Thursday, October 26, 2017

HSCA investigator Dan Hardway discusses imminent release of JFK assassination files

Dan Hardway read many of the documents that are about to be released during his role as an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s. As such, he can tell us a great deal more than the average person about what this release may prove. Here is his "for release" comment on these, "rush job - proofed only once".

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WHAT WERE THEY HIDING AND WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR?

By Dan L. Hardway © October 26, 2017

                As we go into the hysteria of a massive JFK document dump, there is one remarkably surviving document that has already been released that we should keep in mind – especially when reading news coverage of the documents scheduled for release today. 

                On April 1, 1967, the Head of the Covert Action Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sent a dispatch to many of the CIA stations and bases around the world.[i]  That the document survived may be remarkable as it is clearly marked as “Destroy when no longer needed.”  Or, then again, maybe it is not remarkable that it has not been destroyed because the government and intelligence community’s efforts to silence those who question the official story about John Kennedy’s murder has never succeeded and, hence, the dispatch remains needful from their viewpoint.

                The dispatch lays out a plan for defending the lone nut theory first advanced as the major theme of the government cover-up of the assassination investigation.  The dispatch labels people who question the lone nut theory as “conspiracy theorists”.  It plainly states the purpose of the dispatch “is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists…. Our play should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (i) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (ii) politically interested, (iii) financially interested, (iv) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (v) infatuated with their own theories.”  It goes on to suggest that critics be countered by advancing arguments such as they have produced no new evidence, that they overvalue some evidence while ignoring other evidence, that large scale conspiracies are “impossible to conceal in the United States,”  that Oswald would not have been any “sensible person’s choice for a co-conspirator”, and by pointing out the comprehensive work of the Warren Commission which was composed of men “chosen for their integrity, experience, and prominence.”    

                Many of the claims in the dispatch are ludicrous in hindsight, but are still parroted by main stream media sources.  We’ve seen them trotted out by lone nut theory defenders every time there has been a major breakthrough in the assassination investigation.  As I’ll discuss below, we are already seeing some of these “plays” (as the dispatch calls them) already before the JFK document release and I suspect we’ll see a lot more of them in the coming days. Let’s start by looking at the possible validity of the plays. 

                At this point in time, fifty-four years after the assassination and fifty-three years after the publication of the Warren Report, there are researchers, analysts, historians, attorneys and many others who have been researching this case for most of that time.  Many of them do not advance “theories” about what happened, but rather try to find and analyze the facts that have been hidden for so long and ask questions about what they mean.  They certainly are not wedded to theories that were adopted before the evidence was in.  And let’s think about that for a moment.  The cover-up of the assassination began on Air Force One as it flew back to D.C. from Dallas.  The seeds are there in the released transcripts of Lyndon Johnson’s telephone calls.  If the standard is waiting to see all the evidence, then the Warren Commission is totally discredited as it has now been shown beyond any reasonable argument or doubt that not only did they not have all the evidence in before issuing their report, the very investigating agencies upon whom they relied actively conspire to keep evidence from them – just as they have, and still do, actively conspired to keep the evidence from the American people.  Lone nut theorists appear to be the ones wedded to the theory adopted before the evidence is in and doing all they can to spin the evidence as it comes out to try to shore up support for their theories.

                To try to argue that the Warren Commission members, its supporters since, and those covering up the evidence and resisting release of documentation, were not politically or financially interested in the cover-up should be accepted as facially absurd at this point.  Indeed, even in 1967, the CIA dispatch openly admits to such interest, pointing out that opinion polls showing that more than half of the public was questioning the Warren Commission’s lone nut theory reflects a “trend of opinion [that] is a matter of concern to the U.S. Government, including our organization.”  Questioning the rectitude and wisdom of the members of the Warren Commission would “tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.”  An “increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited”[ii] could implicate him.  Such concerns “affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government.”[iii]   The Chief of Covert Action then acknowledges the Agency’s own interest: “Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation.”  Indeed, they also covered-up information, as they have now admitted.[iv]  The Agency’s concern, one that continues to this day, is plainly stated: the conspiracy theories expose them to “suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us.”  The CIA’s main personal, if you will, stake in covering up and countering criticism has always been to deflect any possible focus on their relationship to the purported lone-nut assassin. 

                Hasty and inaccurate in their research?  How many documents are about to be released that have never been seen?  And who is it that is sure of their theory?  What can we say now about critics who for over fifty years have called for the release of all the information so that the American people can see and judge for themselves? 

                Arguing that there is no new evidence is like standing in front of a camel and insisting it is a horse.  New evidence has dribbled out now over the decades, in small manageable doses that can be dismissed as disconnected by the lone-nut theorists.  And the blatant hubris of the argument is astounding.  These are people who can suppress the evidence and taunt you because you don’t have it!  It’s like prosecuting attorneys in criminal cases who refuse to reveal exculpatory evidence while simultaneously shifting the burden of proof to the accused.  And as for the weighing all the evidence argument, how do you expect that to go if you control the evidence and only let the evidence out that supports your theory?  Convenient.  And if someone else does come up with a fact that contradicts your lone-nut theory, you can always deny it even though you know your suppressed evidence supports it.  No wonder there has been such resistance by the Agency to full disclosure.

                Conspiracy theories can’t be hidden in America?  Really?  That’s why J. Edgar Hoover was able to do all that he did to undermine American civil liberties for fifty years without exposure that wouldn’t have even come then had not there been a break-in at a small FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.[v]  MKULTRA wasn’t as successful.  It was only covered up for 25 years or so, as was the CIA programs to save and use ex-Nazi scientists and intelligence officers after the Second World War.  Actually, all that needs to be said in rebuttal is that for 50 years the CIA and our government vehemently denied that there was a conspiracy to keep information from the Warren Commission.  It is a prime tenet and support of the lone-nut theorists.  In spite of the denials, finally, three years ago, the Agency in their internal secret magazine, in an article written by their official historian, admitted there was such a conspiracy, although they called it benign[vi].  We’ll return to this in a bit.

                Next, we have a point I will concede: Oswald as a co-conspirator.  I agree, he’s hardly one that a rational person might choose.  But, is he one a rational person might choose as a patsy?  -- an entirely different question.  Remember, that being a patsy was Oswald’s claim in one of the few brief encounters he had with the press.  That claim would have been, presumably, a major theme developed by competent defense lawyers had he lived long enough to be tried.  But the lone-nut theorists dismiss that possibility out of hand.  Nothing to see here, folks, just move on.  There was no investigation of this in the hasty Warren Commission investigation that led to the establishment of the lone-nut theory.

                As far as the Warren Commission membership goes, I will concede their then-prominence, but I have to wonder, in light of the evidence that has come in since, about their integrity and experience as support for the integrity of their work.  Allen Dulles was the head of the CIA fired by President Kennedy.  His collusion with the CIA in the pendency of the Warren Commission is shown in documents that have been released in the last few years.  He passed out a book to Commission members at their first meeting taking the position that American assassins are always lone-nuts.  Earl Warren was coerced into serving against his will by Lyndon Johnson and the supposed threat of nuclear war.  Gerald Ford was in J. Edgar Hoover’s pocket.  John J. McCloy was steeped in the intelligence community and was almost single handedly responsible for the end of prosecution of Nazi war criminals and the early release of those who had already been convicted when he became the High Commissioner for post-war Germany.  Richard Russell, Jr., and Hale Boggs both privately rejected the Warren Commission’s lone nut theory, as did Lyndon Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and many, many others.  But the conspiracy of silence took years to break, and when broken, the revelations came out piecemeal and were dismissed at the time as insignificant, old news – just conspiracy theorists.

                And, speaking of that title, “conspiracy theorist”, is designed to be pejorative.  If you can stick it to someone, then you don’t have to listen to what they say.  Even if they are reporting new evidence, they’re just wacky conspiracy theorists.  Just like those nuts who for years said J. Edgar Hoover was running a program to subvert dissidents illegally, or that the CIA was illegally surveilling U.S. citizens, or that the CIA had covered up information to keep it from other government entities that were investigating the Kennedy murder, right?  Even if the person only reported facts and asked questions, they were (and are) labelled a “conspiracy theorist” solely for the purpose of undermining their credibility and lessening any impact they might have on public opinion.  And when it comes to light that the answer to the question they raised, “is it possible there was a conspiracy?’ is, “Not only is it possible, there was indeed a conspiracy,” then even a blind bird occasionally finds a worm.  And the cover-up artists say this without shame even though they have known about the conspiracy from the get-go.  The next stage is to come up with a new spin such as, the cover-up was “benign”, or shifting suspicion where they want it to go.  What, exactly, was covered up in other words.        

As noted by Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor at Florida State University, the CIA in 1967 began a campaign to “popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make a conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility.”  He notes that the campaign, “must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives in all time.”[vii]  He summarizes why the label has been used as a sword by those who resist the truth: “[T]he conspiracy-theory label, as it is applied in public discourse, does not disparage conspiratorial thinking or analysis in general, even though this is what the term suggests.  Rather the broad-brush ‘conspiracy theory’ disparages inquiry and questioning that challenge official accounts of troubling political events in which public officials themselves may have had a hand.  A conspiracy theory directs suspicion at officials who benefit from political crimes and tragedies.  The theories are considered dangerous not because they are obviously false, but because, viewed objectively and without deference to U.S. political officials and institutions, they are often quite plausible.[viii]

So, the first thing to remember going into the next few days is to stop when you see the label and ask, “Why is the writer of this story disparaging this idea?  Who is he trying to deflect suspicion from?  Why is he trying to direct my suspicion elsewhere? Can I reject the label and recover an objective view what this labeled individual has to say?”  Then do your best to find out what the idea being attacked really is rather than just rejecting it out of hand because of the labelling.  Remember, the term “conspiracy theory” gained prominence as a result of a CIA led propaganda initiative specifically addressed at protecting their own interests.

We see a blatant example of this dismissive labelling in CNN’s coverage of the upcoming document release.  Jeremy Diamond writes, “A decision to withhold even a sliver of the documents could give conspiracy theorists more fodder to propel their claims.”[ix]  So, what you are supposed to take away is that if anyone raises any questions about documents being withheld after the release date, they have to be a “conspiracy theorist” who isn’t worthy of your time or attention.  Consider, what is there to hide at this point?  If something is not released, why is it illegitimate to ask why, especially in view of our government’s relationship with the truth, or lack thereof, over the past six decades?  What purpose is served by Mr. Diamond’s advance labelling? 

The appeal to authority is also used in battling “conspiracy theories.”  It is seen in the CIA dispatch’s appeal to the apparent authority of the Warren Commission created by the then-reputations of its members and the superficially extensive investigation.  This technique appears again in Mr. Diamond’s article: “Historians who have closely studied the Kennedy assassination have said they do not expect the documents to … contradict the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing Kennedy.”[x]  Really, what historians?  Why are none named.  Why does he not give any consideration to people such as Dr. David R. Wrone, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. John Newman, an adjunct professor of history at James Madison University, whose lifetime study of the subject has led them to the conclusion that Oswald could not have been solely responsible?[xi]  I haven’t spoken to them but I would venture to guess that neither Dr. Wrone nor Dr. Newman expect the documents to support Mr. Diamond’s lone-nut theory.

Then we have Phil Shenon’s return to the fray in The Guardian this morning.[xii] Even in the title of his article, “Files will shed light on a JFK shooting conspiracy – but not the one you think”, Mr. Shenon starts to try to divert attention in the direction he wants it to go.  He states plainly what he doesn’t want you to consider: first, a second assassin in Dealey Plaza even though his assertion that “most credible” evidence supports the lone-nut theory is patently not true.[xiii]  Second, about a mafia plot to kill Oswald he asks “What half-way competent Mob boss would choose a delusional blabbermouth like Ruby…?” echoing the CIA dispatch’s question about what rational person would ever choose Oswald as a co-conspirator?  Again, as with the CIA’s question, Shenon’s borrowed technique avoids the important questions and shuts off the possibility of objective investigation and consideration of other alternatives.  It’s a form of straw-man argument, but more slanderous and pernicious – you must be crazy if you don’t accept what I say.  For example, what about the possibility that Ruby was called on as an emergency stop gap measure only after an initial plan to dispose of the patsy failed?  I’m not saying that is what happened, but I am asking why it should be crazy, then or now, to consider the possibility and investigate it? Third, “a sprawling coup d’état involving everyone from President Johnson” on down the chain of command.  I, too, find that less credible than most.  But, then again, we have to consider that the evidence is now pretty much indisputable that President Johnson led the cover-up conspiracy and that his leadership and the conspiracy to cover-up anything that didn’t support the loan nut theory began immediately after the assassination.  I have to ask, “Doesn’t that raise questions in your mind that merit investigation and, if possible, answers?”  Why should we accept Mr. Shenon’s belittling dismissal of any questioning or review to see what’s actually in the evidence before we dismiss it? 

So, having told you what not to look for because even raising the questions can undermine proper deference to U.S. officials and institutions, he gives us the concession that we are now believed.  The CIA has admitted they participated in a benign cover-up of information during the Warren Commission investigation.[xiv]  Mr. Shenon acknowledges that the evidence is indisputable that both the CIA and the FBI had, at least, had Oswald under “aggressive surveillance in the months before the assassination.”[xv]  Mr. Shenon then advances the spin that the CIA and FBI embarrassment over not taking action to better protect the president in Dallas in light of what they knew is the reason for the benign cover-up: “ [I]mmediately after the assassination, panicked officials at both the CIA and FBI tried, desperately, to cover up evidence of the extent of their knowledge of Oswald, fearing their bungling of the intelligence about JFK’s assassin might be exposed – and that they would be blamed for the president’s murder.”  Yes sir, that certainly explains why the cover-up began immediately on Air Force One on the way back to D.C. on November 22, 1963.  As ridiculous as that idea is, it’s even more ridiculous to think that this embarrassment of two agencies would lead the whole government – from the president on down -- not just to cover up then, but to continue the cover-up and resist disclosure for more than fifty years of most of the documentary evidence, not to mention the massive destruction of evidence that has taken place.  When an offered concession is as implausible as this, what is the questions that the concede is trying to avoid being asked?  Could there have been other motivations for such a cover-up?

I am glad you asked.  Remember, in the 1967 dispatch the CIA acknowledged their basis of concern and, I believe, their motivation for participating in, if not leading, the cover-up of information for all these years.  Not just hiding information from the Warren Commission, but continuing to hide it and resist its disclosure even up to the present.  They acknowledged that the main CIA concern was that conspiracy theories might link them to the use of Oswald in intelligence operations.  This concern is still found in David Robarge’s article admitting CIA’s, or at least, Director McCone’s, participation in a conspiracy to hid information from the Warren Commission.  The article talks about the anti-Castro plots and the Nosenko information that was not shared with the Commission.[xvi]  This was used as an opportunity by Mr. Shenon to revive the kinda-like-maybe Castro did it theory, a theory was first raised on November 23rd in a Cuban exile publication sponsored and paid for by CIA .[xvii] 

But you have to read Mr. Robarge’s article carefully.  It is always wise to carefully parse CIA pronouncements to see what they are actually saying.  Mr. Robarge never specifically states that the CIA was mainly concerned in suppressing Kennedy murder information in preventing information about their attempts to murder Castro getting out.  Here’s what he actually says about the motivation for the cover-up: “Moreover, the DCI shared the [Johnson] administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories, and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination.  If the commission did not know to ask about covert operations against Cuba, he was not going to give them any suggestions where to look.”[xviii] Taken in toto, the statement would draw you to infer that the Castro assassination plots were what was being covered up.  But if that is the case, why has the resistance to disclosure remained so fierce even after those plots were disclosed in 1975?  And earlier in the article, Robarge clearly states that electronic intercepts had, within a few days, convinced the administration and the Agency that neither the USSR nor Cuba had any complicity in the assassination.[xix]  So who might the “perpetrators” be against whom “calls for a tough US response“ might be made if they already knew that neither Soviet Russia nor Cuba were complicit?  Notice the specific structure of Mr. Robarge’s statement: “avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories.”  I submit to you that this is the same motivation that existed in 1967 as stated by the CIA Chief of Covert Action in the April 1 dispatch: “Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us.”[xx] 

The CIA has told us what they were trying to hide.  They have been trying to hide information that could implicate them as an organization participating in a conspiracy based on the fact that Oswald was not only under aggressive surveillance, but was also being utilized in some capacity by them in active intelligence operations shortly before the assassination.   Those operations were directed at Cuba.  The ones they didn’t want to be asked about, as Mr. Robarge states, were “covert operations against Cuba,” not covert Castro assassination plans.  Please note in his article that Robarge is careful to specify the Castro assassination plots when he is talking about them.  He is equally careful here to not reference them but, rather, more general “covert operations against Cuba.”  We should be looking for information on Oswald’s involvement in those operations in this document release.  They’ve told us where to look.[xxi]





[i]  Dispatch, Countering Criticism of the Warren Report, from Chief of CA Staff to Chiefs of Certain Stations and Bases, April 1, 1967, RIF 104-10009-10022.
[ii] Que bono?  Certainly not just Johnson, but the basic investigative question never seems to have even been raised, let alone considered, by the Warren Commission or the intelligence community in 1963-1964.
[iii] “L’Etat, c’est moi.” The Agency’s concern was well-founded.  The JFK murder cover-up was the beginning of the unravelling of government credibility in the United States and led directly to the growth of the secrecy culture that subsequently allowed the Vietnam war, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraqi WMD’s, etc., etc., etc.
[iv] David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF.
[v] See, e.g., Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, Knopf 2014.
[vi] One CIA officer is also on record calling Operation Phoenix in Vietnam that tortured and killed myriads of Vietnamese civilians “benign”.
[vii] Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, University of Texas Press 2013, at p. 25.
[viii] Id., at 41.  Emphasis added.
[ix] Jeremy Diamond, JFK Files: Trump teases release as deadline arrives, CNN, 26 Oct 2017, available at https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/10/26/politics/jfk-assassination-files-classified-document-release-donald-trump/index.html
[x] Id.
[xi] See, e.g., David R. Wrone, Two Assassinations: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, Meeting (37th: 1980 : Madison), Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana (Library of Congress); http://aarclibrary.org/board-of-directors/ ; John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, Skyhouse 2008; John Newman, JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power, 2nd Ed., CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2016; John Newman, Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2017.
[xii] Philip Shenon, Files will shed light on a JFK shooting conspiracy – but not the one your think, The Guardian, 26 Oct 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/26/john-f-kennedy-asssassination-documents-national-archives
[xiii] Most ear and eye witnesses on record from Dealey Plaza put a second shooter on the grassy knoll.  Any fair analysis of the Zapruder film supports a finding of a shot from the front.  The acoustics work of the HSCA showing a shooter on the knoll is also still supported by the best scientific evidence in spite of vigorous attempts to discredit it. 
[xiv] Technically, the Robarge article, see note iv above, did not concede CIA participation so much as to blame the JFK appointed Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone, of participating in a benign cover-up.  See, Dan Hardway, A Cruel and Shocking Misinterpretation, 2015, available at http://aarclibrary.org/a-cruel-and-shocking-misinterpretation/; Dan Hardway, Thank You, Phil Shenon, 2015, available at http://aarclibrary.org/thank-you-phil-shenon/
[xv] A more objective and careful review of CIA documentation shows that there is even more documentary evidence that the CIA was using Oswald as a witting or unwitting asset in at least one intelligence operation.  See, e.g., John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, Skyhouse 2008; John Newman, Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2017; JFKFacts, Exclusive: JFK investigator on how CIA stonewalled Congress, http://jfkfacts.org/hardway-declaration-cia-stonewalled-jfk-investigation/; Declaration of Dan L. Hardway, Morley v. CIA, CA # 03-02545-RJL, D.C.D.C. 11 May 2016, Docket No. 156.
[xvi] Robarge above at n. 4.
[xvii] See, Phil Shenon, Phil Shenon, “Yes, the CIA Director was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up,” Politico, 10/06/2015, available at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/jfk-assassination-john-mccone-warren-commission-cia-213197; Dan Hardway, Thank You, Phil Shenon, 2015, available at http://aarclibrary.org/thank-you-phil-shenon/
[xviii]  Robarge, above, n. 4, at p. 9.
[xix] The National Security Agency has never released such intercepts. 
[xx]  Dispatch, above at n. 1.
[xxi] This article is going out quickly and will be reviewed and supplemented in the future.  One supplement will address the modus operandi of CIA cover-up and obstruction of investigations. Another will deal with what we know before the present document release about possible covert operations against Cuba that may have involved Oswald. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We need a constitutional upgrade

I think we need a new constitution. There is so much that is simply antiquated and outdated. For one, when the "two Senators per state" rule was created, the states were smaller and closer together. I think California deserves four Senators.

The electoral college was a good idea and is actually designed to prevent a madman from getting elected. But what if the guy isn't perceived by enough electors as mad?

The second amendment was crafted for "the purposes of a well-regulated militia" and needs a rewrite. People should have a right to guns but under a strict set of circumstances (a reasonable waiting period, e.g.)

The new constitution should prohibit companies from donating to elections, period. "One man, one vote," not "one dollar, one vote."

Another one: employers cannot discriminate on a lot of bases, but they can still discriminate, if they want, by political views. A business owner could fire all Democrats if they wanted to, or all Republicans, without penalty. This is very wrong and contradicts the first amendment, but there is nothing in the constitution or laws preventing that.

Health care and a pension -- from a business or a government -- should be guaranteed to all citizens. And those who are not citizens should have to work off their free health care in some way. It does bother me that people are using the emergency room as their primary care physician. There should be a way for undocumented workers in need of care to get health care at a reasonable price or by working x number of hours per service for the County that is paying their medical bills.

Everyone from 18 to retirement should be guaranteed a job, period. If you are disabled, the job should fit what you can do. We can get very creative here. If you can turn a TV on and off, you can do some sort of job. If you do badly at that job, you should get a worse job. If you do well, hopefully you'll get a better job. And companies should partner with the government on this.
What are your ideas? Let's get this going!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

When you say #ImWithHer, this is what I hear, and it isn't pretty

I just want you to understand what I hear when you say "I'm with her." I hear:

You support fracking.

You support lying to people routinely.

You support allowing government officials to deliberately circumvent Freedom of Information Act statutes for the preservation and accessibilty of records.

You support wars against people who never attacked us and had no means to attack us.

You are okay with the fact that a million innocent - and I do mean completely innocent - men, women and children were massacred to give US access to oil.

You support a candidate who so completely bungled health care when she tried to craft a bill that not even the Democratic Congress under her husband's Democratic presidency could stomach bringing it to a vote.

You support a candidate who didn't speak out or care when millions of voters - primarily Bernie supporters - were mysteriously dropped from voting rolls in Arizona, in New York (especially in Brooklyn, where Bernie grew up), and in California. If it benefitted her - who cares about Democracy?

You are so desperate to see a woman elected you will overlook how she brought "triangulation" into politics to cut progressives out of their Democratic Party voice, choosing to support Wall Street over Main Street.

You support war crimes - the killing of civilians outside the context of an actual war, as the US has done with drone strikes.

You support punishing, not thanking, Edward Snowden for releasing info that helped millions and hurt no one.

You support fascist coups in third-world countries that overthrow democratically elected leaders (Honduras, e.g.).

You think it's appropriate to assassinate foreign leaders, period. ("We came, we saw, he died," Hillary giggled after assassinating Gaddafi in Libya, leaving it now a haven for terrorists.)

You support a woman whose policies as Secretary of State dramatically increased instability in the Middle East and Africa.

You support the woman whose State Department got the mandated minimum wage of $0.61/hour in Haiti down to $0.31/hour.

I can go on and on. But when you say ‪#‎ImWithHer‬, this is what I hear. And it makes me shudder.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dear Millenials: I feel your pain. You will feel joy, too!

Dear Millenials:

Here's what I learned on my first political campaign, whose campaign I joined in 1991 because he said money in politics IS the problem, and to make his point, he refused to accept more than $100 from any one person. He had an 800-number, the equivalent of the fund-raising machine of Bernie Sanders nowadays:

1. The Democratic Establishment HATES populists. (So do the Republicans, if you haven't noticed.) The party's first job is ALWAYS to preserve its own power. Only when forced will it act in the best interests of the people when the two don't coincide.

2. The media are not here for you. Their job is to preserve power for the 1%. They are not hired to be fair or to educate. There is no law preventing them from passing off fiction as news.

3. The American people are fundamentally decent and honest, which is why they are SO easily deceived by the media, by whisper campaigns, by anonymous emails, and all kinds of other skullduggery.

4. The people who fought side by side with you in this fight may someday get elected themselves and forget all the principles you thought you shared, if they ever did in the first place.

5. You will, on the whole, never meet more amazing people than the people you are volunteering with. Find out what motivates them. Find out what they do. They all have amazing stories. You may think you're special. Look around. Everyone here is special in some very amazing way.

6. You will be angry. You will be discouraged. And you will keep fighting even though "everyone" tells you you can "never" win. They said that to Obama too. Look what happened.

7. Strangers will be extraordinarly kind to you because many of them are special too and recognize the value in what you are doing, even if they can't directly help or participate for their own reasons.
8. You will find out who your true soulmates are. Strong relationships will grow stronger. Weak ones will be shoved aside as you learn you don't have time anymore for casual connections.

9. You will never EVER regret the time you spend doing the right thing. You may cry. You may scream. You may get incredibly depressed. But you will never regret. You will NEVER regret. And you will always hold your head high, no matter what, because you stood up to power, whether you won or lost.

10. EVENTUALLY YOU WIN. There ARE successes! There are numerous victories big and small in my past. There will be in yours too. It is worth it. All the pain, all the heartache, all the nastiness and despair - it is all so very worth it.

I truly love and appreciate all who fight to make the world a better place, in whatever way you do it. I especially appreciate those who are actually headed in the right direction at all times - that is a smaller subset.

 It is my great pleasure to have met and worked with so many great activists. I look forward to meeting many more in the months ahead!!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What it's like to phonebank for Bernie Sanders

I spent the afternoon phonebanking for Bernie.

I have to tell you, the tools the Bernie Sanders campaign are using are much more sophisticated than what the Obama campaign had. Then, we were still working off of paper lists which volunteers had to type into computers.

Bernie's team has built an incredible app you can do from a phone alone or from a phone and computer. This was the most high-tech operation I’ve ever seen, and from what I read, Hillary’s campaign has nothing anywhere near this sophisticated! They’re IBM. We’re Apple.

There’s a website where you can see how many calls are being made into states. Today, in this one application alone, about 66,000 calls were made. There’s a live map that shows calls originating in one state and arcing into the target state like the fountain inside the Bellagio Arboreteum. Little red arcs fly from one state to another, ending in a dot of red. It’s just amazing and inspiring.

You get a new account daily. You dial into a central number with your phone and connect to a site with the computer. The two work together. Logging into the website and dialing the central number connects you to a central dialer that dials the number and pings you when the call has connected. It's a little jarring at first because people answer sometimes before you see the name appear. But soon you're chatting.

The purpose of phonebanking is very simple. You want to find Bernie Sanders supporters and make sure they have a plan to get to their polling place. But a lot of phonebanking is just clearing lists. Lists are usually purchased for varying fees from various aggregators. In my experience over a few campaigns, about 80% of the people either don't answer, have moved, or it's a wrong number. Out of the ones left, people often won't tell you who they are voting for unless of course, it’s your candidate. I called one woman who was a strong Bernie supporter but who rushed me off the phone explaining her dog was trapped in a car and the fireman were trying to break the dog out. Yikes! “But call back,” she said. Someone will, no doubt.

Many people think phonebanking is about trying to talk voters into voting for Bernie - but that's not the goal. The goal is simply to find Bernie Supporters or to move quickly on. That said, I did get one undecided woman and talked to her a bit, but that's really not of value to the campaign. In the time it takes to educate one voter you could have called five others and whittled the list down further. At the end of each call, you mark who they are voting for (Bernie, Hillary, Other Republican, or Other, or mark no answer, moved, deceased, etc.). One guy took five minutes to explain to me why he didn’t vote (he was disabled) but how he enjoyed following the news o the process. I told him he could probably provisionally vote and register at the polling place, if, for the first time in his life, he did decide to vote.

And that's the goal. By Monday night, the phone banking is all about calling those commmited voters and making sure they have a plan to vote. Many people who want to vote don't because they didn't stop to think it through, plan the route, decide on a time, and they run out of time at the end of the day. So we had scripts to help them find their voting place, ask them when they plan to vote, etc. Most of the time, you don't get that far into the script.

No one was outright rude to me, although a few laughed and said they were Republicans. I was always very good natured with them, thanked them for participating in the democratic process (which really surprised a few of them who assumed I'd see them as the enemy. I don't.) In one case, the guy at the other end said, "I'm not a Socialist so I don't care what you have to say. I managed to get in an "I'm not a Socialist either!" before he hung up. But most people we called were polite, at least in Ohio. ;-)

But the real secret of phonebanking is that isn't just about reaching voters. Phonebanking is about getting to know the other politically aware and active people in your neighborhood. After the Nevada caucus loss I was upset, and I channeled it by going to a nearby park where a volunteer introductory event for Bernie was being held. There, they asked for people to host phone banks, people with homes big enough and with wireless networks and lots of outlets so 20 or more people could show up there. I met a very nice man and he set today as our first event.

At his house, I met his awesome wife from Iran, who has never been so excited about a presidential candidate in her entire life. I met a bunch of young people and a couple of middle-aged people. There were a few black people and one one white girl from Russia who had, amazingly, dual citizenship.

I was a big hit for my shirt. I was wearing the Bernie basketball one you’ve seen in my profile picture recently and several of the women wanted to know where to get one. I explained I’d had it custom made.

Our host had sandwiches for us, as well as wine, punch, guacamole, etc. Some of the food had been brought by volunteers, others the host had provided.

When you’re between calls, you hear snippets of other people’s conversations. When people had a good, bad or funny call, they’d talk to the nearest person about it after. So you have constant support from the other volunteers. Seriously, if you’ve never done it before, you should do it. It’s one of the great experiences in democracy we have these days. You and the country will be better for it!

After a few hours, all our computer batteries were dying and we gravitated to the living room where we finally hung up our phones and just chatted about the campaign, recent events, the future, “what if” scenarios, and so forth. I learned there are debate-watching parties happening in my neighborhood. Never even thought to search for that. There are primary watch parties. Might go for that. We’ll see how I feel come Tuesday night.

I wish I had more energy. I’m still struggling with what I hope are the after-effects by this point of a very serious bout with bronchitis. I’m going to sleep well tonight and probably for half the day tomorrow. But it was worth it, regardless of what happens. Doing the right thing is always its own reward. The frosting was making new friends in the process.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

About Bernie Sanders' support for Sierra Blanca as a nuclear waste site

A lot of Hillary's supporters are trying to hit Bernie Sanders with a non-issue. But people don't know the truth and they're falling for this. So let me quote Bernie Sanders, since this is a site for REAL history, about why he supported this. These are his unedited remarks in support of this, from http://www.c-span.org/congress/bills/billAction/?print/1410681:


3:21 PM EDT
Bernie Sanders, I-VT 1st

Mr. SANDERS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 629. Mr. Chairman, the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act and its 1985 amendments make commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal a State and not a Federal responsibility.

As we have heard, all that Texas and Maine and Vermont are asking for today is to be treated as 9 other compacts were treated affecting 41 States. This is not new business. We have done it 9 times, 41 States, and Texas, Maine, and Vermont ask us to do it today.

Mr. Chairman, let me touch for a moment upon the environmental aspects of this issue. Let me address it from the perspective of someone who is an opponent of nuclear power, who opposes the construction of power plants and, if he had his way, would shut down the existing nuclear power plants as quickly and as safely as we could.

One of the reasons that many of us oppose nuclear power plants is that when this technology was developed, there was not a lot of thought given as to how we dispose of the nuclear waste. Neither the industry nor the Government, in my view, did the right thing by allowing the construction of the plants and not figuring out how we get rid of the waste.

But the issue we are debating here today is not that issue. The reality, as others have already pointed out, is that the waste is here. We cannot wish it away. It exists in power plants in Maine and Vermont, it exists in hospitals, it is here.

The gentleman from Texas [Mr. Reyes] a few moments ago said, `Who wants radioactive waste in their district?' I guess he is right. But do Members know what, by going forward with the nuclear power industry, that is what we have. So the real environmental issue here is not to wish it away, but to make the judgment, the important environmental judgment, as to what is the safest way of disposing of the nuclear waste that has been created. That is the environmental challenge that we face.

The strong environmental position should not be and cannot be to do nothing, and to put our heads in the sand and pretend that the problem does not exist. It would be nice if Texas had no low-level radioactive waste, or Vermont or Maine or any other State. That would be great. That is not the reality. The environmental challenge now is, given the reality that low-level radioactive waste exists, what is the safest way of disposing of that waste.

Leaving the radioactive waste at the site where it was produced, despite the fact that that site may be extremely unsafe in terms of long-term isolation of the waste and was never intended to be a long-term depository of low-level waste, is horrendous environmental policy. What sense is it to say that you have to keep the waste where it is now, even though that might be very environmentally damaging? That does not make any sense at all.

No reputable scientist or environmentalist believes that the geology of Vermont or Maine would be a good place for this waste. In the humid climate of Vermont and Maine, it is more likely that groundwater will come in contact with that waste and carry off radioactive elements to the accessible environment.


There is widespread scientific evidence to suggest, on the other hand, that locations in Texas, some of which receive less than 12 inches of rainfall a year, a region where the groundwater table is more than 700 feet below the surface, is a far better location for this waste.

This is not a political assertion, it is a geological and environmental reality. Furthermore, even if this compact is not approved, it is likely that Texas, which has a great deal of low-level radioactive waste, and we should make the point that 80 percent of the waste is coming from Texas, 10 percent from Vermont, 10 percent from Maine, the reality is that Texas will go forward with or without this compact in building a facility to dispose of their low-level radioactive waste.

If they do not have the compact, which gives them the legal right to deny low-level radioactive waste from coming from anyplace else in the country, it seems to me they will be in worse environmental shape than they are right now. Right now, with the compact, they can deal with the constitutional issue of limiting the kinds of waste they get.

From an environmental point of view, I urge strong support for this legislation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Did Otto Otepka Know About Oswald and the CIA?

This article was originally published in Probe magazine, which I co-edited with Jim DiEugenio.

- - - -

By Lisa Pease

Otto Otepka once told journalist Sarah McClendon that he knew who had killed JFK, but would say no more on the subject.1 What might he have been in a position to know?

As head of the State Department’s Office of Security (SY), Otto Otepka was responsible for issuing or denying security clearances for State Department personnel. He took his job very seriously. In 1958, Otepka was awarded for Meritorious Service by no less than John Foster Dulles. The award lauded Otepka’s “loyalty and devotion to duty” as well as his “sound judgment, creative work and unusual responsibilities”, adding that Otepka “reflected great credit upon himself and the Department and has served as an incentive to his colleagues.”2

Not a McCarthyite

Otepka has often been unfairly portrayed as a right-wing clone of Senator Joe McCarthy. But the record does not support this caricature. In fact, Otepka crossed swords with Joe McCarthy in 1953 over Wolf Ladejinksy, a State Department agricultural expert who had once been employed by a Soviet trade agency. Despite such an obvious affiliation, Otepka’s evaluation cleared Ladejinsky of McCarthy’s unfair charges. Otepka himself has stated,
I thought my whole record would prove I was not a McCarthyite. I had never approved of Senator McCarthy’s tactics. Everyone in the security field knew that.3
November 5, 1963, Otto Otepka was unceremoniously fired from State based on charges that were unfounded.

How did Otepka fall so far from grace? And could it have had anything to do with his investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald?

Otto Otepka’s troubles started in December of 1960. Otepka’s biographer William Gill clearly believes that Otepka’s problems stemmed originally from Otepka’s continued denial of a security clearance for the former OSS veteran Walt Rostow. Otepka had denied him clearance twice before, and in December of 1960, Dean Rusk, newly appointed Secretary of State, visited Otepka in person to ask what Rostow’s chances would be of getting cleared at that time. Otepka was unable to give Rusk any reason to believe Rostow would ever receive clearance, and Rusk subsequently placed Rostow in the White House as a member of Kennedy’s personal staff, specifically as McGeorge Bundy’s second in command on national security matters.

Walt Whitman Rostow was the brother of Eugene Rostow. In Professor Don Gibson’s article about the creation of the Warren Commission, (Probe, May-June 1996) Gibson revealed Eugene Rostow’s primary role in the formation of that body. Eugene’s call was made less than two and a half hours after Oswald was killed. Walt Rostow also shared something in common with the CIA’s legendary Counterintelligence Chief, James Angleton. He did not believe in the Sino-Soviet split.4 Rostow was no communist, but in fact a hawkish Cold Warrior.

Walt Rostow was one of Kennedy’s “counterinsurgency” experts. “He made counterinsurgency seem profound, reasonable, and eminently just,” said author Gerald Colby in his book Thy Will Be Done. Walt Rostow—like Dean Rusk, Roswell Gilpatrick, Edward Lansdale, Paul Nitze, Harland Cleveland, Roger Hilsman, Lincoln Gordon, Adolf Berle, McGeorge Bundy and Henry Kissinger—came to work in the Kennedy administration directly from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Special Studies Project. This group had been hand-chosen by Nelson Rockefeller to assist him when he himself was seeking the Presidency. Author Colby called this “Nelson’s Secret Victory”, pointing out that while Kennedy knew many powerful people, they were mostly politicians, not men with experience in foreign affairs. The Rockefeller family network, and Nelson’s group in particular, provided a large assortment of bright, qualified men. However, with such a homogenous group surrounding him, Colby noted, “there was no one to advise the young president on the wisdom and efficacy of such covert operations as the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA’s secret war in Indochina, Project Eagle, or Lumumba’s murder.”5

Otepka’s biographer doesn’t seem to understand the distinction between Kennedy and this group. He insinuates that Bobby was behind Walt Rostow’s rise and Otepka’s fall. Bobby was originally the true believer in counterinsurgency as a means for conducting limited warfare and thus saving a greater number of lives than in outright war, which at that point in time seemed to mean nuclear war. But Bobby became disenchanted himself with both Rusk and Rostow and their type of counterinsurgency. Colby includes the text of one of Bobby’s speeches as released to the press, in which was written, “Victory in a revolutionary war is not won by escalation, but by de-escalation.” Kennedy did not actually speak these words when the speech was delivered, but the words were widely quoted by the press.6

Investigating Oswald

Was the denial of clearance for Rostow the trigger for Otepka’s eventual downfall? Or could it have been a letter that went out a few weeks earlier? In a letter dated October 25, 1960, Hugh Cummings of State’s Intelligence and Research Bureau wrote a letter to Richard Bissell at CIA, requesting information on defectors to the Soviet Union. Number eight on the list of eighteen names was Lee Harvey Oswald. In the book Spooks, Jim Hougan writes that,
According to Otepka, the study on defectors was initiated by him because neither the CIA nor military intelligence agencies would inform the State Department which defectors to the Soviet Union were double agents working for the United States.7
Although Otepka remained in the dark, within the CIA there seemed to be fewer questions as to for whom Oswald worked.

When State’s request came to CIA, Bissell turned the request over to two places: James Angleton’s Counterintelligence (CI) staff, and Sheffield Edwards’ Office of Security (OS) staff. In OS, Robert Bannerman, himself a former SY official and a colleague of Otepka’s, told his people to coordinate their response with CI. Evidently, Bannerman knew that Angleton’s CI staff, as opposed to the Soviet Russia Division (SR), would have the answers State needed. Paul Gaynor, of OS’s Security Research Staff (SRS), also seemed to have special knowledge that Angleton would be the appropriate person to handle this request. He passed Bannerman’s request for a coordinated response for State to Marguerite Stevens of SRS.

John Newman, in Oswald and the CIA, describes the unusual nature of Gaynor’s framing of this request:
This request, as Gaynor relayed it to Stevens, however, was worded in a peculiar way, as if to dissuade her from doing research on seven people. Bannerman specified that he wanted information on American defectors other than Bernon F. Mitchell and William H. Martin, and five other defectors regarding whom Mr. Otepka of the State Department Security Office already has information. One of the “five other defectors” that Stevens was not supposed to look into was Lee Harvey Oswald.8 [Newman’s emphasis]
Readers of Probe will remember from the last issue how CIA told the Headquarters offices of the FBI, State and INS that the CIA had already given information (re Oswald’s Mexico City trip) to the field offices of the same entities, which proved to be a lie. Is this a similar lie? Did Otepka have the information already? No, according to Otepka. In addition, we know now that Angleton’s CI/SIG chief, Birch D. O’Neal, prepared his own response regarding these “defectors”. And 10th on the list was Oswald. And more importantly, Oswald’s particular entry was marked SECRET.9 And again, as described in the last Probe, SIG—the Special Investigations Group—contained Angleton’s private handful of his most closed-mouth associates.

It’s significant that both Bannerman and Gaynor knew that the appropriate area for responding to inquiries about Oswald was Angleton’s CI staff. It’s interesting too how Gaynor relayed a response to a subordinate, Marguerite Stevens, in a manner that did not indicate to her that someone else in CIA had information on Oswald.

Another significant element in CI/SIG’s response was that it included a known lie. Oswald was listed as having “renounced” his citizenship.10 Although Oswald had attempted renunciation, he had not followed through and was still considered by both governments a citizen of the United States. Newman muses of this assertion, “Was CI/SIG truly incompetent or spinning some counterintelligence yarn?”11 The latter seems more likely, in light of other events.

The Opening of Oswald’s 201 File

Late November, 1960, Angleton’s staff sent Bissell their proposed response to State, which Bissell signed and forwarded. Yet we are to believe that, despite this obvious flurry of attention, just a few days later, on December 9, 1960, CI/SIG’s Ann Egerter opened a 201 file in the name of Lee Henry Oswald. Newman has stated that he thinks this name might have been the result of a simple mistake. While this response seems strained for a file that was restricted, as this one was, this explanation is even more weak in light of the recent attention focused on one Lee Harvey Oswald preceding the opening of this file. In fact, Egerter herself directly related the opening of the file to State’s request for information when deposed by the HSCA. Does this make any sense? It seems more like Egerter was trying to hide the CIA’s knowledge of Oswald, than preparing to divulge more of it.

Newman raises an interesting issue by quoting a memo from the man who later took Angleton’s position, George T. Kalaris. Kalaris gave a different version of why the 201 file was opened at that time, which states flatly:
Lee Harvey Oswald’s 201 file was first opened as a result of his “defection” to the USSR on 31 Oct 1959 and renewed interest in Oswald brought about by his queries concerning possible reentry into the United States.12
One of Oswald’s own letters supports Kalaris’ assertion. Oswald wrote to the American Embassy in Moscow in early 1961:
Since I have not received a reply to my letter of December, 1960, I am writing again asking that you consider my request for the return of my American passport.13
Newman quotes from an ABC Nightline broadcast from 1991, in which ABC claims that the KGB had intercepted this letter and that the original still exists in Soviet files. Newman further points out that only some extraordinary source or method could have relayed this information to the CIA so quickly for them to open the 201 file by December 9th. Even if Oswald wrote on December 1st, how did the CIA, continents away, learn the contents of a letter in the cold war Soviet Union within eight days? And more importantly, what would that indicate about the level of interest the CIA really had in Oswald, to be monitoring him so closely? In addition, Newman points out that,
Throughout Oswald’s stay in the Soviet Union, an Agency element which appears regularly on cover sheets for Oswald documents is CI/OPS, which means “Counterintelligence Operations.” If Oswald was a dangle, this might suggest that it was a counterintelligence operation run by Angleton.
Whatever the truth of the opening of the 201 file and the true purpose of Oswald’s trip to the Soviet Union, Otepka’s request for information sparked a chain of communications to Angleton’s unit, which then lied about Oswald in response. And Otepka’s life irrevocably changed. From December 1960, whether due to his refusal to clear Rostow, his poking into Oswald, or some other reason, Otepka started being taken off any “sensitive” security cases. It seemed Otepka’s reputation for meticulous attention to detail and thoroughness was making him a problem in SY. Why? Who was threatened by a man doing a good job?

Downward Spiral

An incredible, three year campaign unfolded against Otepka. Because of his stellar record, no one dared fire him. But all kinds of efforts were spent trying to make him want to quit, starting with his removal from the most sensitive cases in December, 1960. The first public attack began when stories appeared in the press that State—and specifically Otepka’s security area—would be undergoing a “reduction in force.”14

Shortly thereafter, Otepka was called before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), of which Senator James Eastland was Chair and Senator Thomas Dodd a vocal member. Otepka had gotten to know Jay Sourwine, the subcommittee’s Chief Counsel. Informally, Otepka had shared some of his concerns for what he saw as a loosening of the clearance procedures with Sourwine. Sourwine and the subcommittee quickly began, with Dodd presiding, to hold what came to be known as the Otepka hearings. In the subcommittee’s subsequent report, the members concluded that the release of the news stories was meant to cause Otepka’s voluntary resignation.

Since this effort failed, other steps had to be taken. Otepka’s superior in SY tried to entice Otepka into taking a position in a different division. But Otepka refused, and none too soon, since that division was dissolved a mere two months later.15 Next, Otepka was shifted into a position that was essentially a demotion. Still, Otepka hung on, trying to do the job he felt needed to be done.

Otepka had found that Rusk had appointed a number of officials to State under a blanket waiver that effectively backdated security clearances for the new officials. Otepka tried to raise his concern with his superiors, and urged them to go to SISS. But SY just wanted Otepka to look the other way.

In 1962, John Francis Reilly took control of SY. From the very beginning, he too seemed to be on a mission to get rid of Otepka. Otepka’s biographer relates this encounter, just weeks into Reilly’s term:
Smiling broadly, [Reilly] asked, “Where’s your rabbit’s foot?” Mystified, Otepka raised his eyebrows in question. Reilly laughed and, maintaining his air of benevolent affability, he explained that Otepka had just been selected to attend the National War College. This was an honor usually reserved for Foreign Service officers marked for higher things. Being human, Otepka was naturally pleased. Reilly seemed genuinely delighted that such good fortune had befallen a member of his staff and just for a moment, Otepka was taken in. He accepted the appointment with thanks, and perhaps with a sense of relief that he could escape, at least temporarily, from the strained atmosphere that prevailed in SY. Reilly shrewdly asked him to put his acceptance in writing.
That same day, May 7, Otepka wrote Reilly a memorandum formally expressing his willingness to attend the War College for ten months beginning in August. However, he could not resist adding, tongue in cheek, that the appointment had come as something of a surprise to him because the State Department had repeatedly assured him, the Congress, and the public that he would be kept in a responsible position in the Office of Security. Reilly returned this memo with the request that Otepka delete his comments on the Department’s premises. Otepka complied.16

Reilly, however, overplayed his hand. His overdone praise made Otepka a bit uneasy, and he decided to do a little checking on his own. What he found was that his appointment had not been entered with the regular nominations, but was entered as a last minute emergency-type nomination. Otepka then asked Reilly if by accepting, he would still be able to return to his post at State. Reilly admitted he would have to fill Otepka’s spot, and there would be no place to which Otepka could return. With that, Otepka rejected this “honor” and chose to remain in place.

Less than a week after Otepka’s refusal, Reilly placed his first spy, Fred Traband, in Otepka’s office. More would follow. Reilly also brought in a National Security Agency (NSA) alumnus, David Belisle, to work with Otepka. Belisle brought with him a new “short form” procedure to rush through people’s security clearances. Otepka was appalled, but powerless. Belisle took away Otepka’s card-file index, the product of years of work. Otepka was removed from the FBI’s after-hours call list, which was another demotion. For a short time, Otepka was seriously thinking of quitting. Ironically, it was his buddy, Jay Sourwine, who talked him out of it. Ironically because it was this very relationship that most contributed to Otepka’s eventual downfall.

Sourwine started working on Otepka to get him to divulge what was really going on behind the scenes at State. But as usual, being a by-the-book person, Otepka insisted on following protocol. If Sourwine wanted him to testify before SISS, the subcommittee would have to formally request his testimony. And then, Otepka insisted on getting clearance from his superiors before testifying. Was Sourwine truly interested in helping Otepka, or was he part of a plot to entrap Otepka into saying something that would finally provide the justification for Otepka’s ouster?

In mid-February, 1963, Otepka was formally notified that his appearance was requested before SISS. Otepka testified to the subcommittee on four different occasions. At the very first hearing, Sourwine asked the question relating to the cause of Otepka’s appearance before the committee in the first place. He asked if Otepka had been subjected to any “reprisals” from State because of his previous testimony. But Otepka was wary of saying anything that could make his already uncomfortable situation at SY worse, and defended both State and their treatment of him. Otepka defended his own actions, but would not point an accusatory finger at anyone else. Sourwine continued to press the matter with more subtle questions, until he got Otepka to talk about a case where Otepka conceded to being pressured to put through two security clearances where he didn’t feel one was justified. Otepka’s refusal to clear the persons delayed the formation of the committee to which these people had been appointed for over a year. And in the end, through Otepka’s persistence, they were both dropped from the committee.17

One of Otepka’s biggest heresies, however, was disclosing to the Senate subcommittee that, despite the subcommittee’s earlier report and recommendations from the earlier Otepka hearings, State had continued to process under blanket waivers nearly 400 people in the roles of file clerks and secretaries. As author Gill put it, “it is often easier for an obscure clerk or a trusted secretary to waltz off the premises with a top-secret document than it would be for an official at the policy-making level who is afraid he is being watched.”18 This greatly alarmed the senators, but Otepka added one more piece of information. There was an effort underway to reinstate Alger Hiss to the State Department. Knowing what we know today, one might wish that effort had been successful. But at the time, all that was known was that Hiss had been convicted of perjury and had been accused of espionage.

High-Tech Harassment

Shortly after the third or fourth appearance, Otepka began noticing trouble on his phone line. Chatter could be heard sometimes, other times calls wouldn’t go through, and sometimes there would be an amplification effect. Otepka was being bugged. And not just though the phone. Listening devices were installed in his office. What could someone possibly fear that Otepka might be discussing to warrant such intense surveillance?

And then there was the night Otepka had been working late, stepped out for dinner, and then returned to work some more. Imagine his surprise when, around 10pm, David Belisle and another NSA spook entered his office, thinking he was gone for the night. Belisle made the flimsy excuse that he had been concerned by a cleaning woman he claimed to have seen entering Otepka’s office. But Otepka had been sitting there for some time, and called Belisle on this lie.19

When Otepka’s regular secretary fell sick, one Joyce Schmelzer was placed in his office with orders to spy on Otepka. One of her tasks was to gather the burn bag each night, mark it with a big red “X”, then call to alert another SY member that Otepka’s burn bag was on the way down. The trash was searched regularly for any incriminating information that could be used against Otepka.

For weeks, his house was under surveillance. His wife, tired of seeing the man in the car parked across the street every night, called the local police. After the police forced the man to identify himself (he worked for a private security firm), the man never reappeared.

Was Otepka keeping people with carefully constructed communist-like backgrounds from being placed, on behalf of intelligence agencies, in State for official cover? It would seem his offenses must have been extraordinary to warrant such high-level harassment. Was someone out to discredit Otepka in case he later spilled the beans on one particularly sensitive case?

Someone had even drilled a hole into his safe, and with a mirror determined the correct combination, and then plugged the hole again. What could someone possibly fear that Otepka might be discussing to warrant such intense surveillance? According to Otepka, the only sensitive material in the safe was his half-finished study of American defectors in the Soviet Union, with a yet to be completed determination on one Lee Harvey Oswald. When Hougan asked Otepka specifically if Otepka had been able to figure out if Oswald was an agent of the US or not, Otepka answered, “We had not made up our minds when my safe was drilled and we were thrown out of the office.”20

Amazingly, the people involved in harassing Otepka did little to cover their tracks. It was an open secret that Otepka was being tapped. And Otepka still had many friends in State, who told him who was responsible for many of these activities. Meanwhile, Reilly was trying to undermine Otepka’s support on SISS. He told all kinds of lies about what Otepka had done on various security cases and directly contradicted Otepka’s testimony before the subcommittee. Otepka was appalled. The Senate subcommittee was in quandry about who to believe—Otepka, or his SY superior. Sourwine told Otepka he would need something other than his word. He would need documents. Again, one should consider what followed in regards to the question of whether Sourwine was engaging in some form of entrapment.

Preparing the Defense

For ten days, Otepka gathered his evidence. He prepared a 39 page brief with 36 attachments to support his own testimony and directly refute that of Reilly’s. Of the attachemtns, 25 were unclassified; six were marked “Official Use Only”, three were marked “Limited Official Use”; and two were marked “Confidential.”21

Otepka was careful that none of what he divulged to the Senate subcommittee was information that in any way could compromise the national security of the United States. And even the two marked “Confidential” were mere transmittal memorandums for more sensitive attachments, and Otepka did not turn over the attachments.

The piece d’resistance in this affair was the manipulation of evidence taken from Otepka’s own safe. Sensitive documents were “found” in his burn bag one night, with the classification tags illegally clipped off. Otepka claimed, and the State Department never denied, that the evidence seems to support the contention that the documents were planted in his bags for the sole purpose of discrediting him. The day after these documents turned up, SISS called several SY members to the Hill to discuss the bugging of Otepka. The first man called was the spy Reilly had planted in Otepka’s office from the beginning, Fred Traband. Traband was so unnerved at being called, however, that, while denying knowledge of the tapping, he told the story behind the burn bag operation. The next man, Terry Shea, not only acknowledged the burn bag story, but added that Reilly had personally searched Otepka’s files and safe. The rest continued to deny any participation in or knowledge of the tapping of Otepka.

House of Cards

On June 27, 1963, Reilly unceremoniously shunted Otepka out of his office into a new, make-work position reviewing and updating policy manuals. Otepka was ordered to turn over the combination to his safe (which still held the unfinished Oswald study) and was sent to another office on another floor. He was denied access to his former records. Many of Otepka’s staff were purged from their positions at this time as well. On his new office wall, Otepka hung these words from Prime Minister Churchill:
Never give in. Never, never, never, never! Never yield in any way, great or small, large or petty, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force and the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.22
Adrift without direction, Otepka took some time off, and then made the mistake of stopping by his old office for a look. Belisle heard about this and admonished Otepka to stay away. Otepka’s wife was surprised, when calling her husband at his office, to hear “Mr. Otepka is no longer here.” And Otepka’s phone was rigged so that he could receive no incoming calls himself. His buzzer was disabled. When a call for Otepka came in, a phone would ring in another location, where a secretary would have to answer the call, and then walk to his door, knock, and tell him to pick up the line, before he could receive the call. This also ensured no privacy, since anyone could be listening on the other end of his calls. One of the men involved in tapping Otepka, Elmer Hill, had his wiretap lab across from Otepka’s office.23

Domestic Espionage?

At the end of July, the other shoe dropped. Otepka was informed by the FBI that he was being formally charged with espionage. Years later, it was discovered this move was ordered by Rusk himself, and the order hand-delivered by Reilly to the Department of Justice. This, for turning documents over to a Senate subcommittee. He was also charged with having clipped security classifications from documents, something Otepka did not do.

In our last issue of Probe, we told of another whistleblower, Richard Nuccio, and how he was punished for giving information to the congressional body legitimately designated to receive such. Peter Kornbluh, writing for the Washington Post, quoted a 1912 law which stated that “the right of employees…to furnish information to either House or Congress, or to a committee or member thereof, may not be interfered with or denied.” Otepka himself cited this same law to the FBI in defense of his own actions.

Meanwhile, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee was going to bat for Otepka. They hauled before them what the committee later called the “lying trio” of Reilly, Belisle and Hill.24 All three were found to have committed perjury when they denied knowledge of the tap on Otepka.

The Long Shadow of Walter Sheridan

In an interesting and relevant side story, the tapes made from the bugging of Otepka’s office were passed to a man that was unidentified in the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee’s hearings. Jim Hougan, while researching a strange case of bugging on Capitol Hill, found a man, Sidney Goldberg, who claims that the man in the corridor was none other than Walter Sheridan.25 Walter Sheridan was the former NSA and FBI man who did so much to sabotage Jim Garrison during his investigation into Kennedy’s assassination. According to a source of Goldberg’s, Hougan wrote that Sheridan “disposed over the personnel and currency of whole units of the Central Intelligence Agency.”26 In addition, the same source claimed that Sheridan was behind the preservation of Belisle’s job with State when Belisle’s role in the bugging of Otepka was revealed. Belisle was not fired, but was transferred to Bonn, Germany. Sheridan denied having any role in these events. But is Sheridan to be believed, in light of the lies he put forth during the Garrison investigation?

Despite the support of the committee, Otepka was on the way out. He was met at work on September 22, 1963, with a note saying “You are hereby notified that it is proposed to remove you from your appointment with the Department of State….”27 Otepka was outraged at the charges:

“I was not particularly disturbed by the charges regarding my association with Jay Sourwine or the data I’d furnished him for the subcommittee,” Otepka later recalled. “But I was shocked and angered to find that the State Department had resorted to a cheap, gangland frame-up to place me under charges for crimes it knew I had never committed.”28

One would think that finally, Otepka’s ordeal would be over. One would be wrong. He had been fired from his career position at State. Yet even after this, Otepka was warned that his home phone was probably tapped! And just a few days later, the man who had originally divulged who was behind the tapping of Otepka, Stanley Holden, suffered a mysterious “accident.” Holden was a good friend of Otepka’s, and had himself been under surveillance. His face and tongue had been so badly cut that stitches were required. His own explanation of being hit in the face by a heavy spring did not seem to explain his wounds, and the rumor went around that he had been beaten up by those who didn’t like him talking.

In a last ditch effort to preserve Otepka at State, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee wrote a brief letter, signed by every subcommittee member, which strongly urged Rusk to reconsider the decision to force Otepka out of State. But Otepka’s fate had already been sealed. On November 5, 1963, Otepka was finally formally ousted from the State Department. Just seventeen days later, Kennedy would be assassinated. And the killing would be pinned on the man Otepka was trying to investigate when he was removed from his office.

Notes

1. Sarah McClendon, Mr. President, Mr. President! (Santa Monica: General Publishing Group, 1996) p. 82
2. William J. Gill, The Ordeal of Otto Otepka (New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1969), p. 56
3. Gill, p. 232
4. Gerald Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Thy Will Be Done (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1995), p. 553
5. Colby and Dennett, p. 343
6. Colby and Dennett, pp. 542-543.
7. Jim Hougan, Spooks (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1978) p. 371
8. John Newman, Oswald and the CIA (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995), p. 172
9. Newman, p. 172
10. Newman, p. 172
11. Newman, p. 173
12. Newman, p. 176
13. Newman, p. 177
14. Gill, p. 117
15. Gill, p. 123
16. Gill, pp. 161-162
17. Gill, p. 235
18. Gill, p. 238
19. Gill, p. 243
20. Hougan, p. 371
21. Gill, p. 254
22. Gill, p. 280
23. Gill, p. 285
24. Gill, p. 289
25. Hougan, p. 128. Hougan wrote of a wiretap that was discovered that ran from Capitol Hill to the Esso building, terminating not in the basement, where most lines terminate, but on the top floor behind a locked door to which the phone company didn’t even have access. The floor was leased to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, and the room was marked as a “restricted area”. Goldberg had a source that claimed Walter Sheridan was the ultimate recipient of this tap. In addition, Bernard Fensterwald appears in this story. When he heard that Goldberg was on the trail of the tap, he walked into Goldberg’s office and offered to help. Fensterwald convinced Goldberg to sign a statement that wasn’t true under the guise that this would help him. The situation became a nightmare for Goldberg. Fensterwald also played a role in protecting the tap. The tap was brought to the attention of Senator Long’s Ad-Prac committee by Bernie Spindel, a famed wiretapper himself. Spindel claimed government agents were constantly working on the tap. Fensterwald then committed a “blunder”: he requested information on the cable from the telephone company. This had the effect of sending a warning to whoever was bugging the hill. Because such requests took several days to process, the buggers had plenty of time to remove the tap that was under investigation. Why would Fensterwald, a sophisticated lawyer who sat on a committee specifically involved with wiretapping issues, make such an obvious mistake?
26. Hougan, p. 128
27. Gill, p. 291
28. Gill, p. 293