ACTION: Lights out for Five Minutes February 1st
From an email alert:
Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming! The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet.
People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the first of February 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy. 1.55 pm in Ottawa, 10.55 am on the Pacific Coast of North America. This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves. Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate. Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris. This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight. Please circulate this call to your utmost ability to your network.
The glorious, golden lights of the Eiffel Tower will be shut down for five minutes on the first. That's how important this is.
Please join in.
Stop the Cheerleader, Save the World
How many of you watch NBC's show "Heroes"? I laughed so hard at the episode where they decided that a cheerleader character was central to stopping a nuclear explosion in New York City. The meme from the show is, "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World."
I couldn't resist turning that on its head today as I marched to protest the war in my home town of Los Angeles. Did you know Bush used to be a cheerleader
? So my sign said this:
Stop the Cheerleader
Save the World!
I truly believe we cannot end the war in Iraq until we remove both Cheney and Bush from office. It's our duty, as citizens, to ensure our government is responsive to the will of the electorate. We told Bush in very clear terms we do not want this war. Bush's response? An escalation. And he's conducted an in-house purge of those in his own administration who oppose him on this point.
If there was a clock to trace our progress towards fascism, I'd put the hands at about 10 minutes to midnight. Isn't that too close already?
Get out and Protest Saturday!!
There are many protests all over the country tomorrow against the war in Iraq.
This is more than a protest. This is a vote. If you don't vote with your feet and get your body out there, your vote will not be counted.
Pick up a sign and go do something important for the cause of freedom, justice, and Democracy. Save some lives. It just takes a couple of hours of your time and a pair of walking shoes.
Seriously. This is really important.
DC should be your first choice if you can make it there. But if you're not within reach, their our mirror protests
all over the country. See the listing at this page.
E. Howard Hunt is dead. More later.
Former Watergate figure Everett Howard Hunt is dead.
I'll write more about Hunt in the days to come. Whole books have been written about Hunt (two by himself). I won't attempt any such feat in this small space. But after reading the conventional accounts presented by the AP
, the Los Angeles Times
, and other sources, I can assure you some Real History is missing.
I want to fill you in on some of the more interesting--and least reported--episodes from Hunt's life.
In Dire Need of Creative Extremists
It's been hard trying to pick a favorite speech or piece of writing by Dr. Martin Luther King for today, the actual anniversary of his January 15, 1929 birth. In past years, I've quoted heavily from his landmark speech against the war in Vietnam, or his moving "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech. I and everyone has quoted from "I have a dream."
But today, I think we're in dire need of leadership for the protests that must occur, if we are to reclaim the soul of our country. In addition, Dr. King lambasted white "moderates" who, while proclaiming support for his ideas, lifted few fingers to actually help. He was especially disappointed in the lack of leadership from the church, from whence he drew his own values that shaped his personal commitment to the issues of justice and peace.
This piece, to me, demonstrates the truest of Christian values, values that have been co-opted and bastardized by Republicans in some cases to serve their political agenda. Dr. King reminds us of the true meaning of being a Christian, and how Jesus was himself deemed an extremist. So I present you, on the anniversary of Dr. King's birth, a profound, and profoundly important letter he wrote to fellow pasters from the Birmington Jail, where he served time for protesting segregation. It is eloquent and passionate, radical yet grounded in reality. He outlines the four steps necessary for progressive action, something all who care about where our country is headed need to consider doing. The title of this entry is taken from this part of the letter below:
Jesus Christ[...] was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I couldn't agree more. And so, without further ado, I give you Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
Letter From Birmingham Jail
by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 16, 1963
[This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray, the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings]
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails so express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; selfpurification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gain saying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham that in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants -- for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.
As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliation?" "are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economicwithdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bill" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and halftruths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person that Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hoped that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral that individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
We have waited for more that 340 years for our constitutional and Godgiven rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored" when your first name becomes "Nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when your are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of Harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus is it that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in it's application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. 'Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti-religious laws.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another mans freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro the wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating that absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all it ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light injustice must be exposed with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion, before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relations to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in the generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergyman would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously closed on advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.
If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in blacknationalist ideologies -- a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -- and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people, "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus and extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like am ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvery's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime -- the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -- such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden, and Sarah Patton Boyle -- have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips for Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful -- in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey Gad rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent -- and often even vocal -- sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion to inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America if freedom. Abuse and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -- and yet out of bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we not face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrations. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end or racial injustice. As T.S. Eliot has said, "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer, and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and when her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts, and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King Jr.
The Washington Post does Mind Control
No, I'm not talking about their editorials or propagandistic pieces. This time, the Washington Post published something that might actually do the public some good. Sharon Weinberger has a cover story on the Washington Post Magazine
this Sunday the delves into a subject less reported by the mainstream than UFOs: the topic of government mind control weapons and alleged victims. She focuses on the story of Harlan Girard, a man who, aside from his claims related to mind control, appears entirely normal. She discusses his case, and several other victims, and then takes us on a quick tour of the weapons the government may have that could account for their claims:
Concerns about microwaves and mind control date to the 1960s, when the U.S. government discovered that its embassy in Moscow was being bombarded by low-level electromagnetic radiation. In 1965, according to declassified Defense Department documents, the Pentagon, at the behest of the White House, launched Project Pandora, top-secret research to explore the behavioral and biological effects of low-level microwaves. For approximately four years, the Pentagon conducted secret research: zapping monkeys; exposing unwitting sailors to microwave radiation; and conducting a host of other unusual experiments (a sub-project of Project Pandora was titled Project Bizarre). The results were mixed, and the program was plagued by disagreements and scientific squabbles. The "Moscow signal," as it was called, was eventually attributed to eavesdropping, not mind control, and Pandora ended in 1970. And with it, the military's research into so-called non-thermal microwave effects seemed to die out, at least in the unclassified realm.
But there are hints of ongoing research: An academic paper written for the Air Force in the mid-1990s mentions the idea of a weapon that would use sound waves to send words into a person's head. "The signal can be a 'message from God' that can warn the enemy of impending doom, or encourage the enemy to surrender," the author concluded.
In 2002, the Air Force Research Laboratory patented precisely such a technology: using microwaves to send words into someone's head. That work is frequently cited on mind-control Web sites. Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the research laboratory's directed energy directorate, declined to discuss that patent or current or related research in the field, citing the lab's policy not to comment on its microwave work. [...]
The official U.S. Air Force position is that there are no non-thermal effects of microwaves. Yet Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, tagged microwave attacks against the human brain as part of future warfare in a 2001 presentation to the National Defense Industrial Association about "Future Strategic Issues."
"That work is exceedingly sensitive" and unlikely to be reported in any unclassified documents, he says.
And therein lies the rub, and why I feel a great sympathy towards those who claim to be victims of mind control. The programs that could explain their symptoms are highly classified. And the government would never admit to harassing citizens without a purpose, even if they had been. Why do I know this? Because they didn't admit it before.
In the sixties, the CIA never admitted to their mind control experiments. When Richard Helms was fired from the CIA by Nixon, one of his last acts was to demand the destruction of all the mind-control files. But some files were not destroyed, and were ultimately brought to Sy Hersh at the New York Times. These files were investigated during the Rockefeller and Church committee investigations. Had it not been for some leaker, we may never have known what had been done. We still don't know most of what was done, because those files were destroyed. Yet more secrets that will be kept forever.
To me, mind control victims are like victims of rape. Not all who claim to be victims are. But many are, and are not believed. They are the only ones who know it, and proving it is next to impossible. It is equally invasive and traumatic. So rather than laugh or deride these people or assume that they are crazy, I think a heavy dose of compassion is in order. It’s especially sad that the psychiatric profession teaches that voices in the head automatically signals craziness, when there is evidence that such technology is at least possible.
As most of you know, I was on a Discovery Channel piece re the CIA’s mind control programs. That segment airs again as follows. It’s well done, not counting, of course, the obligatory government shills denying anything serious ever happened. In this county, that's the price of putting serious truths on the air. Fortunately, they get very little air time.
Fri, Feb 16, 2007 at 8:00 PM (ET)
Sat, Feb 17, 2007 at 2:00 AM (ET)
Sat, Feb 17, 2007 at 10:00 AM (ET)
Mon, Mar 26, 2007 at 1:00 PM (ET)
Wed, Mar 28, 2007 at 2:00 PM (ET)
Since this has aired, several people have written to me asking for help with their particular cases. I don’t feel qualified to help victims of mind control. But I do wish we could help them by moving this away from “conspiracy theory” and into the realm of things that need to be seriously investigated. The investigations in the seventies into the CIA’s mind control programs served, if this article is to be believed, was a strong deterrent to further experimentation for years.
The best two books I’ve read on this subject are: “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control
” by John Marks, and the less well-known but equally well-documented book “The Mind Manipulators
” by Alan W.Scheflin and Edward M. Opton, Jr. (1978) Arlene Tyner also wrote a good primer article for Probe Magazine
. Check out the footnoted articles, books, and videos as well for many more details.
I woke up this morning with a horrible thought. What if this proposed "surge" has little to do with Iraq's security, and more to do with positioning troops for an eventual action against Iran?
I started searching the 'net this morning and found a variety of commentators who agree.
But this was the most damning piece of evidence I found, which seems to support my suspicions:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Iran Policy Committee is holding a press conference on Thursday, 11 January 2007, at 10:00 am in the Murrow Room at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Members of the Iran Policy Committee will review various policy options regarding President Bush's 10 January 2007 Address on Iraq and release a White Paper introducing a political complement to the proposed American military troop surge to Iraq.Read that again
The Iran Policy Committee is releasing a White Paper introducing a political complement to the proposed surge in Iraq.
Most commentators have insisted an Iran engagement would consist of an air and sea attack only. But if the goal is an overthrow of the regime, that's going to take troops on the ground, and if you look at a map, Baghdad is well situated as a staging ground for moving into Iran:
A few years ago, someone sent me a copy of a memo containing adminstration talking points about the (then) coming war in Iraq. Striking to me was the assertion in that memo that Iraq was just a stepping stone, and that the real prize was Iran. At the time that seemed so farfetched I threw it away. I wish now I had kept it, and have vowed never to part with anything so valuable again. Iran was the prize because it's the gatekeeper to all the trade routes and pipeline routes from the Mediterranean to India. To increase the flow of goods and services, all the muslim nations in between had to be brought to their knees, and none were as powerful as Iran. Here's another map. We're in Iraq. We're in Afghanistan. What country do those two border?
In Counterpunch today, Paul Craig Roberts asks:
Is the surge an orchestrated distraction from the real war plan?
A good case can be made that it is. The US Congress and media are focused on President Bush's proposal for an increase of 20,000 US troops in Iraq, while Israel and its American neoconservative allies prepare an assault on Iran.
Commentators have expressed puzzlement over President Bush's appointment of a US Navy admiral as commander in charge of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appointment makes sense only if the administration's attention has shifted from the insurgencies to an attack on Iran.
Two US carrier task forces or strike groups will certainly congest the Persian Gulf. On January 9 a US nuclear sub collided with a Japanese tanker in the Persian Gulf. Two carrier groups will have scant room for maneuver. Their purpose is either to provide the means for a hard hit on Iran or to serve as sitting ducks for a new Pearl Harbor that would rally Americans behind the new war.
Whether our ships are hit by Iran in retaliation to an attack from Israel or suffer an orchestrated attack by Israel that is blamed on the Iranians, there are certainly far more US naval forces in the Persian Gulf than prudence demands.
Bush's proposed surge appears to have no real military purpose. The US military opposes it as militarily pointless and as damaging to the US Army and Marine Corps. The surge can only be accomplished by keeping troops deployed after the arrival of their replacements.
Moreover, the increase in numbers that can be achieved in this way are far short of the numbers required to put down the insurgency and civil war.
With all that information, Roberts reaches what seems to me a couched conclusion:
The only purpose of the surge is to distract Congress while plans are implemented to widen the war.I think sending 20,000 troops has to be about more than distraction. I think Roberts hints at something that can't yet be proven: the "surge" troops may not be meant for Iraq at all.
This is one of those times where I really hope I'm wrong.
Time will tell.
"The Oil Factor in Somalia"
The first time a George Bush took troops to Somalia, the excuse was a "humanitarian mission." Without knowing any facts, and knowing only Bush's character, I was CERTAIN at the time that whatever we were doing there had nothing to do with humanitarianism.
This time, we're being told it's -- as Jeff Huber
so accurately pointed out -- suspected
terrorists. Suspected. Not known. Not proven. As the Saturday Night Live
Church Lady used to say, "How conveeeenient."
Back in 1993, one of that nearly extinct breed, an investigative reporter named Mark Fineman wrote an amazing piece in the Los Angeles Times on January 18, 1993, titled "The Oil Factor in Somalia." His story was so important that -- typically -- the rest of the media didn't dare touch it with a ten foot pole. Project Censored included it in its year-end list of most underreported stories.
I'll quote liberally, but you should read the whole thing, currently archived at NetNomad:
Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside.
That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.
According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the Bush Administration's decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.
Officially, the Administration and the State Department insist that the U.S. military mission in Somalia is strictly humanitarian. Oil industry spokesmen dismissed as "absurd" and "nonsense" allegations by aid experts, veteran East Africa analysts and several prominent Somalis that President Bush, a former Texas oilman, was moved to act in Somalia, at least in part, by the U.S. corporate oil stake.
But corporate and scientific documents disclosed that the American companies are well positioned to pursue Somalia's most promising potential oil reserves the moment the nation is pacified. And the State Department and U.S. military officials acknowledge that one of those oil companies has done more than simply sit back and hope for peace.
Fineman narrowed in on Conoco, out of whose headquarters the "relief" effort was being run:
Conoco Inc., the only major multinational corporation to mantain a functioning office in Mogadishu throughout the past two years of nationwide anarchy, has been directly involved in the U.S. government's role in the U.N.-sponsored humanitarian military effort.
Conoco, whose tireless exploration efforts in north-central Somalia reportedly had yielded the most encouraging prospects just before Siad Barre's fall, permitted its Mogadishu corporate compound to be transformed into a de facto American embassy a few days before the U.S. Marines landed in the capital, with Bush's special envoy using it as his temporary headquarters. In addition, the president of the company's subsidiary in Somalia won high official praise for serving as the government's volunteer "facilitator" during the months before and during the U.S. intervention.
Describing the arrangement as "a business relationship," an official spokesman for the Houston-based parent corporation of Conoco Somalia Ltd. said the U.S. government was paying rental for its use of the compound, and he insisted that Conoco was proud of resident general manager Raymond Marchand's contribution to the U.S.-led humanitarian effort. . . .
But the close relationship between Conoco and the U.S. intervention force has left many Somalis and foreign development experts deeply troubled by the blurry line between the U.S. government and the large oil company, leading many to liken the Somalia operation to a miniature version of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led military effort in January, 1991, to drive Iraq from Kuwait and, more broadly, safeguard the world's largest oil reserves.
"They sent all the wrong signals when Oakley moved into the Conoco compound," said one expert on Somalia who worked with one of the four major companies as they intensified their exploration efforts in the country in the late 1980s.
"It's left everyone thinking the big question here isn't famine relief but oil -- whether the oil concessions granted under Siad Barre will be transferred if and when peace is restored," the expert said. "It's potentially worth billions of dollars, and believe me, that's what the whole game is starting to look like."
Some experts scoff at the idea of Somalia as a major oil player. But a World Bank three-year study showed instead that the region had "high" commercial potential.
Beginni 1986, Conoco, along with Amoco, Chevron, Phillips and, briefly, Shell all sought and obtained exploration licenses for northern Somalia from Siad Barre's government. Somalia was soon carved up into concessional blocs, with Conoco, Amoco and Chevron winning the right to explore and exploit the most promising ones.
The companies' interest in Somalia clearly predated the World Bank study. It was grounded in the findings of another, highly successful exploration effort by the Texas-based Hunt Oil Corp. across the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Peninsula nation of Yemen, where geologists disclosed in the mid-1980s that the estimated 1 billion barrels of Yemeni oil reserves were part of a great underground rift, or valley, that arced into and across northern Somalia.
Fineman ended his piece quoting a Somali businessman saying:
"Our country is now very weak, and, of course, the American oil companies are very strong. This has to be handled very diplomatically, and I think the American government must move out of the oil business, or at least make clear that there is a definite line separating the two, if they want to maintain a long-term relationship here."
As Yogi Berra used to say, it's deja vu all over again.
What he didn't know killed him
I think most of us have smelled that "natural gas" smell at some point. Of course, it isn't the gas we're smelling, it's the chemical methyl mercaptan which is added so that we can detect if gas is leaking.
Now imagine waking up and finding your whole city smells like that, or worse, the city to your immediate north, as those in New Jersey found this morning.
I heard Mayor Bloomberg assure citizens this morning that there does not appear to be any danger. If there was a leak of gas, it disperses so rapidly there is no danger of combustion.
But as I listened, I thought, as I often do when I listen to the news, what if this is not what it seems? What if this is like the Army's biological warfare test conducted on the citizens of San Francisco in 1950?
As the San Francisco Chronicle reported a couple of years ago
For six days in late September 1950, a small military vessel near San Francisco sprayed a huge cloud of serratia particles into the air while the weather favored dispersal.
Then the Army went looking to find out where it landed. Serratia is known for forming bright red colonies when a soil or water sample is streaked on a culture medium -- a property that made it ideal for the bio-warfare experiment.
Army tests showed that the bacterial cloud had exposed hundreds of thousands of people in a broad swath of Bay Area communities including Sausalito, Albany, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, San Francisco, Daly City and Colma, according to reports that later were declassified. Soon after the spraying, 11 people came down with hard-to-treat infections at the old Stanford University Hospital in San Francisco. By November, one man had died. Edward Nevin, 75, a retired Pacific Gas and Electric Co. worker recovering from a prostate operation, had succumbed to an infection with Serratia marcescens that attacked his heart valves.
The outbreak was so unusual that the Stanford doctors wrote it up for a medical journal. But the medics and Nevin's relatives didn't find out about the Army experiment for nearly 26 years, when a series of secret military experiments came to light. [Emphasis added.]
So I'm thinking, what if this is more than a bizarre 'accident?' While gas was not detected at the city's air monitors, the smell of mercaptan was omnipresent for hours. What if the government added mercapsan to some other substance and sprayed it one way or another in New York City?
The obvious motive that comes to mind is that the government wants to see what might happen were a biological agent to be released in the city. Simple reports of the smell would tell the experimenters all they'd need to know regarding how far the substance spread.
Whatever the case, despite assurances from Mayor Bloomberg that there is nothing to fear and no danger to citizens, Reuters is reporting
that 19 people have so far been hospitalized:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A powerful, mysterious smell of gas wafted through much of Manhattan and parts of New Jersey on Monday, forcing building evacuations and a temporary suspension of commuter train service before dissipating by mid-afternoon.
Officials were quick to stress that the natural gas-like odor was not dangerous, but at least 19 people went to hospital suffering minor complaints and its wide extent provoked jitters in a city that is constantly reminded of the September 11 attacks.
Twelve people were taken by ambulance to New York hospitals by emergency workers responding to calls from people complaining of upset stomachs, dizziness or difficulty breathing, a Fire Department spokesman said.
...Seven people went to the hospital seeking treatment in New Jersey, ... although New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the odor was not dangerous and no unusual gas leaks had been found. . . .
"The city's air sensors do not report any elevated level of natural gas," he said. . . .
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman said there was no indication of a terrorism connection. . . .
Four schools in Manhattan were briefly evacuated, and the smell chased people out of landmarks such as the Rockefeller Center and Macy's department store.
"It was really, really bad then, so bad it gave me a headache," said Kate Browne, who lives in the West Village neighborhood and said she could smell the gas when she took her daughter to school.
This is my problem with the news. Fifty-six years ago, the people in San Francisco were told nothing was wrong, either, even though the results became one for the record books.
I hope and pray that the people of New York are safe, and that if this is some secret experiment, it will not cause any permanent damage to citizens and visitors to that great city. I also hope and pray it will not take us another 26 years to find out what really happened there.Updates
More test info - read the last sentence in this quote and ponder this possible use of mercaptan:
In other tests in the 1950s, Army researchers dispersed Serratia on Panama City, Fla., and Key West, Fla., with no known illnesses resulting. They also released fluorescent compounds over Minnesota and other Midwestern states to see how far they would spread in the atmosphere. The particles of zinc-cadmium-sulfide -- now a known cancer-causing agent -- were detected more than 1,000 miles away in New York state, the Army told the Senate hearings, though no illnesses were ever attributed to them as a result.
Another bacterium, Bacillus globigii, never shown to be harmful to people, was released in San Francisco, while still others were tested on unwitting residents in New York, Washington, D.C., and along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, among other places, according to Army reports released during the 1977 hearings.
In New York, military researchers in 1966 spread Bacillus subtilis variant Niger, also believed to be harmless, in the subway system by dropping lightbulbs filled with the bacteria onto tracks in stations in midtown Manhattan. The bacteria were carried for miles throughout the subway system, leading Army officials to conclude in a January 1968 report: "Similar covert attacks with a pathogenic [disease-causing] agent during peak traffic periods could be expected to expose large numbers of people to infection and subsequent illness or death."
Army officials also found widespread dispersal of bacteria in a May 1965 secret release of Bacillus globigii at Washington's National Airport and its Greyhound bus terminal, according to military reports released a few years after the Senate hearings. More than 130 passengers who had been exposed to the bacteria traveling to 39 cities in seven states in the two weeks following the mock attack.
The Army kept the biological-warfare tests secret until word of them was leaked to the press in the 1970s. Between 1949 and 1969, when President Nixon ordered the Pentagon's biological weapons destroyed, open-air tests of biological agents were conducted 239 times, according to the Army's testimony in 1977 before the Senate's subcommittee on health. In 80 of those experiments, the Army said it used live bacteria that its researchers at the time thought were harmless, such as the Serratia that was showered on San Francisco. In the others, it used inert chemicals to simulate bacteria.
More news from this morning:
"I was coming through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and I heard Howard Stern [on Sirius satellite radio] talk about how he was evacuating his building, so I rolled down my window and I get hit in the face with this potent smell of gas," said Sean Sweeney of West Brighton. "The odor just kept getting stronger and stronger as I drove up the West Side -- but, you know, I figured, 'Hey, it's just New York, it's just another odor.'"
But not one as pleasant as the mysterious maple-syrup-like fragrance that enveloped the city in the fall and winter of 2005.
Rather, it seemed to resemble the mysterious noxious cloud that descended on the North Shore last Aug. 15.
At a news conference yesterday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the smell may have been that of mercaptan, a sulfurous compound added to natural gas, but added there was no indication the air was unsafe to breathe. "We don't know what it is. It does not appear to be dangerous. ... It may just be an unpleasant smell," he said. "The one thing we are very confident of is that it's not dangerous."
Bloomberg noted that there had been a small gas leak at Bleecker and West Sixth streets, but that it wasn't enough to account for the pervasive odor. By noontime, city officials had reported 500 calls placed to 911.
Come on, Mayor Bloomberg. If you don't know what it is, you can't be certain it is safe.
And what about that "noxious cloud" or sweet smell from before? Were those biowarfare experiments?
Five Things You Don't Know About Me
My friend "Other Lisa" over at The Paper Tiger
tagged me with the equivalent of blog chain-mail. See her post for the details. And her background. She's one of the coolest people I know. She and I worked on Jerry Brown's presidential campaign about 1000 years ago (or 14, if anyone's counting). It's hilarious when we go out together because people ask our names, and instantly get confused.
I feel that, having been online quite vocally since 1993, there's very little of importance that people don't know about me. Much of my life has been an open book. If you know me at all, you probably know about my New Year's Eve dance with Hugh Jackman (during his show "The Boy From Oz,"), my $5000 screenwriting award (that's in descending order of importance), my European speaking tour on the environmental damage after 9/11, and certainly, my long hard years in the trenches researching and debating the secret history of the assassinations of the sixties. But I thought I'd take up the challenge and try to think of five things most people don't know about me. So here goes.
1. I skipped two grades, although it didn't really feel that way: one was Kindergarten, and the other was my senior year of High School. My mother was a schoolteacher so I learned to read very early, and the other kids in Kindergarten were evidently upset that I could read the captions on all the film strips, so I got booted into the first grade. Re the High School skip, I had spent the summer before studying harp at Tanglewood, a music camp set in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. When I came back, I had so enjoyed living on my own that I wanted to go right to college. My parents, amazingly, said OK, and worked to make it happen. (That also means I graduated college in under four years. What was the rush, I wonder now?)
2. I mentioned the harp. I was actually pretty good. Soloed with the prestigious Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. Played Debussy's amazing Danse sacree et profane
with a string ensemble in college. Won a couple of contests. Played a bunch of weddings and restaurants, but tired of two things: having to park a station wagon in LA, where spots are only big enough for a Honda, and having to load the dang thing into the car with the help of whatever stranger happened to be passing by. If I'd had a BIGGER station wagon I could have loaded it myself (and had an even HARDER time finding a place to park). And besides, you can't argue the details of the Kennedy assassination when you're dressed in a flowing gown and have a harp between your legs!
3. I was accepted into law school at one point. I managed to get a perfect score on the logic section of the test, probably because I had been doing logic puzzles since I was a child. I was one of those kids that actually loved
to take tests in school. I looked forward
to exams. I read Stephen Hawking for fun
. Yeah, I'm a geek to the core. (That's why I love ABC's "Ugly Betty," by the way!) I spent a summer running around, talking to everyone I knew or could find in the legal profession, trying to find out if they liked their job, if I was making the right move. When all but one told me DON'T DO IT(!!), I swallowed hard. It was going to be a huge amount of student loans for something I might not enjoy. The one guy who loved it was fairly new at the job and predominantly working on pro bono cases. Yeah, I would have liked THAT, to be sure. They all said you'll love school and you'll hate the practice. So I ditched that idea at the last minute. I'm sure there are lots of lawyers who love, or at least, don't hate, their jobs. But I couldn't find any that summer, and I took that as a sign, for better or for worse.
4. I got to view Mars through the huge Griffith Observatory telescope one night! I was the last person in line, and so the guy running the telescope allowed me an extraordinary amount of time. He brought me a pad and paper and had me sketch what I saw (essentially light and dark areas--it's not exactly close). Then he pulled down a book of Mars photos and maps so we could figure out what part of Mars was facing us. That was so cool. The cosmic experience I had that topped that was an incredibly clear viewing of the incredible Leonids meteor shower. It was like watching fireworks at a low angle, all in white. I'd never seen anything that stunning until I saw the Aurora Borealis glowing and dancing and changing colors in the sky in Vermont one night. That was the eeriest, most beautiful natural phenomenon I have ever witnessed.
5. I have seen more wild animals in Los Angeles than in any other place I've ever lived, which is odd, but welcome. I've seen -- in a single sighting for each grouping -- six parrots, three gray whales, twelve dolphins, a large herd of deer chowing down on someone's backyard lawn just below Griffith Park, a coyote, a little red fox (near Fox Hills Mall, no wonder), and a wild bobcat (a fierce little devil - he/she killed a squirrel right in front of me), all in fairly residential areas of Los Angeles (except the sea mammals, which I saw just off the coast in Malibu). The whale sighting was the most magical. Two huge creatures and a baby lifted their heads vertically. Some people on the beach saw them, and an amazing number never even looked. Those who did all stood and stared for what felt like hours as they spyhopped, checking us out from not more than 25 yards offshore, before diving back into the unseen depths and continuing their yearly migration.
Now, because I don't believe in chain letters, I'm going to end this here. BUT - if you want, please post five things I don't know about you
, either in the comments or linked from the comments. That might keep us all from suffering under some dreaded curse from having broken the blogmeme!
The Real History of Gerald Ford, Watergate, and the CIA
Gerald Ford is dead. And for the last week, we’ve heard how he “healed” the nation in the wake of the Watergate crisis. Seriously, if I hear him called “healer” one more time I think I’ll scream, because Gerald Ford put a stake in the heart of America not once, but twice. He was a thief who stole our Real History from us at a time when it couldn’t possibly have been more important. Curiously, both times, he was prodded to do this, indirectly, by the man whose life is only very loosely portrayed in the film “The Good Shepherd:” James Jesus Angleton.
To frame this in the appropriate context, we have to return, temporarily, to 1947.
World War II had just ended, successfully. In fact, it was the last successful (large-scale) war the United States has ever waged, and no small portion of that was due to the actions of the officers of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), led by William “Wild Bill” Donovan. The US’s first formally-constituted covert action unit was staffed by so many sons and daughters of the establishment that OSS was said to stand for “Oh So Social.”
When the war ended, OSS operatives found themselves faced with an unexciting prospect: returning to normal lives. Having lived as spies, with large amounts of discretionary cash at their disposal, many were loathe to return to more boring peacetime careers. So several, including James Angleton, opted to stay behind in Europe, away from wives and children, to see if they could keep the covert operations, called -- significantly -- “fun and games,” going.
The Army took the former OSS operatives into its Strategic Services Unit (SSU). From that, two branches of intelligence were formed: the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), which focused on running covert operations, and the Office of Special Operations (OSO), which, while ostensibly focused on intelligence gathering, ran a lot of operations as well. OPC officers, dubbed by journalist and CIA asset Stewart Alsop “the Bold Easterners,” included media guru Frank Wisner, future CIA Director Richard Bissell, future Operation Mongoose head Edward Lansdale, future CIA Deputy Director of Plans Desmond Fitzgerald, and more. The OSO included such luminaries as Richard Helms, Angleton, and Angleton’s career-long associate Raymond “the Rock” Rocca (pronounced “ROCK-ah”).
How the OSO and OPC were merged into the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), which was quickly reorganized as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a little known story. In 1947, Donovan and others were pressing for the creation of a fulltime, peacetime intelligence agency. The two big opponents to this effort were some prominent members of Congress, and J. Edgar Hoover, who felt his Federal Bureau of Investigation was the only intelligence agency the country would ever need. So, in an apparent conquer-and-divide strategy, Congress and Hoover were neutralized separately.
According to lifelong CIA operative Miles Copeland:
The CIA almost got under way without having an espionage section at all. The idea of an espionageless intelligence service was attractive not only to three secretaries of state (James F. Byrnes, George C. Marshall, Dean Acheson), but to a great many intelligence experts, including many who had stayed in the Government after serving throughout the war in key positions in the OSS. The State Department people were leery of espionage partly on moral grounds, but more because of a fear that some of our spies were bound to get caught; they felt the resulting embarrassment would case more harm to international goodwill than the information they could produce would be worth. . . .
There are several stories in the CIA's secret annals to explain how the dispute was settled, but although they "make better history," as Allen Dulles used to say, they are only half-truths and much less consistent with the ways of government than the true one. Old-timers at the Agency swear that the anti-espionage people would almost certainly have won out had it not been for the fact that an Army colonel who had been assigned to the management group charged with the job of organizing the new Agency suborned secretaries in the FBI, the State Department, and the Defense Department and organized them into an espionage network which proved not only the superiority of espionage over other forms of acquiring "humint" (i.e. intelligence on what specific human beings think and do in privacy), but the necessity for its being systematized and tightly controlled. The colonel was fired, as were the secretaries, but by that time General John Magruder, then head of the group that was organizing the CIA, had in his hands a strong argument for creating a professional espionage service and putting it under a single organization.
If you read between the lines, he was suggesting the CIA blackmailed itself into existence
by collecting material on our leaders and then taking it to them saying, this is what other intelligence services might find on you. Let us protect you. Blackmail is a part of all governments, including ours, and sometimes that blackmail has unintended consequences. One of those unintended consequences made Ford president, as we shall see.
J. Edgar Hoover, who vehemently opposed the creation of a new espionage service, had to be silenced as well. According to Copeland in the same source:
[General Magruder] had enough material to silence enemies of the new Agency -- including even J. Edgar Hoover, since Magruder was among the very few bureaucrats in Washington on whom Mr. Hoover didn't have material for retaliation.
And this is where Angleton enters the picture. In his book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover
, Tony Summers wrote about a photo James Angleton used to blackmail Hoover. OSS officer John Weitz claimed he had been shown the picture by the host of a dinner party in the fifties:
It was not a good picture and was clearly taken from some distance away, but it showed two men apparently engaged in homosexual activity. The host said the men were Hoover and Tolson….
Summers added in the 1994 version:
Since first publication of this book, Weitz has revealed that his host was James Angleton.
Gordon Novel also claims to have been shown this photo by Angleton. During New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination, he gave an interview to Playboy
, and mentioned that the man he had hired to do his security, Gordon Novel, had turned out to be CIA. Novel sued Playboy
for defamation, insisting he was not working for the CIA, but during his deposition, he claimed (hilariously) that he did not have to answer questions because he was protected under the National Security Act of 1947, the act that created the CIA. Hoover wanted Novel to drop the suit but Angleton wanted Novel to pursue it. Novel says Angleton showed him the photo, and then sent him to talk to Hoover. When Novel caught up with Hoover in a New Orleans restaurant and told Hoover he had seen “the photo,” Hoover nearly choked on his food.
Gerald Ford was a trusted associate of J. Edgar Hoover’s. So when Gerald Ford was appointed to serve with former CIA chief Allen Dulles on the Warren Commission, Hoover was happy, because now he had an informant on the commission. According to FBI files I read years ago, Ford did not disappoint, and kept Hoover informed of significant developments.
Hoover insisted that all FBI information about the Kennedy assassination come directly to him from his staff. I can’t help but wonder if Hoover’s intense curiosity about the case stemmed from a desire to get counterblackmail material on the CIA that he could use to win his independence.
So how honestly did Ford serve us, the America People, on the Warren Commission, the “blue ribbon commission” set up to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy?
He was worse than Arlen Specter, who concocted the ridiculous “magic bullet” scenario that said seven wounds in two people were caused by a single (and nearly pristine) bullet.
Ford went even further. He personally falsified the record. His act was exposed in files released by the Assassination Records Review Board, a body constituted under the JFK Act, passed in the wake of public outcry from people who had seen Oliver Stone’s powerful film JFK
. Here’s a snippet from the original AP story of 7-2-97:
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.''
Here is the critical passage, from the altered document
itself. Ford’s inserts are in bold:
A bullet had entered
his the back of his neck....
Ford’s change clearly distorted where the bullet had entered. The obvious purpose, Ford’s protestations to the otherwise, is clear: this change was necessary to support the “single bullet theory.” Oswald was supposed to have shot Kennedy in the back from a height. A bullet in Kennedy’s back could not exit the neck except at an upward angle, which would rule out anyone shooting from Oswald’s alleged position.
Here are the clothes Kennedy was wearing, taken from the Warren Commission’s exhibits. The bullet holes are clearly visible in the first, and clearly indicated in the second. See for yourself how dishonest Ford’s change was:
Ford’s big lie allowed Americans to believe that the appropriate criminal had been apprehended, that all was well in their country, when the truth was that our vote had been stolen. A man we elected had been removed by private coup. (An aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson reported to the FBI that LBJ suspected the CIA was behind the plot. See “LBJ Reportedly Suspected CIA Link in JFK's Death,” Washington Post
, December 13, 1977.)
Why do I say Ford lied? Couldn’t Ford have been naive enough to believe what he had been told? I think the answer to that lies in an outburst Ford made in 1974, a shocking statement that the press either missed the implications of or deliberately twisted to suit a more palatable explanation. To explain Ford’s statement, and the significance thereof, we have to first wend our way through the Watergate era.
The real story of Watergate has never been fully told, although in my opinion, Jim Hougan’s excellent book Secret Agenda
comes closest. He opens by noting that E. Howard Hunt was, at the time of Watergate, on his third retirement from the CIA, implying, of course, that Hunt never really left the agency. (On a side note -– I find great irony in E. Howard Hunt being called a “plumber” because, as Richard Helms once described, the first step in coup plotting was “putting in the plumbing.” Hunt was ostensibly brought to the White House to plug leaks, hence the overt meaning of the term plumber. But I believe he was working under Helms’ definition as well.)
Hougan also describes how improbable it was that James McCord, a 40-year veteran of CIA’s Office of Security -– the in-house police agency that taps, follows, and spies on CIA employees to ensure sure they don’t spill agency secrets -- got caught). McCord was a skilled break-in artist, and a skilled placer of taps. So it’s inconceivable that he bungled the Watergate burglary unless he planned on getting the operatives caught. McCord’s secretary told the FBI McCord seemed to be saying a permanent goodbye to her when he left the office that day, thanking her for all her work over the years, a very strange thing to say if just going home for the night. McCord’s secretary also noted that he kept a picture of Richard Helms on his desk at the Republican National Committee, his ostensible employer that was personally inscribed by Helms to McCord.
To me, the most interesting and least discussed piece of the Watergate puzzle is the piece related to Howard Hughes. By the early sixties, the Hughes corporation was already enmeshed with the CIA. Hughes had selected Robert Maheu to run his organization. Maheu had been a CIA asset for years, and was their chosen “go-to” guy when the Agency decided to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Howard Hughes knew before President John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy did that the CIA was trying to kill Castro. Hughes found out when Maheu had to ask for a leave of absence to run the operation.
The Kennedy brothers found out about the plots shortly after the FBI uncovered a bugging operation in Las Vegas. Sam Giancana, one of the Mafia members hired to kill Castro, had suspected his mistress Phyllis McGuire was having an affair with Dan Rowan (of the Rowan and Martin “Laugh-In” comedy team). Maheu, as a favor to Giancana, hired a Florida detective to bug Rowan’s hotel room. But the detective left his equipment in plain sight, and the maid reported the equipment to the police, who contacted the FBI. The CIA admitted to Hoover that CIA was directly involved in the bugging and convinced Hoover not to further investigate. The CIA then told Robert Kennedy about the CIA’s use of Giancana in a plot to kill Castro. Given that Robert Kennedy had faced Giancana down in a courtroom (where he famously accused Giancana of giggling like a little girl), trying to prosecute him for Mafia activities, Robert was understandably furious at CIA for using the Mob, and furious at them trying to kill Castro.
In its own Inspector General Report, the CIA reported that while they told Kennedy about the plots that had already concluded, they never divulged that additional plots that were continuing. I’ll do a separate post on the Castro plots at some point -– but my conclusion will be the same as that in the CIA’s internal study, which no proponent of the Kennedys' guilt in this matter ever cites: the Kennedys never approved any plots to kill Castro. The CIA, by its own admission, had no executive authority for these plots.
In 1968, John Meier, who worked for Howard Hughes, learned inadvertently of the CIA’s relationship with Howard Hughes when Maheu told Meier that Michael Merhage was going to be working with them in South America, asking Meier to help Merhage with contacts in Ecuador. Meier did, not knowing that Merhage was not really a Hughes employee, but a CIA employee using Hughes’ company for cover. Merhage assumed that Meier was himself CIA, and spoke openly to Meier about the Agency’s interest. (Merhage was so bumbling that one of Meier’s Ecuadoran contacts told Meier they had figured Merhage for an agent right away.)
Merhage’s next bumble takes us right back to the primary subject of this article. Thinking Meier was a CIA man like himself, Merhage gave Meier a directive from the CIA to Hughes dated September 2, 1968, containing a list of American politicians the CIA wanted funded through the Hughes corporation. Among the names Strom Thurmond, Wallace Bennett, Paul Laxalt, James Eastland, and many others, was the name Gerald R. Ford. The CIA wanted Hughes to give money to Ford’s campaign.
(Source: “Hughes, Nixon, and the CIA: The Watergate Conspiracy Woodward and Bernstein Missed,” by Larry DuBois and Laurence Gonzales, Playboy,
September, 1976.) Was the agency rewarding Ford for his service on the Warren Commission?
Shortly after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, John Meier had occasion to speak with J. Edgar Hoover, whom he knew personally. Hoover told Meier that the FBI knew that Maheu had been responsible for the hit on Bobby Kennedy, but that he was powerless against the CIA. He was, of course, powerless, so long as that blackmail photo was out there. (For more on this episode, see my articles on the Robert Kennedy assassination in The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X
. And while Meier’s credibility is shaky on some issues, I believe it was more than a coincidence that Robert Maheu called John Meier out of the blue, after ten years, the very day I was en route to see Meier. And when I met Meier, it was to talk about a different topic, not the RFK case, which I had not yet written about. This came up tangentially, which made his assertion all the more credible, I felt.)
Two year later, Hoover cut off all communication between the FBI and the CIA. I know Hoover couldn’t have done that without risking the exposure of that photo unless he had, by then, put together counterblackmail material. I wonder if Hoover’s independence from CIA came, at least in part, from something Hoover could prove about the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968.
After Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA’s relationship with the Hughes organization became even closer. Hughes ordered Maheu to seize the moment and hire away Robert Kennedy’s political organization. Hughes, ever Machiavellian, knew that Larry O’ Brien and other top lieutenants from Bobby’s campaign would be jobless. Maheu was tasked with hiring them into the Hughes organization. If the CIA was behind the assassination of Robert Kennedy, what better way to keep Kennedy’s closest associates dependent for their lives and careers on the CIA? In any case, this simple act paved, in many ways, the start of the road to Watergate.
When Nixon took office as President, Hughes ordered Maheu to give Nixon either $100,000 or $1,000,000, depending on whose story you believe. (The official version is $100,000. It makes no difference – both were egregious sums, and both amounts were equally illegal for the President to have accepted.) So when Larry O’Brien, after working for Hughes, moved over to head the Democratic National Committee, Nixon worried very much what O’Brien might know about the Hughes loan.
Terry Lenzner, an investigator for the Watergate committee, told CBS on a Sixty Minutes segment
last year that he wrote an entire section for the Watergate report suggesting that Nixon’s concern over the Hughes loan was the main motivation for the break-in at Watergate. Lenzner did not remember being given an explanation as to why this was omitted, but CBS noted speculation that the omission was due to the fact that Republicans and Democrats alike had received similar payoffs. Remember that Gerald Ford himself received money from Hughes. And undoubtedly, the CIA would not have wanted their role in the Hughes corporation to be exposed. Their connection with Hughes was not public knowledge at the time of the Watergate investigation.
In addition, R. Spencer Oliver, who worked at the DNC, was the son of an operative at the Mullen Company, the PR firm for the Hughes organization. So Nixon wanted to know what Oliver knew, as well.
Now, to layer this, because the truth is rarely a simple story, the CIA had its own operations to protect. First of all, the Mullen Company was also a CIA front, and bugging Oliver’s phone might well have revealed that. In addition, Hougan reported Oliver’s phone was used for a sex ring, one that appears to have been used for both satisfying and blackmailing people in high-level governmental positions. Frank Terpil, a longtime CIA employee, detailed one of the jobs of another CIA employee, Ed Wilson, to Hougan:
Historically, one of Wilson’s Agency jobs was to subvert members of both houses [of Congress] by any means necessary. . . . Certain people could be easily coerced by living out their sexual fantasy in the flesh. . . . A remembrance of these occasions [was] permanently recorded via selected cameras, I’m sure for historical purposes only. The technicians in charge of the filming . . . [were] TSD [Technical Services Division – a unit of the CIA] personnel. The unwitting porno stars advanced in their political careers, some of [whom] may still be in office. You may now realize the total ineffectiveness of the ‘Watchdog Committee’ assigned to oversee clandestine operations.
While Hougan, as a responsible reporter, notes that Terpil’s allegations are not proven, they map to all I’ve read elsewhere about how the CIA operates, including the story of how the CIA came about, as we saw at the start of this piece. Blackmail has always been the simplest way for the agency to get what it wants. Former CIA Director Richard Helms once said that an agent could not be trusted unless you owned him “body and soul,” a clear implication that the only people who could be trusted to do your bidding were the ones you had blackmail power over. Neither Terpil nor Hougan says anything about the sex ring organized from Oliver’s phone being a CIA operation. But if it was, the Watergate story puzzle pieces all fall neatly into place.
I think Lenzner was right. Nixon’s Chief of Staff H. R. (Bob) Haldeman shared the Hughes theory as well, in his book The Ends of Power
The Haldeman Theory of the break-in is as follows: I believe Nixon told Colson to get the goods on O’Brien’s connection with Hughes at a time when both of them were infuriated with O’Brien’s success in using the ITT case against them. [A memo from PR person Dita Beard suggested Nixon was taking $400,000 from ITT to support the Republican convention in exchange for the government dropping an anti-trust charge against ITT. E. Howard Hunt, in disguise, went to Beard’s bedside and obtained a confession that the memo was a forgery, but no one in DC believed that. Larry O’Brien made political hay out of the whole episode.]
I believe Colson then passed the word to Hunt who conferred with [G. Gordon] Liddy who decide the taps on O’Brien and Oliver, the other “Hughes” phone, would be their starting point. . . .
I believe that the CIA monitored the Watergate burglars throughout. And that the overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that the break-in was deliberately sabotaged.
Whatever the reasons, we know this much. James McCord, the CIA’s longtime expert tap placer and break-in artist, planted a bug that didn’t work on O’Brien’s phone, and taped a door open during the break-in. A security guard found and removed the tape. McCord then re-taped the door
. Normally, if you don’t want to get caught, and your tape is removed, you leave. You don’t risk drawing attention by taping the door a second time. But when the guard found the tape again, after having removed it, he did exactly what McCord must have known he would do: he called the police. And a policeman who was very close to someone at the CIA happened to have skipped his own birthday celebration to sit in a plainclothes police car nearby that night, as if just waiting for this particular call. The “burglars,” who were all CIA operatives, were arrested and taken to court. And the rest is history, but not necessarily the one you’ve read.
The FBI started investigating the operation immediately, and reporting back to the White House. Can you imagine Hoover’s glee had he been able to pin the break-in on a bunch of CIA operatives –- James McCord, E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, and the rest? Perhaps the CIA could have imagined that as well. J. Edgar Hoover died of a heart attack in May of 1972. The break-ins began in June. Carl McNabb, a former CIA agent, now deceased, once told me that James McCord, who he said had the nickname in the Agency of “Zap Man,” had killed Hoover. He said McCord used a poison gas pen that would induce a heart attack and be undetectable. There’s no way to verify that, and I have no idea if that’s true. But given the animosity between the agency and Hoover, and Hoover’s recently won independence from his own blackmail, the only one who could have made the CIA operatives’ lives hell on earth in the aftermath would have been Hoover. By assassination or natural death, Hoover was no longer a problem.
Hoover’s replacement at FBI was Patrick Gray. Gray warned John Dean, White House Counsel, about what needed to be covered up. As H.R. (Bob) Haldeman reported in his book The Ends of Power
June 23, 1972. . . . I picked up my telephone and was told John Dean was on the line. In an instant my serenity was shattered, as the young voice spoke urgently, beginning with these upsetting words:
“Bob, the DNC break-in is becoming a real problem. They’re out of control over at the Bureau. Gray doesn’t know what the hell to do, as usual.”
“What have they found so far?”
“They traced one check to a contributor named Ken Dahlberg. And apparently the money was laundered out of a Mexican bank, and the FBI has found the bank. If that’s true, they’ll know how the depositors are today.” . . . “But our problem now is to stop the FBI from opening up a whole lot of other things. I don’t know where that money trail is going to lead from that Mexican bank if they start checking.” . . . “They say we have to turn off that investigation of that Mexican bank fast, before they open up everything and spread this mess a lot wider than it is.” . . .
Now I said: “Fine, just tell me the bottom line and keep it brief. Who does the FBI think did the break-in? Have they got a theory?”
Dean said, “Well, that’s the good news. The FBI is convinced it’s the CIA. McCord and the Cubans are all ex-CIA people. Practically everyone who went in there was connected to the agency. And now the FBI finds a Mexican bank involved which also sounds like the CIA.”
Regarding Mexico, As CIA officer David Atlee Phillips wrote in his book The Night Watch
, Mexico was, in cold war terms, essentially the Berlin of the West:
The CIA station in Mexico is one of the most important in the world. . . . The reason for a large CIA contingent in Mexico City is to conduct what are known as “third party operations.” . . . [Opportunities for gathering international intelligence] spawned a conglomeration of intelligence officers, agents, spies, provocateurs, and the shadowy figures of those who manage financial and communication nets to support international intrigue. Each intelligence service in Mexico City plays the cat-and-mouse game of attempting to penetrate the other’s organization. In short, the Mexican capital is a hugger-mugger metropolis of cloak-and-dagger conspirators.
No wonder FBI assumed the Mexican bank transaction was likely a CIA operation.
Haldeman read Nixon his notes on the above conversation with John Dean, and Nixon agreed that the only way to stop the FBI’s further investigation would be to have someone high level at CIA call the FBI and ask them to stop. It was during this conversation that Nixon famously mused:
Well, we protected Helms from one hell of a lot of things.
What things, Haldeman wondered? Nixon continued:
[E. Howard] Hunt . . . will uncover a lot things . . . tell them we just feel that it would be detrimental to have this thing go any further. This involves these Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky that we have nothing to do with ourselves.”
I didn’t know what hanky-panky he was talking about, but Nixon wasn’t finished. He gazed out of the window, then turned to me. “When you get the CIA people in say, ‘Look, the problem is that this will open up the whole Bay of Pigs thing again. So they should call the FBI in and for the good of the country don’t go any further into this case. Period.”
Later in a one-o’clock meeting just before I saw [Richard] Helms and [Vernon] Walters, Nixon expanded on this theme: “Tell them that if it gets out, it’s going to make the CIA look bad, it’s going to make Hunt look bad, and it’s likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs which we think would be very unfortunate for the CIA.”
Dean had suggested a blatant political move by calling in the CIA -— now Nixon showed how much more astute he was by throwing a national security blanket over the same suggestion.
By giving this direction, Nixon sealed his fate on two counts. He was suggesting an obstruction of justice, and he was attempting to blackmail the CIA with some information. The latter action guaranteed that the former action would get exposed.
Haldeman’s account of his attempt to do as Nixon asked bears repeating:
John Ehrlichman and I were to meet the CIA officials. I went to John’s office to await their arrival. “Guess what,” I said to John. “It’s Bay of Pigs time again.”
“The man will never quit,” Ehrlichman said.
He thought about it and added, “Well, the President has a point. It will put pressure on Helms. But this time you’re going to push the red button, not me. I’ve had it on that route.”
Haldeman pressed the “red button,” and told Helms what he had been asked. The famously cool and composed Helms suddenly lost it:
“The President asked me to tell you this entire affair may be connected to the Bay of Pigs, and if it opens up, the Bay of Pigs may be blown." . . .
Turmoil in the room, Helms gripping the arms of his chair leaning forward and shouting, “The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this. I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.”
Silence. I just sat there. I was absolutely shocked by Helms’ violent reaction. Again I wondered, what was such dynamite in the Bay of Pigs story?
Helms slowly settled, and acquiesced, to a degree. Walters later testified that Helms told him to remind Gray of the informal agreement between FBI and CIA to notify each other if their operations and investigations ran into the business of the other. And the seeds of Nixon’s ouster had been planted.
Haldeman came to believe that the reference to the Bay of Pigs was some sort of code for the Kennedy assassination. He read in Daniel Schorr’s book Clearing the Air
of the plots against Castro, and wondered, as Schorr did, if those plots might have led, indirectly, to Kennedy’s own assassination. Haldeman even suggested to Nixon that, now that they were in office and had the power to do so, they should get to the bottom of who really killed Kennedy. Nixon rejected this idea.
Haldeman speculated about what Nixon knew about the assassination, and how he might have found out what he knew:
In a chilling parallel to their cover-up at Watergate, the CIA literally erased any connection between Kennedy’s assassination and the CIA. No mention of the Castro assassination attempt was made to the Warren Commission by CIA representatives. In fact, Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton of the CIA called Bill Sullivan of the FBI and rehearsed the questions answer answers they would give to the Warren Commission investigators, such as these samples:
Q. Was Oswald an agent of the CIA?
Q. Does the CIA have any evidence showing that a conspiracy existed to assassinate Kennedy?
And here’s what I find most interesting: Bill Sullivan, the FBI man that the CIA called at the time, was Nixon’s highest-ranking loyal friend at the FBI (in the Watergate crisis. He would risk J. Edgar Hoover’s anger by taking the 1969 FBI wiretap transcripts ordered by Nixon and delivering them to Robert Mardian, a Mitchell crony, for safekeeping).
It’s possible that Nixon learned from Sullivan something about the earlier CIA cover-up by Helms. And when Nixon said, “It’s likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs” he might have been reminding Helms, not so gently, of the cover-up of the CIA assassination attempts on the hero of the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro -- a CIA operation that may have triggered the Kennedy tragedy which Helms desperately wanted to hide.
Angleton, of all people, knew that Oswald did indeed have a relationship with the CIA. He had a very curious pre-assassination file on Oswald. Rather than keeping Oswald’s file in the general Counterintelligence department where, one could conceivably argue, it could have innocently belonged, Angleton instead secreted the file to his tiny mole-hunting group, the Special Investigations Group, CI/SIG. There, only a handful of people would recognize the name Lee Oswald before the assassination. SIG was so secretive it was the part of Angleton’s empire designated to work with “Staff D,” Bill Harvey’s “Executive Action” (assassination) unit in CIA. Oswald’s file shows that not only was the CIA keeping track of Oswald, they were lying about him to other agencies before
Kennedy was assassinated. For these and many other reasons I detailed in my long two-part article on Angleton in the book The Assassinations
, I believe Angleton knew he was lying to the Warren Commission. The fact that he felt the need to coordinate with Sullivan suggests strongly that Sullivan knew the truth as well.
Whatever the meaning of the Bay of Pigs reference, the conversations of June 23, 1972, produced the “smoking gun tape,” showing Nixon was attempting to stop the wheels of justice, or specifically, the Justice Department’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, from pursuing the truth. Had that tape never surfaced, Watergate would have gone down in the history books the way it was first reported: as a “third rate burglary.”
So what happened to bring Nixon’s actions to light? Intrepid investigative reporting? In the fairy tale version of America, we all want to believe that. But as ever, the truth is a bit darker.
First, where did the information about the Watergate break-in come from? And second, how did it get reported in a way that was favorable to the CIA?
Haldeman worried about reports of CIA plants in the White House:
On July 10, 1975, Chairman Carl Nedzi of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee released an Inspector-General’s Report in which the CIA admitted there was a “practice of detailing CIA employees to the White House and various government agencies.” The IG Report revealed there were CIA agents in “intimate components in the Office of the President.”
Domestic CIA plants are bad enough, but in “intimate components of the office of the President?”
I was “intimate,” Ehrlichman was. [Henry] Kissinger was. Who else was intimate in an official sense? Alex Butterfield, who sat right outside the President’s office? (Rose Mary Woods to this day believes he was a CIA plant. . . .)
I leave the question to rest as a part of a great mystery the significance of which may one day overshadow even Watergate: the manipulation of this nation by members of an intelligence agency.
Enter Bob Woodward. A former ONI operative, a staunch conservative, and a former intelligence briefer, Woodward was the perfect person for Washington Post chief and CIA-asset Ben Bradlee
to assign to Watergate. Woodward would eventually report data directly from Robert Bennett of the Mullen Company (Hughes’ PR firm, E. Howard Hunt’s ostensible employer, and a CIA front), and Bennett reported back to his CIA handler that Woodward was “suitably grateful” for the information and ran the information without exposing Bennett as the source. If Mark Felt was Deep Throat, he was not Woodward’s only source.
Carl Bernstein was added to the team because Woodward was not, at that time, deemed a compelling writer. Bernstein later went on to write the single best exposé that has ever been done of the CIA’s control of the media
(Rolling Stone, October, 1977). I’m guessing Bernstein figured out how he and Woodward had been manipulated, and that his article was, to some degree, an apology to us for having been so gullible during the Watergate reporting.
Nixon grew increasingly dissatisfied with “Helms’ careful distancing of the agency from Watergate, his refusal to allow it to be used in the cover-up,” according to William Colby in his book Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA
At this point, the dominos started to fall.
James McCord wrote a CIA officer, from prison, saying if Helms was fired, “every tree in the forest would fall.”
Nixon called Helms to Camp David in December of 1972 and essentially fired him from his role as CIA director, encouraging him to accept instead an appointment as Ambassador to Iran. (Oddly enough, the Shah and Helms had attended prep school together in Switzerland.)
After Helms was ousted, his second-in-command, Thomas Karamessines, resigned in protest. Nixon then appointed James Schlesinger to head the agency, who in turn appointed William Colby head of the “black ops” part of the CIA, the Directorate of Plans, by then called the Directorate of Operations.
Schlesinger saw right away how huge a problem the whole Watergate episode represented for the Agency. The CIA was forbidden, by its charter, to operate domestically. Spying on Americans was absolutely illegal, and what else were E. Howard Hunt and the Watergate burglars doing but exactly that? Schlesinger knew, from his longtime experience in government, that these activities were likely the tip of the iceberg. So on May 9, 1973 Schlesinger sent a memo to all CIA employees asking that anyone with any knowledge of illegal activities should come forward:
. . . All CIA employees should understand my attitude on this type of issue. I shall do everything in my power to confine CIA activities to those that fall within a strict interpretation of its legislative charter. I take this position because I am determined that the law shall be respected and because this is the best way to foster the legitimate and necessary contributions we in CIA can make to the national security of the United States. . . .
[I request that] all the senior operating officials of this Agency [report] to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on in the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this Agency.
The resulting report prepared from responses came to be known as “the family jewels.” Colby preferred to call them, more accurately, “our skeletons in the closet." And as proof that some secrets can be kept forever, in 2005, former Senator Gary Hart, who had actually seen this report, says most of what’s in there has never reached the public
The very day Schlesinger sent his request, Alexander Haig, the new White House Chief of Staff now that Haldeman had been forced out, called Bill Colby and asked if Colby would take over at CIA.
Meanwhile, in the spring of 1973, after the Watergate burglars were convicted and media coverage was dwindling, McCord followed through on his threat. He nearly single-handedly reopened the case when he wrote Judge Sirica a letter saying that the defendants had confessed under pressure from higher ups, and that “perjury had been committed.”
In June, 1973 John Dean said Nixon had been in on the cover-up, and suggested Nixon may have made tapes of key conversations.
In July of 1973, Alexander Butterfield (who did, as Nixon’s secretary suspected, have ties to the CIA) confirmed the presence of a White House taping system.
Vice President Spiro T. Agnew was forced out of office by an investigation into his money in his former role as Governor of Maryland revealed tax evasion and other unseemly activities. When Agnew stepped down, Nixon picked former Warren Commission member Gerald Ford to be his Vice President. I can’t help but wonder who suggested Ford, initially.
By August of 1974, Nixon saw that he would indeed be impeached, and stepped down to avoid that embarrassment, leaving Ford as President. Ford then recommended Nelson Rockefeller, son of the infamous John D. Rockefeller who built the Standard Oil empire, to be Vice President. Rockefeller’s top competitor for the post was George H. W. Bush.
In September, 1974, Ford gave us a peek into his character, when he spoke at a press conference regarding evidence that the CIA, at the request of the Nixon administration, had helped overthrow the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile, installing instead the fascist dictator General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.
Asked under what international law the US had the right to attempt to destabilize the constitutionally elected government of another country, Ford responded:
I am not going to pass judgment on whether it is permitted or authorized under international law. It is a recognized fact that historically as well as presently, such actions are taken in the best interest of the countries involved. (Source: Time, September 30, 1974.)
As Time magazine noted:
That blunt response by President Gerald Ford at his press conference last week was either remarkably careless or remarkably candid. It left the troubling impression, which the Administration afterward did nothing to dispel, that the U.S. feels free to subvert another government whenever it suits American policy. In an era of détente with the Soviet Union and improving relations with China, Ford's words seemed to represent an anachronistic, cold-war view of national security reminiscent of the 1950s. Complained Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho with considerable hyperbole: "[It is] tantamount to saying that we respect no law save the law of the jungle." (Source: Ibid.)
Ford’s comments bothered commentators:
[T]here was an unsettlingly disingenuous quality to Ford's words. Was the intent of the Chilean operation really to preserve freedom of the press and opposition political parties, as he insisted, or simply to undermine Allende? In this context, it is worth noting that after the coup, the U.S. did not object when the new military regime banned all political parties and shut down all opposition publications.
There were other disquieting notes in the statement. Ford described the operation as being "in the best interest of the people of Chile" -- a throwback to an America-knows-what's-best-for-you line of years past that was particularly offensive to many countries. In addition, Ford did not make the small but crucial distinction between intelligence gathering and covert operations, which led some critics to suspect that he was not wholly familiar with the subject.
. . . West Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung predicted that "the disconcerting naiveté with which President Ford enunciated his secret service philosophy" would have a "provocative" effect. (Source: Ibid.)
By December, the family jewels were bubbling just under the surface. Schlesinger had learned of Operation CHAOS – Angleton’s large, domestic, and very illegal domestic spying operation, and told Angleton, “this thing is not only breaking the law, but we’re getting nothing out of it.” (See Cold Warrior
, by Tom Mangold.) Despite both fearing and respecting Angleton, Schlesinger put an instant end of the program. But when the baton was passed to Colby, the issue didn’t end there.
Colby was concerned that Angleton had sole responsibility with liaison with the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence force, and wanted to take that from Angleton. Angleton argued the relationships were too sensitive to give up. Colby was afraid to do direct battle with Angleton at this point, so he chipped away at his authority around the edges, cancelling programs, defunding some of Angleton’s favorite assets such as Jay Lovestone. Colby urged Angleton to retire several times, but Angleton refused.
Next, Colby either gave to Sy Hersh or confirmed to Sy Hersh, depending on whose account you believe, some of the information about the CIA’s domestic activities that Angleton had been running. Hersh’s story went off like a bomb on the front page of the New York Times on December 22, 1974. There were follow-up stories for the next several days. Colby used Hersh’s story as the opportunity to get rid of Angleton.
And that’s when Ford stabbed Democracy in the heart for a second time.
President Ford learned about the CIA’s illegal activities while in Vail. He had called Bill Colby at CIA and asked to be briefed immediately. Colby forwarded to Ford, via Kissinger, the “family jewels” report. When Ford returned to DC on January 3, 1975, he called Colby over to the White House for a private meeting. The next day, he announced he was forming a “blue ribbon” commission to be headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller that would conduct an inquiry into the CIA’s domestic activities. As Daniel Schorr noted in his book Clearing the Air
The administration seemed anxious to seize the initiative, perhaps to head off a potentially more troublesome congressional investigation -- a standard defensive tactic.
Having served on the Warren Commission, Ford must have known what he was doing would produce more cover-up than revelation. Indeed, when the appointments were made, the press yelled immediately that the fix was in. The other Commission members were John T. Connor, C. Douglas Dillon, Erwin N. Griswold, Lane Kirkland, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Ronald Reagan, and Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. Ford’s fellow Warren Commission member David W. Belin was given the role of Executive Director. The formal Commission title was “U.S. President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States.” It’s important to remember, as you read what follows, that the focus of the commission was on CIA activities within
the United States.
At a White House luncheon for New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and its editors, Ford made a blunder so egregious it launched four separate investigations of the CIA
Toward the end of the conversation, the subject of the Rockefeller commission came up. One editor, noting the predominantly conservative and defense-oriented membership of the commission, asked what credibility it would have. President Ford explained that he needed trustworthy citizens who would not stray from the narrow confines of their mission because they might come upon matters that would damage the national interests and blacken the reputation of every President since Truman.
“Like what?” asked the irrepressible Times managing editor, A. M. Rosenthal.
“Like assassinations!” President Ford shot back, quickly adding, “That’s off the record!”
The Times executives went into a huddle in their Washington office and agreed, after a spirited argument, to keep the President’s confidence.
This secret, however, got out, and word got around that Ford had been concerned about revealing assassinations. Daniel Schorr went to Colby and asked what was meant. Colby said Ford’s comments referred to foreign assassination plots, and Schorr satisfied himself that’s what Ford was referring to.
It bears repeating that the Rockefeller commission was only to look into the CIA’s domestic
activities. If that were the case, why should Ford worry that an investigation of the CIA domestic activities would reveal information about foreign assassinations? Of course, the unasked question was this: Was there some domestic assassination the CIA have been involved with that Ford knew about? As a member of the Warren Commission, was Ford worried about exposing the CIA’s role in the Kennedy assassination? I’ve been disappointed, over the years, that most commentators on the commission never point out this other probable explanation for his strange outburst. To me, it seems likely Ford feared the exposure of a domestic assassination conspiracy. I believe strongly that Bill Colby revealed details of foreign assassination attempts
in order to draw attention away from the one assassination that should have been on everyone’s mind after Ford’s outburst: the assassination of President Kennedy.
In terms of foreign assassination possibilities, Schorr’s instincts on this matter are interesting. “Hammerskjold?” Schorr asked. (See my article “Midnight in the Congo
” for details of Hammerskjold’s mysterious plane crash, and the CIA operative who claimed responsibility for it to government officials.) “Lumumba?” Schorr asked next. (See my same article, as I also talk about a CIA officer’s published admission that he drove around with Lumumba in the trunk of his car for a few days, wondering what to do with his body.) Schorr appears to have been on the right track, in terms of CIA operations internationally. Naturally, however, Colby refused to confirm or deny any of Schorr’s suspicions.
The House and Senate, convinced that the Rockefeller Commission would be little more than a whitewash, convened their own bodies to investigate the CIA’s activities. The House’s official body was called the U.S. House Select Committee on Intelligence, and was chaired by Congressman Otis Pike. It was informally called the Pike Committee. The Senate’s committee was called the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, but was informally known as the Church Committee, because its leader was Senator Frank Church.
Ironically, Ford’s Rockefeller Commission did end up having to deal with the Kennedy assassination after all. During the course of their investigation, some researchers on the JFK case insisted that the famous “tramp photos” showed E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis in Dealey Plaza at the time of the Kennedy assassination. Given the high visibility of Hunt and Sturgis from the recently concluded Watergate investigation, the Rockefeller Commission felt it necessary to devote a portion of their report to refuting these allegations. But in the course of that tiny portion of their investigation, others had stepped forward with additional allegations, such as Jack Ruby being tied to the CIA, which would give new importance to his role in killing Oswald. The Rockefeller report published a very limited refutation of anything at variance with the findings of the Warren Commission. And given that Warren Commissioner Ford had appointed them, had they concluded otherwise, does anyone really think they would have revealed that?
When the Castro assassination plots were exposed, there were public cries for a reinvestigation of the Kennedy assassination. Schorr expressed what columnist Jack Anderson and others were also voicing at the time:
It would be comforting to know that Oswald acted on his own -- not as part of some dark left-wing or right-wing plot to strike down a President. It is less comforting to realize that the chain of events may have started with the reckless plotting of the CIA against Castro, perhaps in pursuit of what it thought to be Kennedy’s aim. An arrow launched into the air to kill a foreign leader may well have fallen back to kill our own.
The findings of the Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee never fully satisfied the public on the JFK assassination, and after Geraldo Rivera aired the Zapruder film for the first time on national television, in 1975, the snowball of public interest resulted in the creation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which investigated the CIA yet a fourth time, among other possible suspects. The committee’s report concluded that John Kennedy was probably killed by a conspiracy.
It’s ironic how Ford bookends the investigations of the Kennedy assassination. The first investigation, the Warren Commission, could not have pushed the lone nut conclusion without his crucial edits. The last investigation, the HSCA, may never have existed had it not been for Ford’s bumbling.
Bottom line, Ford was not bothered, it appears, by coups and killings. He authorized them, essentially, when he allowed Kissinger to give Indonesian leader Suharto the greenlight to take over East Timor, an act which resulted in from 60,000 to 100,000 people being killed. As the National Security Archives concluded, Ford’s words telling Suharto the US would not oppose an invasion were “unambiguous
We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have.
Ford was a nice man, from what I hear. He was certainly more of a true conservative than a neocon. He was not our worst president. But as the brilliant Stephen Sondheim notes in his musical “Into the Woods:”
“Nice” is different than “good.”
Ford was no healer. By helping to obscure our real history, he helped bring our democracy to its knees. By condoning and institutionalizing the mechanism of cover-up, Ford helped make possible a President unaccountable to the law, and a war based entirely on lies, because our leaders and the press are so conditioned now not to challenge the government. And although Ford opposed the Iraq war himself, characteristically, he chose silence over truth, and loyalty to his party over loyalty to his people. That is the Ford I remember. That is the Ford I cannot mourn. He was a nice man. But he was not a good man.