – LBJ Vs. JFK Vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies, challenged Marvin's credibility on this episode, which first appeared in Heymann's book on Jackie.

Pietrusza notes that in the original account, Heymann's version in the Jackie book claims the sex happened at the Palmer House in Chicago. Pietrusza notes that the Palmer House is nowhere near the studio in which the debate was filmed. He also noted that the route there would have taken Kennedy "perilously close" to Nixon's "Pick-Congress" headquarters. As Pietrusza puts it, "There are risks, there are John Kennedy risks, and there are risks not even a Jack Kennedy would take."

Pietrusza also questions Marvin's assertion, conveyed by Heymann, that just prior to the debates, Jack Kennedy had sex with a stripper in New Orleans while her fiancé, Governor Earl Long, held a party in the next room. The problem with that is that the debate was filmed September 26, Long had left office in May, and had died September 5. So either Marvin or Heymann's account of what Marvin said is simply not credible.

Pietrusza notes that Marvin did have a motive to attack the Kennedys. Marvin was an aviation consultant. But for whatever reason, Bobby Kennedy wrote the following to reassure airline industry representatives who expressed concern about Marvin having a role overseeing their industry. Pietrusza quotes the following letter from Bobby Kennedy:
I assure you that Langdon Marvin will not be a part of the administration. He will not have a job of any kind and will play no role, directly or indirectly, in the policies of the administration.
Your sentiments regarding Mr. Marvin are exactly in accord with mine, and I assure you that, when I say that Langdon Marvin will have nothing to do with the government for the next four years, I mean what I say.
As Pietrusza summarized, "Langdon Marvin's story is a good story. Repeating it uncritically is not very good history."

Heymann paints Jackie as, forgive the words, a royal bitch. There is no nuance. There are no other colors. He has her throwing fits at publishers, threatening to sue, demanding payments from the Kennedys for her wardrobe and expenses after John's death, and, of course in the centerpiece to the book, sleeping with Bobby. Of course, Heymann has no direct source for that. He has all kinds of innuendo, but not one credible account from anyone who can verify their quote to show that the two were in love or had any sexual contact of any kind.

One of his racier episodes, where he claims a witness spied Bobby with his hand on Jackie's naked breast at the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach, has already been disputed by Andrew Goldman in his review of Bobby and Jackie in the Daily Beast (July 24, 2009). The witness in question is Mary Harrington, who, according to Goldman, died a year before Heymann ever quoted her. Heymann has Harrington supposedly watching the two on the grass from Harrington's third-floor window next door to the Kennedy estate.

The problem with this, Goldman notes, is that, according to Ned Monell, the listing agent for the Kennedy residence when it was sold in 1995, the entire property was walled. The only place, therefore, from which Harrington could have been staying would have been a beach shack which was 10 feet lower than the Kennedy house. And given that heavy vegetation surrounded the house, she couldn't have seen anything on the lawn at all.

Many of Heymann's sources for the affair between Bobby and Jackie are people saying they heard it through the grapevine, so to speak. Here's a typical factless piece of innuendo:
Film producer Susan Pollock had a friend who occupied a suite opposite Jackie's at the Carlyle. On several occasions, the friend saw Bobby and Jackie return to the suite late at night, then leave together in the morning. "You can look at people and tell if they've been intimate," said Pollock. "My friend could tell. In any case, their affair was an open secret. Everyone knew it."
What standards of proof does this meet? That is sheer speculation. And of course, there's a very innocent explanation for overnights. Bobby had taken over the responsibilities of father for his brother's two children. He read to them at bedtime. He took them to school in the morning. It makes sense he'd spend the night. Anything else is unproven speculation.

Only a few claim to have any direct knowledge. And while Heymann starts off quoting someone as saying that, while Bobby wasn't faithful to Ethel, he treated his paramours as "second or third wives," Heymann then has Bobby and John having sex with their respective females in the same room, being open with friends about it, and coming on to people like Joan Braden, the former wife of the longtime CIA media operative Tom Braden. And this from the same Bobby Kennedy Heymann quotes, via another source, as having said "nothing you saw or heard leaves this office. Is that understood?"

I had previously read another equally disgusting book, Nemesis, by Peter Evans. That, too, was a book designed to make Jackie look like a bed-hopping whore, selling her body to Onassis in exchange for protection for her children. Not surprisingly, in Bobby and Jackie, Heymann borrows liberally from Evans work. What did surprise me is that Evans found fault with Heymann. He implied Heymann concocted, in his Jackie book, a quote Heymann attributed to Christina Onassis. It seems even Evans has standards which Heymann cannot meet.

One episode seems inspired more by news that surfaced while Heymann was working on his book rather than by his interviewee, who died in 1998, ten years earlier. In 2008, a story surfaced in the New York Post (April 14, 2008, not April 15, as Heymann has in his footnote) about an alleged FBI tape showing Marilyn Monroe in a "perverted" sex act with a man whose face is never seen. Evidently, Hoover tried to prove, unsuccessfully, that the man was John or Robert Kennedy.

Heymann claims that Clark Clifford told him about this tape. Clifford ala Heymann even has Jackie asking Clifford if he's seen a 'certain film' of a sex act between Bobby and Marilyn, looping her into this ridiculous scenario as if to give credibility to that having been Bobby. First, Jackie would have been too discreet to ever ask such a question if she had seen such a film. Second, Clifford died in 1998. I find it hard to believe Heymann would have sat on that salacious tidbit for ten years. He would have put it in one of his earlier books.

Missing from the book is any hint of the loyalty the Kennedy operatives had to the family. He quotes Kenneth O'Donnell, who would have practically taken a bullet for the Kennedys, saying things that, even if true, he would never share. Heymann quotes from him liberally, which is extremely odd, since O'Donnell died in 1978, many years before Heymann wrote about any of the Kennedys. Did he interview him and then sit on that material for years and years? If O'Donnell had talked of an affair in 1978 just before he died, why did it take Heymann nearly 30 years to write that up? And how did he remember something O'Donnell said in 1978 for his 2009 book that he had presumably forgotten for his 1989 book about Jackie? In his 2009 book, Heymann quotes O'Donnell as saying he thought Bobby loved Jackie, but that he understood the "limitations of their romance." If O'Donnell had really said that, why didn't Heymann mention that in his book on Jackie, where he briefly quotes several people as having "suspected" there was an affair between them? If he has O'Donnell confirming it, why didn't he surface that earlier?

Pierre Salinger, who is dead, is liberally quoted talking openly about an affair. That makes no sense. Salinger was so trusted he was the President John Kennedy's press secretary. Only the most closed-mouth, trusted associates are considered for such a sensitive role in any administration. John Greenya, in his review of Bobby and Jackie for The Washington Times (August 11, 2009), challenges this point too. Greenya knew Pierre Salinger very well, as they spent over a year together working on Salinger's book P.S. A Memoir. Said Greenya:
In the hundreds of hours we spent in conversation, over the phone and in person, he never sounded the way he sounds in this book. And for him to tell Kennedy stories out of school, which he allegedly did to Mr. Heymann, strikes me as completely out of character.
And I simply cannot believe he would use a crude, locker room term in talking about Mr. Kennedy, the man he devotedly served as press secretary.
And that's another point I want to make. I've been studying screenwriting for some time now. Good writers know that people don't all speak the same. Every person has a different vocabulary, with different idioms that give them away. But in Heymann's book, everyone sounds the same. They all talk like crass older men with a chip on their shoulder. They all talk in grammatically perfect, short, clipped sentences. Most interviewees aren't writers, and don't talk like that. They wander. They get off topic. You have to bring them back. This would be indicated by an ellipses in the quote. But when Heymann interviews people, they seem to speak in ready-for-publication phrases.

Also missing from the book is any sense of the historical context. Bobby was running for the Senate, and later the presidency. J. Edgar Hoover had already tried and failed to link Bobby to Marilyn Monroe. If it was an "open secret" that Bobby and Jackie were having an affair, there's not a chance in hell that Hoover wouldn't have found out about it and run to one of his media assets, like James Phelan, with the story of the century. He would have had files on their affair, and maybe even photos.

Photos. That's another funny thing. In many research books, people include not just photos of people, but of documents. Howard Hughes books contain photos of his handwriting. JFK books include photos of CIA and FBI files. But Heymann books contain photos of no documents whatsoever. Even ones he mentions in his text. For example, at one point, Heymann mentions a letter from Bobby Kennedy to Katherine Graham. The letter sounded plausible to me, like something Bobby might actually have written. How hard would it have been to put a photo of that in the book? I asked his editor, Emily Bestler, why, given the past charges against Heymann's credibility she hadn't asked for that item to be shown. Bestler said the author was responsible for all the content, and that she didn't recall that particular item from the book, but that if she'd seen it, she would probably have asked for it to have been included. I then asked her: So what was her role as editor, if not to help shape the content? Was she really more of a proofreader? I could tell that offended her by her abrupt change of voice. She said she edited the book for flow. Well, it flows fine. It's an easy read. There were no typos that I noted. Clearly, she did her job well. But to me, that's what a copy editor does, not a book editor. A book editor should challenge one for sourcing and demand to see backup for anything not verifiable elsewhere. That's what people expect when they see a big name publisher. They expect credibility.

My takeaways from this experience?
  1. I would never believe anything Heymann writes unless I could confirm it elsewhere.
  2. "Pulitzer Prize nominee" is a deliberately misused term.
  3. Editors at major publishers do not fact-check nonfiction books. They simply trust the author. You should not. Believe nothing in a nonfiction book that you can't independently verify yourself. Check all footnotes. A pattern of honesty or deception will quickly present itself. Judge all else in the book accordingly.
I feel compelled to note that about 80% of the data in this article was compiled over a two-day period, using only the Internet (with access to past issues of newspapers via a couple of online databases) and copies of a few of Heymann's previous books. It's just beyond belief that someone would sign on to be this guy's editor and not do at least that much due diligence to find out if he's credible. Especially when he claims to be a Pulitzer Prize nominee – and is provably not.

Believe it or not, I'm not mad at Heymann. While I dislike intensely what he's written, I can imagine the situation from his point of view. In his mind, he's a crafty guy who figured out a way to make a great living, while breaking, to my knowledge, no enforceable laws to do so. That he broke all laws of decency and historical faithfulness, if you put yourself in his shoes, is beside the point. In his mind, he may well be P. T. Barnum, reveling over the number of suckers born a minute. Or worse, he may actually think he did a good job with the historical record! Hey, if no editor ever holds you accountable, how do you know you are failing?

Whatever the reality inside his mind, in the actual world, Heymann's work should never have been published without a proper factual, not just textual, review. For that, the blame really must be shouldered by the enablers: the editors who functioned more as proofreaders than as shepherds of content; book reviewers who were too lazy to check to see whether what he wrote was true (with a few notable exceptions); and fellow authors who recycle his writing and spread it around in their own books like a virus, infecting the historical record for future generations.

What can you do? You know I never like to leave you without a course of action. Why don't you write to his current publisher, Atria Books, and ask them to make available his audio recordings of the interviews he claims to have made for this book? That would be a real service to the historical record, assuming the voices are authentic and unaltered, and that the tapes even exist.

In his notes at the end of Bobby and Jackie, Heymann wrote, "Much of the interview material, including tapes and transcripts, has been placed in the author's personal archive, located in the Department of Special Collections, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York, where it is available for viewing and/or listening." That's funny, because when the Miami Herald went after Heymann for his book on Jackie, Heymann's publicist at the time, Sandra Bodner, said that, unless someone sued Heymann, he would not play his tapes for anyone. So who told the truth? Heymann, or his publicist? Can you hear the tapes, or would you have to sue for the privilege?

Ask Atria Books and find out. You can reach his editor, Emily Bestler, c/o:
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
"I always wanted to write fiction," Heymann told a Washington Post reporter in 1989. You have the power to determine if his wish came true.

Monday, February 10, 2014

My comment to Congress on the Keystone Pipeline. Where's yours?

Here's what I submitted. You can submit your own comment at!submitComment;D=DOS-2014-0003-0001.

How many spills will it take before we realized this was a horrible idea? How many lives will have been ruined, farms swamped with tar sands that are harder to clean up than oil? Is that a worthy trade-off for the relatively few American jobs this will create? Would not that money be better spent investing  in clean, renewable technologies?

This is the kind of match that ignites a revolution. Congress's approval ratings are at an all-time low. The strong perception, shared by myself, a life-long Democrat, is that Congress only cares about its richest donors, not the rest of us. There is absolutely no good argument for authorizing this pipeline. But we all feel you will kow-tow to the very tiny percentage among us who will wildly profit from this.

Please prove us wrong. Please give us a reason to believe Congress serves ALL of us, that this is still a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Because if it has become a government of only the rich oil people, it's ripe for a fall, and one from which we may never recover. A new revolution might make things much worse, not better. Witness what happened in Egypt.

Don't underestimate the sentiment against this bill just because people are too jaded to speak up. The fires are simmering.

Don't light this match.

= = = = =

Free speech. Use it or lose it. You can't complain government doesn't represent you if you don't make your voice heard.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Who killed the Palestinian Ambassador with an exploding safe, and other questions

First, Happy New Year! I closed my FB page - keeping up with the comments was too time-consuming. Here, I can decide when I want to set time aside to go through comments - there, I couldn't.

So I will likely be posting here more often. I love Twitter for sharing news stories, like this one:
"The safe that exploded and killed the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic had been in daily use according to a spokesman for his embassy. ... The information contradicts a statement from Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, who said the safe hadn't been opened for 20 years." (Source)

Why did someone kill the Palestinian ambassador? Safes don't just explode, especially not ones in daily use.

Elsewhere, I still smell something wrong in the Benghazi story that has nothing to do with Obama. In the long New York Times report published at the end of last year, several Benghazi people claimed the CIA killed the Ambassador. The Times said these claims were "bizarre" and "without evidence," but those of us who've studied the JFK assassination know that when the Times says this it isn't necessarily (or even usually) the truth.

I want to more about who Ambassador Stevens was, because that might give us clues. It's a fact that weapons were being shipped from Benghazi to Syrian rebels via Turkey. But what if chemical weapons were being shipped from there? What if Ambassador Stevens found out, in advance of a CIA or Saudi or joint plot to stage a false flag chemical weapons attack that could be blamed on Syria as a pretext for invading? Bizarre conspiracy theory? Perhaps. Or maybe that's what happened. Maybe Stevens was going to stop that or blow the whistle. I'm just speculating. But there are historical precedents for all of this.

It's a new year. I hope, each year, that the new one will bring us more truth than the last. I hope you continue to seek it, knowing it will never be handed to you by the mainstream media, giftwrapped and ready to go.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Predictably, the Washington Post releases a major CIA story during a week when no one is paying attention

The best times to read the paper are Friday nights and holiday periods. That's when the more sensitive stories the CIA doesn't want you to read are often put out. It's happened over and over through history.

This holiday season, the Washington Post released an important story ( on covert operations describing how we've given "smart bomb" and GPS technology to Columbia to go after rebels.

Imagine if the British had access to such weapons in 1776. There could have been no such revolution.

That's what's really frightening about drones, smart bombs, and other weapons that target people based on GPS settings. And now we're giving them away to neighbors in the hemisphere.

I feel we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction with each such weapon introduced. It's only a matter of time before someone figures out how to use them here.

I also feel it's absolutely heinous to be killing people rather than trying to capture them and put them on trial. If people are so overtly evil and active, there should be other ways to get to them. I don't care if it takes time. Just killing people without trial is barbaric and something that, as Americans, we should not be supporting.

I hope you enjoy the holidays. I hope, too, that you spend a little mental energy envisioning the kind of things America should, and shouldn't, be doing on the world stage to make the world a better place. It starts with thoughts, and thoughts have power and gravity. Help the world by putting more positive solutions into it. Killing is so last century. Seriously, we have to be better than that, 2000 years after some man changed the world by saying we should love our enemies, not kill them.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My response to Evan Burgos for his misleading article today on the JFK assassination at NBC's site

Dear Evan,

I’m sorry now I wasted nearly an hour of my life talking to you, Evan. The one quote from me you used from me in  your article on the Kennedy assassination today  (  was out of context because you didn’t mention the CIA’s work overthrowing other leftist leaders all over the globe.

More importantly, McAdams and Shenon are completely, factually wrong about RFK and Dulles and RFK’s view of the CIA’s role in the assassinations.  As I mentioned after reading this, Robert Kennedy was so done with the Dulles’ that he had the last Dulles still in government, a sister of Allen and John Foster, fired. I could get you the source for that but why bother? I also mentioned that RFK’s belief that the CIA was responsible was his deepest belief, according to a lot of original research by founder David Talbot in his book Brothers.

So once again, you prove why the mainstream continues to be irrelevant as a factual source of information on the Kennedy assassination or anything else important.

I don’t blame  you for not knowing McAdams and Shenon were full of it. But had you circled back to me, I could have given you the sources that completely refuted their crapaganda.

So in the end, you have just added to the cover-up, whether you meant to or not.

Disappointed but hardly surprised,

Lisa Pease

Monday, October 21, 2013

My comments on the JFK and the media panel at the Duquesne "Passing the Torch" conference

The following are my prepared remarks for the special program I spoke on last week during the “Passing the Torch” conference on the JFK assassination at the Senator John Heinz Heinz History Center. The other participants included writers Jeff Morley, David Talbot, Russ Baker and Jerry Policoff and our special guest, film director Oliver Stone.

I skipped the paragraph on Max Holland, below, because he was in the front row and I feared he would use that as an excuse to disrupt the event. But I got him the next day, with a shout-out from the stage re winning the CIA’s “Studies in Intelligence” award, “the first person outside the government” to do so, and said I was glad the love went both ways.


My interest in the JFK case was initially sparked, ironically, by the mainstream media. I had been working on Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign and saw up close how the press completely misrepresented things that happened. I thought, if the media could be that wrong about a presidential campaign, what else might they be wrong about?

Early in my research, it became clear that the notion that Oswald acted alone was simply not supported by the evidence. I read Arlen Specter’s questioning of Parkland doctor Malcolm Perry and was shocked to find Specter leading the witness. Perry clearly thought the wound in Kennedy’s neck indicated a shot from the front. Specter clearly didn’t want Perry saying that.

My first thought was that Specter’s agenda was so obvious no serious journalist could have missed it. My second thought was, no serious journalist ever read this.

But the more I learned, ignorance alone could not excuse the shoddy reporting on this case. The media could talk at length about the theories I call collectively, the “anybody but the CIA did it” theory. But the media has never addressed the myriad and strong evidence that high-level people in the CIA planned the assassination of a president they had come to see as a threat to their very existence. Why couldn’t the media go there?

I found the answer in Mark Lane’s book “Plausible Denial.” He talked about Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who had interviewed Oswald before the assassination and written an inaccurate book about him after. Lane made a strong, if circumstantial, case that she worked for the CIA. We’ve since found out she did - her handler wrote that she could be “encouraged to write” pretty much whatever the CIA wanted, and her file listed her as a “witting collaborator,” which begs the question, what is an “unwitting collaborator?”

I then read that now-famous memo the CIA sent its media assets instructing them how to discredit critics of the Warren Report. I found this stunning. Here was the chief suspect, the CIA, having the power to destroy the credibility of anyone who might factually accuse them.

So I formed a theory. If the CIA really had killed Kennedy, anyone devoting a lot of time and energy to tell me that they hadn’t was likely working for the CIA. The value of any theory is its predictive value. This particular theory has proven remarkably accurate over time.

One journalist in particular, James Phelan, author of a famous book about Howard Hughes, had gone out of his way – to the point of bribing a witness – to sabotage New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s case against Clay Shaw back in the 60s. That was WAY beyond the bounds of professional journalism, so naturally, I figured Phelan was likely connected to the CIA. I started digging and it didn’t take me long to find a significant connection.

I was the first to note the relationship between Phelan and Robert Maheu, the man the CIA had tapped to run its Castro assassination plots. During the Garrison investigation, Phelan had met with Garrison in Las Vegas. Garrison trusted Phelan because he had previously written a favorable article about him. But rather than using the nearest copy machine, Phelan had taken Garrison’s documents to Maheu’s office to be photocopied. Given Maheu’s relationship with the CIA, which was ongoing during the entire period he worked for Howard Hughes, I thought that was pretty stunning. Essentially, Phelan was making Garrison’s key files available to the CIA.

When I posted about Phelan’s relationship with the CIA online, Phelan called me up at home and tried to threaten me with a lawsuit. But I knew I had only told facts, so he’d have no case. I also figured he wouldn’t dare enter into a process where I could legally learn even more about his life. I was right. I never heard from him again.

When Gerald Posner wrote his factually inaccurate “Oswald did it” book “Case Closed” that got a lot of attention on the fortieth anniversary, I figured he probably had connections to the CIA. I found his previous nonfiction books had all been written with help from the intelligence community, and his sole fiction work at that point was a novel about the CIA that lauded the old guard covert operators over the new guard bureaucrats. Indeed, Posner even said he’d been promised CIA cooperation for Case Closed by his editor Bob Loomis (who, by the way, had been James Phelan’s editor).

Edward Epstein, who attacked Garrison and later tried to pin the assassination on the Soviets, turned out to be a protégé of the man who held the most secret files on Oswald – CIA counterintelligence legend James Angleton, one of the top suspects for a direct CIA conspirator!

My theory’s holding up pretty well, isn’t it? Funny what you can find when you ask the right question.

What’s scary is how naïve the press is. They never seem to consider that members in their own ranks could be deliberately misleading them. For example, reporter Hugh Aynesworth holds sway over the JFK case in Dallas, despite the fact that Aynesworth has openly bragged about how he lied to a reporter about a key item regarding Oswald. Why would you take seriously someone who brags he misled other journalists?

Would it surprise you to learn that Aynesworth applied to work for the CIA a month before the assassination? We have his application. Of course, on the record, the CIA rejected him. But as anyone who knows the CIA understands, that’s also standard operating procedure. As Gordon Novel once put it, “no one ever works for the CIA,” even when they do.

Does Max Holland work for the CIA? All I know is that he writes for them. When he couldn’t get an anti-Garrison article published by his former employer, The Nation magazine, he found a ready publisher at CIA in their “Studies in Intelligence” newsletter. He even won their award, claiming to be “the first person outside the US government to do so.” Curiously, his vita shows a lot of fellowships from foundations, which have often been conduits for CIA funding. Maybe he was just an “unwitting collaborator.”

But it’s not just individual journalists who work hand in hand with the CIA. It’s entire media organizations. The president of CBS for decades worked with the CIA directly. The New York Times was the CIA’s most powerful asset. The Washington Post under Katherine Graham and later Ben Bradlee kept the CIA’s secrets. ABC, NBC other major media sources have documented relationships with the CIA.

When the Church and Pike Committees started investigating the CIA’s media operations, that was the one thing the CIA refused to give up. Congress could not pry that information from the Agency.

By 1991, the CIA had become so all-powerful in the media that pretense was no longer necessary. In December of 1991, less than a year before the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination, CIA Director Robert Gates laid out, in a memo titled “Greater CIA Openness,” that its Public Affairs Office:

“has relationships with reporters from every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly, and television network in the nation. This has helped us turn some intelligence failure stories into intelligence success stories, and it has contributed to the accuracy of countless others. In many instances, we have persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold, or even scrap stories that could have adversely affected national security interests or jeopardized sources and methods.”

It should be clear that any organization that brags about its ability to change “intelligence failures” into “intelligence success stories” is, at its heart, an anti-democratic organization. The public simply cannot make intelligent choices about politics when failures are misrepresented as successes. No business could survive such misrepresentation for long. But intelligence agencies get away with it.

We have to know the truth about our past and present in order to plan adequately for our future. And it’s hard. Sorting good information from bad in this case isn’t easy. It took me years to understand just how solid the scientific evidence is that Oswald never fired a rifle on November 22. And I was actively interested in the case. I can see why journalists would shy away from that. It takes a Herculean effort.

And that’s the unfairness of ridiculing “conspiracy theorists.” Some of them are the ones who have done the heavy lifting, the historical mining that the mainstream media has failed to do. To group the nuttiest with the most informed is labelism at its worst. Imagine reading this in the New York Times: “these Jews should be ridiculed, even shunned. It’s time we marginalized Jews the way we’ve marginalized smokers … make [them] stand in the rain with the other outcasts.” That’s what Bryan Burrough in the New York Times wrote about conspiracy theorists, not Jews. But we hear the problem more clearly when we substitute a different group of people. It’s intolerable. It’s actually hate speech.

Conspiracies happen. I was a juror on a conspiracy trial. Pretending they don’t is not only ahistorical, it’s irresponsible.

And conspiracy theories serve a useful purpose. They ask, essentially, what if we’re being lied to, and that’s a question that, as history has shown, journalists should be asking far more often than they do. WMD, anyone?

If the press had looked seriously into the Kennedy assassination, they would found a conspiracy. Had the press then reported the conspiracy, there could have been prosecutions. Had there been prosecutions, we might not have lost Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. NOT challenging the official story was the same as giving future conspirators a blank check, which was taken and cashed, several times over.

The media has been an accessory to these crimes and more through silence, ignorance and misrepresentation. My hope is that journalists get more diligent and less naïve. My other hope is that the public gets savvier, and treats the news as the stage-managed affair it all too often is. After fifty years, it’s time we grew up.

Monday, September 16, 2013

My testimony to the UN commission on Dag Hammarskjold's plane crash is mentioned in their report

I was one of three Americans to testify to a new commission that has been reinvestigating the death of Dag Hammarskjold for the last year. I'm named in the report that is now out. Please see my summary of the report over at Consortium News here:

There are two worlds - one in which covert operations are well known, and one in which they are barely known at all. Which do you live in? You really can't understand what's going on in the world if you don't have a good grounding in covert operations. You will remain forever one of the "sheeple" the intelligence agenices laugh about and take advantage of. Don't be that person. We need informed citizens, not sheeple, if we want to improve our lot in life and in the lives of others.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The government's case for an attack in Syria is REALLY thin

"Most people are rightly incensed over what appears to have been gruesome chemical weapons attacks in Syria. No one questions that the current regime’s crackdown on dissidents has been obscenely violent. No one questions the brutality of the Syrian ruling family over multiple generations. But the evidence is far from conclusive that the recent chemical weapon attacks were ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."

Read the rest of my article summarizing many of the reasons to doubt the government's case re attacking Syria over at Consortium News here:

While you're there, check out the slew of articles about Syria there. I tried to summarize some of the best pieces of information that have come out in the last week re the latest attack, and who was, or wasn't, behind it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Updates as we approach the 50th anniversary of the JFK case

Long time no see! I've been busy with other projects, but wanted to give you all a heads up on some developments in advance of next year's 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Jefferson Morley, former Washington Post journalist and the author of several books, has started a blog at, where he discusses and debunks garbage information about Kennedy and links to factual sources of information about Kennedy in life and death and about Oswald, and what agencies of the government knew about him in advance of the assassination. Well worth watching. If you see anything that could help others get over some disinfo - send the data to them. It won't be worth much if only a few of us see this work.

On the RFK case, I wanted to give people on the East Coast a heads up. James Douglass and Paul Schrade will be speaking together at a three-day event at the Rowe Conference Center in Western Massachusetts, a beautiful area I got to visit in my earlier incarnation as a harp student at Tanglewood. Both Douglass and Schrade are not only great speakers, they are wonderful, interesting people. If you feel inclined to dive in in depth, get the details here.

David McCullough, whom readers love but other historians don't respect, is headlining the near invitation-only event in Dealey Plaza next year. It's not quite that bad, but the city of Dallas, along with the CIA's Museum Sixth Floor Museum, is preparing a celebration expressly designed, or so it would seem, to prevent those with information about the conspiracy that killed Kennedy to speak. Seriously, looks like you will have to get some sort of ticket to attend, so plan ahead now. I plan to be there, and I hope to see many of you there as well.

Jim DiEugenio's new book is out. Don't be fooled by the fact that it has the same title as his old one. It's about 80% new, based on information that came out after his original book Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba and the Garrison Case. It basically shows, step by step, document by document, how the CIA sabotaged Garrison's case against Clay Shaw for what Garrison had good reason to believe was Shaw's peripheral involvement in the JFK assassination. I wrote a blurb that the editor liked so much, he asked me to make it a preface. I start by saying as adults, we have to learn to decouple the words "conspiracy" and "theory," as not all conspiracies ARE theories. Some are fact. Like this case. Provably.

On a slightly different note - did you hear about the four American soldiers arrested (and on trial in Georgia) for plotting to assassinate Obama and take over the government? Never heard that on your local news, did you? Why are we spending billions to fight terrorists abroad when we have some at home?

I post more frequently, albeit shorter tidbits, on my Facebook page and on Twitter (/lisapease). Caution: If there is a Portland Trail Blazers game on, my tweets will be predominantly about the game. I do love that team!

What's new in your world? I've missed talking to and hearing from so many of you! And if you have anything of note about upcoming JFK-related events, please note them here.

P.S. I hear Tom Hanks abandoned his fiction-in-the-guise-of-documentary project (based on Bugliosi's book) and has opted for propaganda-in-the-guise-of-fiction instead. More on that another time....!

Hope you all are enjoying the long weekend. Talk to you later.

Lisa Pease

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Silencing the whistleblowers in Dealey Plaza on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination

The following is a note from John Judge re his efforts to try to get a permit to hold the usual moment of silence to honor John F. Kennedy. For years, a few hundred people have gathered on the Grassy Knoll on November 22, the anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, to hold a moment of silence and renew our efforts to find the truth. The research community  has, in essence, been whistleblowers to the crimes of many in government who provably sought to cover up ties between Oswald and the CIA. If there was nothing to hide, why is so much still being hidden?

But I digress. Here is John Judge's message. I hope to see many of you in Dealey Plaza next year.

- - - - -


Imagine the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy, November 22, 2013, at the Grassy Knoll passing without a word in the press about his assassination and who was behind it, only a celebration of his life. That is what Dallas authorities are planning now.

Every year, as you know, we hold a Moment of Silence on the Grassy Knoll at 12:30 pm on November 22 to commemorate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and to keep alive the knowledge and outrage about the injustice of his intentionally unsolved political murder. After our event, which continues a tradition started in 1964 by researcher and journalist Penn Jones, Jr., we speak truth to power.

We invite the best researchers to our annual meetings to present the best new evidence in the major political assassinations of the last five decades, and we encourage them to speak briefly on the Grassy Knoll. Our event is not a circus or carnival atmosphere, it is not even “conspiracy theory,” as the press commentators try to dismiss it. It is an event lest we forget.

We will be there again this year, this time on Thanksgiving Day. We invite you to join us for the conference and for the event in Dallas, from November 22-25th. We will be staying and meeting at the Hotel Lawrence this year, as in the past.


Imagine, on the 50th anniversary, when the attention of the national and international press, the crowds who come to Dallas and Dealey Plaza and the world that will be watching, that there would be no Moment of Silence. We have been applying for the permit for the last three years in anticipation of a major conference and huge crowds, and have been told repeatedly that none could be issued more than a year in advance. To our surprise a permit was then issued for the whole area of Dealey Plaza for next year for a full week in November to the Sixth Floor Museum, without an event yet planned. This permit is also exclusive of other events at the site, which ours never was.

The director of the Sixth Floor Museum said she got the permit to be “proactive” on behalf of the Mayor’s office in Dallas, which then appointed a committee to plan “dignified” events to “celebrate the life of John F. Kennedy” that week. We have attempted to coordinate with the Sixth Floor Museum only to be told that we should “move the national and international press attention to [JFK’s] death to another moment.” That would be a trick, but we all know that it will be gone at any other moment. We are also trying to coordinate with the Mayor’s commission to exercise our right of free speech in a public park that belongs to history and the American people. We want to be there to be seen and heard, to be silent and loud. We don’t want to be in a “free speech zone” a mile away where no one will hear our message.

The Director of the Sixth Floor Museum, which gives a very imbalanced view of the evidence and the history of the assassination of JFK to millions of tourists each year, told the Dallas Morning News that they had no event planned but they might do a “moment of silence”. I would suggest that if they do such an event to the exclusion of ours, it would stretch into an eternity of silence regarding this assassination.

Penn Jones wrote four volumes on the evidence and strange witness deaths in the Kennedy assassination called Forgive My Grief. Forgive ours, but some things are not forgivable and should not be forgettable. We will be there on November 22, 2013 in any case. Hope you will be with us.


We also fight to release all classified records on these murders, now decades past. Our support for the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act and the Review Board it created has led to the release of over 6.5 million pages of classified records buried since 1964, but not all of them. We have joined the call by the Committee for an Open Archives and the Assassination Archives and Research Center to expedite the release of all related files on JFK’s assassination by the 50th anniversary next year, and not in 2017 or even later. All efforts to use FOIA, Mandatory Declassification Review or even Obama’s Executive Order calling for release of files classified for over 25 years to be implemented without review have failed so far. The new agencies, created by his administration to facilitate transparency and release, have decided that the JFK records are outside their mandate. An online petition to demand release can be found at

We continue to push for introduction of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Records Act to release hundreds of thousands of pages of the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation into his death, locked up since 1978 until 2028. All their files on JFK are already released. The Clerk of the House was approached to use her authority to release these records, but their office has declined saying it needs Congressional legislation. We have a new sponsor who seems ready to drop the bill and details will follow to get support.

Our website features speakers from past conferences as well as regular news updates about political assassinations, new evidence and witnesses, legal developments, threats on the President and Secret Service response, and in-depth articles from leading researchers and academics.

Every year we gather in Dallas, and some years in Memphis, Los Angeles and New York, to present and discuss the best new evidence in the murders of Malcolm X, the Kennedy Brothers, Dr. King and others. We invite renowned legal, medical, forensic and ballistics experts, academics and noted authors, and citizen researchers whose work over the years has shed light on these crimes and rewritten our history. We make many of the presentations available by livestream on our website, but being at the event, networking, getting the latest books and resources and meeting those seeking the truth is an experience not to be missed.

This is a critical time because these assassinations are fading into history for later generations. The approaching 5th decade mark may consign active concern about the assassinations of the 60s to past history and indifference, despite widespread acceptance in the public that a conspiracy of some sort was involved, not the actions of a lone, crazed gunman. We are the ones who are left to make sure that this history is not lost and its impact on the present is made clear. November 22, 1963 marked a turning point in America and the rise of the Military Intelligence Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower warned of and Kennedy opposed has defined our history since. The political assassinations that day and others that followed were instrumental in destroying hope for a different future and movements for social change. All those killed had challenged militarism, war, racism and poverty, the "pillars of oppression" defined by Dr. King that still plague us today.


Imagine instead a major conference in Dallas that we have titled "50 Years is Enough!" – with all the key researchers, authors, legal and medical/forensic experts who have broken the cases open in the past decades there to speak the truth about them, to those present and on the internet to the rest of the world. Imagine a crowd of thousands in Dealey Plaza, along with the world press, seeing our banners calling for release of records and hearing our speakers calling for justice and an independent investigation of these unsolved homicides that would hold those responsible to account and take the sordid history since to task. Imagine a future where the assassination of fairly elected leaders and purveyors of hope for social change would never again be tolerated and would demand full investigations and exposure of the forces behind them. We cannot celebrate the life of John F. Kennedy while we forget his death.

Our Dallas meeting this year will be held from November 22-25 at the Hotel Lawrence, just off Dealey Plaza. We will announce hotel reservation information and rates soon. Information on speakers and other details are being posted at our website as well. Next year we plan to hold a national conference in Dallas, and we may be doing meetings in Memphis and Los Angeles as well if there is interest.

We can't do all this without you. Since 1994, we have worked to present serious research, new evidence, force release of records, support legal challenges and forensic testing, and to keep these cases alive to the public and a new generation. We do all this with the help of a very few donors and on a tiny budget. No foundations sponsor us, and certainly no corporation or government funds. We are volunteers, no paid staff.


This year, anticipating the need to have a major conference on the 50th anniversary, two donors have put up a challenge grant, which will match all donations made before that up to $2,000. This means a donation of any size will double for us right now and make it possible for us to be visible next year and to bring the best speakers.

Donations of $50 or more will get you a copy of a DVD set of our jam-packed 2011 conference in Dallas. $100 or more will also automatically register you for this year's conference events, a real bargain. Donations are not tax deductible. Checks can be made to COPA at P.O. Box 772, Washington, DC 20044 or credit card donations can be made to our Paypal account from the website (

We need you. Will you join us now with your support? Will you come to Dallas this year and next? Will you stand with us on the Grassy Knoll to speak out and be visible and help get out our call for an Occupy the Grassy Knoll in 2013 (see

COPA has been a leader in this work for nearly two decades and our work is not finished yet. I hope you will contribute now to both the hope of the future and the continued visibility of the past.

Thanks for your support!

John Judge, Director

Coalition on Political Assassinations