Monday, November 20, 2006

Did the CIA Kill Bobby Kennedy? Probably - but not with THOSE guys

I've gotten many emails today regarding this Guardian article, about a TV special to be shown tonight in the UK:

Three years ago, I started writing a screenplay about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, caught up in a strange tale of second guns and "Manchurian candidates" (as the movie termed brainwashed assassins). As I researched the case, I uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing. I did not buy the official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started dipping into the nether-world of "assassination research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a fearsome Yaqui Indian.

Morales was a legendary figure in CIA covert operations. According to close associate Tom Clines, if you saw Morales walking down the street in a Latin American capital, you knew a coup was about to happen. When the subject of the Kennedys came up in a late-night session with friends in 1973, Morales launched into a tirade that finished: "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." From this line grew my odyssey into the spook world of the 60s and the secrets behind the death of Bobby Kennedy.

People who have read my work, published in the volume The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X (Feral House, 2003) are well aware that I believe strongly that the CIA was deeply involved in the JFK and RFK assassinations and investigations that followed.

But when I got this story in my mailbox today, my heart sank. Because I believe this will result in the discrediting of the notion that the CIA killed Kennedy. I think it will be shown that the photos and videos do not show David Morales or George Joannides.

Why do I think that? Consider this information, from Shane O'Sullivan, in the article above:

The source of early research on Morales was Bradley Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work closely with chief of operations Morales on training Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro. I tracked Ayers down to a small town in Wisconsin and emailed him stills of Morales and another guy I found suspicious - a man who is pictured entering the ballroom from the direction of the pantry moments after the shooting, clutching a small container to his body, and being waved towards an exit by a Latin associate.

Ayers' response was instant. He was 95% sure that the first figure was Morales and equally sure that the other man was Gordon Campbell, who worked alongside Morales at JM-Wave in 1963 and was Ayers' case officer shortly before the JFK assassination.

I've met Brad Ayers. I talked to him for several hours one night when he was desperate. He contacted me and Jim DiEugenio and wanted to sell us information, his services, frankly, whatever he could to get money to continue his journey to the northern Midwest. I was so moved by this poor man, with nothing but the clothes on his back and his dogs, that I walked over to an ATM and made a withdrawal I really could not afford to make, and sent him away with some cash in hand. But I did not pay him for his information. I had no way of assessing its validity, and when someone is that desperate for money, they will stretch the truth in any way that interests you. I just wanted to put gas in his car, food in his belly, and leave him with a little extra to feed his beautiful dogs.

In addition - it was clear from our conversation that he was more than a bit obsessed with David Morales. At that time, the only real discussion of Morales had been in Gaeton Fonzi's stellar book, The Last Investigation (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994). Brad now wanted to inject Morales into another case: the Martin Luther King assassination. In all our long conversation, which dwelt heavily on Morales, Ayers never once mentioned him in connection with the Robert Kennedy assassination. That came much later.

A few years ago, I first heard the story about Morales in the Ambassador Hotel, and pretty much blew it off. I was certain the source was Ayers, and as much as I liked the man personally, I just didn't find him credible on that subject. I felt he was overreaching what he knew. And, as mentioned before, I felt he'd stretch the truth. He seemed too honorable to invent anything out of whole cloth - don't get me wrong. I would not call the guy a liar. I just think his personal feelings have caused him to pursue a line for which he has probably now been financially rewarded.

The other big red flag in this story is the suggestion that George Joannides would be there, or involved. Consider:

1. I believe the CIA directed and controlled the assassination of John Kennedy. I think Joannides was involved in helping set up Oswald as a Communist through his role with the DRE (Carlos Bringuier of the DRE "fought" Oswald in the street, leading to Oswald's arrest and subsequent appearance on a televised debate, enhancing the "legend" (intelligence parlance for a false identity story) of Oswald as Communist rebel. But Joannides was a headquarters man, from what I gather. He was not a field operative. He has never been placed in Dealey Plaza, even though there's strong reason to believe he abetted the coverup and possibly helped orchestrate events from a distance. Joannides is a handler, a puppetmaster. And his region was Florida and the East Coast. If he was going to handle someone killing Bobby, the last place he'd be would be the site of the crime.

2. I believe Morales was likely involved in the Kennedy assassination. But with Jim Garrison concurrently conducting his investigation into the CIA's role in the assassination of John Kennedy that same year, that very month - why on Earth would anyone in the CIA been so stupid as to send someone involved in one assassination to commit another? It makes much more sense that a new team would be used - all new players. Different reporting structure. Different agents, assets, and cutouts. It makes NO sense that the team that had so botched the Kennedy assassination as to have given rise to a real life prosecution effort in New Orleans would be used again.

I'm sorry, Shane O'Sullivan. I really think you've been had.

Remember what happened to William Pepper? He believed some Ayers-like informants on the MLK case and made a central case against a former military man whom Pepper believed (and wrote) was then dead. So on national TV, what happened? The "dead" guy walked out onto the stage. His living didn't negate all of Pepper's work in reality. But in the popular mind? Pepper was the guy who had 'gotten it wrong' on TV. I fear strongly the same will happen to those who pursue this line of inquiry.

I've read more of the police files on this case than any other researcher alive (Phil Melanson, who may have read more, is now dead.) I have kept a lot of what I've found secret for a couple of reasons: 1) I do plan to write my own book on the new evidence I've found, and 2) like the police, I see the value in keeping some things secret so those with their own "evidence" have enough rope to hang themselves with. There are details of the girl in the polka dot dress I've amassed but never shared publicly, so that when others come forward saying oh, she was this person, or that person, I can then bring out the evidence they never saw and refute that. The more they know, the more they try to concoct someone who fits the mold. I get mails all the time from people assuring me that "this" is the girl, and it never is.

At any rate, I'd love to see this special, just to see who really says what, and based on what evidence. I imagine Shane O'Sullivan is in earnest. But I think he's been had, in a very serious way. And now, sadly, so will a whole generation of people who, not understanding how these things work, not knowing the backstory re Ayers, not knowing how easy it is to misidentify a 3D person from a 2D photograph or video, will be taken in by what I believe, at this time, to be calclated disinformation.

I do believe the CIA killed Robert Kennedy. I don't believe those are the guys who did it though. And I do believe that will come out (that Morales and Joannides will provably have been elsewhere at the time), and that the case against the CIA will be set back years because of it. I believe that, in fact, is the real reason this special is getting on the air.

But hey - prove me wrong. If anyone wants to send me a video of this, I'd absolutely watch and comment.

And I hope - WHATEVER the truth of this special, that it causes a new investigation into the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Those are hard to start, and I'm not holding my breath, but wouldn't THAT be loverly?

Update: I saw the video, and my objections and suspicions still stand.


Blogger Real History Lisa said...

BooMan over at the Booman Tribune wrote an excellent summary of the RFK and JFK cases and additional background re Morales and Joannides.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to read your take Real History Lisa. It caught my attention that something like this would suddenly show up in The Guardian.

The farther along I go in life, examining the various "random" deaths of great leaders, I'm left with this question: What is the appropriate role for secret intelligence groups within a nominally democratic state?


3:05 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

What a fantastic question, BostonJoe! Seriously - THAT is a debate we need to be having as a nation.

I get that much of what needs to be done needs to be done in secret. But when what's done is kept secret from those in charge, the elected officials of our country? Then we have the possibility, and in my mind, the history of rogue operatives making decisions that - as a Democracy - the majority of the populace would not have supported. And if we WOULD have supported it had we known more, how is that an excuse? Why not educate us better?

I fear the real reason for secrets is that it allows those who know the secrets to maintain ultimate control, while the rest of the world plays along in the shame of the "public" world.

How right Plato was, eh? We're the ones living in the shadows while the covert people live, for the most part, in reality.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

UPDATE: You can watch the Newsnight segment from here:

From the BBC's site:

"Tony Blair in Afghanistan talking to British troops; new evidence on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968; and who might have wanted to poison Alexander Litvinenko? Plus, the first dispatch from Australia from the Ashes poet in residence."

4:15 PM  
Blogger spiderleaf said...


I can get your point about Ayers, but from the article it would appear there were many other corroborating ID's from sources who haven't been potentially discredited?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

The show - which you can see at the link in a comment above - does not entirely bear out the near certainty shown in the article. Eddie Lopez's identification reads much more tentative when you view it, as you should.

There were, of course, sources that said it was NOT Morales. And since that would be the case whether the IDs were true or not true, that in itself doesn't tell us anything, other than that there is no unanimity of opinion.

I hope this leads to an investigation and that the truth will come out. After literally over 12 years with this case, I would be very surprised if Morales OR Joannides were at the Ambassador Hotel. It would be "great" in the sense that it's hard not to ascribe a sinister motive that would point a huge finger at the CIA. But I think the evidence does that already, and it's a shame the special and the article's author did not point out the CIA connections of the two police officers most responsible for the "conspiracy" part of the investigation by the LAPD - Manny Pena and Hank Hernandez. Who controls the investigation controls the coverup. Who controls the coverup represents the conspirators. That's all very documentable, very provable. I have Pena in an outright lie in the files. I have Hernandez in a series of lies on the case. And then there are other instances where, apparently uninvited, the CIA injected itself into the case.

In addition, this kind of setup has happened before. In my post I mentioned the William Pepper fiasco. But there were two other instances in the JFK assassination that this reminds me of as well. One is the Roscoe White story. Roscoe White was a police officer for Dallas who had ostensible ties to the CIA. A number of prominent researchers felt he was the grassy knoll shooter, and staged a big press conference. They almost persuaded a number of others whose sanity prevailed under heavy pressure. In the end, the Roscoe story proved phonier than a three dollar bill.

And in an even more direct parallel, in the seventies, two researchers linked two photos of hobos arrested in Dealey Plaza to Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt. They presented photos that looked the most like the hoboes for comparison. But in the end, that was proven phoney as well.

Photo identification is not reliable evidence. It's way down there on a scale of credibility, because photos can be altered, or fabricated, and people really do have look alikes.

ALL THAT SAID, of course, no one will be more interested than me if hard evidence is presented to support this theory. A few people IDing a photo is a start, not an end, and I'm not yet convinced. Not at all.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning Bradley Ayers. When his book came out in the 1970's one had to take the information as a matter of faith because there was no supporting documentation at the time, at least that which was available to the general public. Since then that situation has changed. For this writer one peice of info that Ayers credible came out in the foreign relations series, second volume that concerns Cuba and the U.S.. Recall that Ayers claimed that the first big mission that his trainees were to undertake was to sabotage an oil refinery. The conformation of this is contained in that second volume when there is infact a discussion about specificaly sabotaging an oil refinery. So for this writer dismissing Bradley Ayers is not the same as dismissing Ricky White. Ayers it would seem is totally credible.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Brad's work overall is very good. But I read his book - it's a novelized approach, and I know some of that is for 'effect', you know? If you take that as word for word gospel truth, you are more gullible than is reasonable.

Brad's work - like all first person accounts, to me is only valuable as a lead to hard data - stuff that can be backed up in a documented record written/signed by more than one person. Something from official files.

My standards are higher than some because I've seen too many people fall for stuff later proved untrue because they didn't have hard evidence. Brad's work is soft evidence. Films and videos, if corroborated, if traced to an appropriate point of origin (where is the film from? Where are the photos from? What's the chain of possession so we know someone didn't do a Forrest Gump on us?)

I'm waiting and watching. This is either the biggest break the case ever had, or it's just another setback. I'm waiting to see how this plays out.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

I realize I missed the end of a sentence in the above. Films and videos, if corroborated...can be seen as hard evidence. But only if it's proven these really were films/photos from the Ambassador that night, unaltered, etc.

Next question: Given we're at war in Iraq, and millions of Americans are without healthcare, or a paycheck, or a place to sleep at night - how high a priority should we give to pursuing this?

I think it's critical the truth come out so that these things cannot happen again. I think it's critical that some people are punished to discourage others from participating in such acts.

I think that one of the reasons we have so many homeless, a lack of healthcare, and that we're at war in Iraq is that we made it fatal to be a progressive liberal leader in this country. So even with all our problems, I think this is very important to pursue.

3:04 PM  
Blogger sunny said...

And in an even more direct parallel, in the seventies, two researchers linked two photos of hobos arrested in Dealey Plaza to Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt. They presented photos that looked the most like the hoboes for comparison. But in the end, that was proven phoney as well.

Lisa, you must have read Plausible Denial, by Mark Lane. In the book, he details the case of E.Howard Hunt v. Spotlight Magazine. Hunt was suing because Spotlight published allegations that Hunt was one of the hobos. Lane defended Spotlight and won. The jurors were convinced Hunt was one of the hobos. I'll take that as a clear indication that that this was not a phoney story.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Actually, you're 0 for 2. The photo incident was the Canfield-Weberman incident, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the Spotlight case or Plausible Denial. The Spotlight case, about which Plausible Denial was written, hinged on a document allegedly from James Angleton to Richard Helms asking what they were going to do about Hunt's presence in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. It had nothing to do with the hobo photos at all. Read the book. It's a very interesting one. And it will clear this up for you.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the work you do and listening to you on Black Op Radio. When can we expect your book on the RFK assasination to come out?

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa, I admire your work on the RFK case and am a sometime reader of your blog but, whatever you think about my BBC piece, your comments regarding Bradley Ayers are, frankly, disgraceful.

You so often invoke the spirit of Robert Kennedy yet your attack on Bradley Ayers is condescending and mean-spirited. Did you know the reason for Brad's financial hardship? That the VA has denied him a full service pension until very recently, because records relating to his service at the CIA's Miami base, JM-Wave were still classified.

He was brave enough to be one of the first whistle-blowers with his book "The War That Never Was" in 1976, a book censored at editorial level, unknown to Brad, by none other than Bill Harvey, working for publisher Bobbs-Merrill at the time.

Brad's lightly-fictionalised descriptions of life at JM-Wave check out with everything we have learned subsequently. When I recently interviewed Tom Clines, he warmly remembered Brad's time at the station.

Brad is a licensed private investigator who was commissioned to do all the early work on David Morales in the late eighties. He was never paid for this work while his clients went on to sell his research to Oliver Stone for JFK. Brad's groundbreaking work on Morales was later built on by Gaeton Fonzi and others.

He has not received one cent for his cooperation with me and has constantly been there offerring support and new leads, despite various health conditions relating to his service for his country. Shame on you for demeaning such a patriot, brave enough to speak his mind back in 1976 at the height of CIA paranoia and to follow his gut-feelings about Morales through to this unexpected conclusion.

If you read my Guardian piece or saw the BBC film, you will know that the only piece of information Brad had about the RFK assassination was a contact called David Rabern, who saw a man matching the image of Morales seen in the 1959 photograph at the hotel that night. I showed Brad my video, he identified Morales and Campbell and put me in touch with Rabern as well as countless others.

Brad is an exemplary private investigator. You read files. There is a place for both but your comments about him turn my stomach.

Is knowing who isn't the girl in the polka-dot dress really that important when we potentially have three CIA operatives at the hotel? What good is mentioning Pena and Hernandez again going to do if we have assassination operatives at the crime-scene?

You will also note that Wayne Smith has provided equally strong corroboration for Brad's ID of Morales and I can assure you there is nothing tentative about Ed Lopez' identification - he is, quote, "99% sure" this is Joannides. He would never give a 100% ID on anybody, so he is as sure as he can be that this is the man he knew as the CIA liaison to the HSCA. If Lopez alone is correct, there are huge implications.

The suggestion these images are fake is also ridiculous. The photographs come from the same LAPD files you know so well and the video is from news coverage recorded on the night - all verifiable.

I respect your work, Lisa, but this break in the case is more important than snide comments. Next time, please look at the evidence in the film before launching into a pitiless tirade against a man whose dogged persistence on Morales may have unlocked the secrets behind the RFK case after all these years. Why don't you do some investigating of your own into these guys rather than character assassinate from the sidelines?

3:48 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Shane - I'm glad to see you offering a spirited defense of Brad Ayers. As I said - my heart goes out to him. But I don't share the same level of credibility that you feel for him. I think he is honest and sincere. What you don't seem to understand is that CIA people lie to each other, and that's where the problem comes.

In the CIA's history of the Guatemala affair, the author opened by saying so much of the stuff he was told and that was in the files proved false that he wasn't certain what had happened, but this was his best effort. I feel that about Brad's work. It's as true as he knows it - but that doesn't make it 100% true. Your naivete on this point is distressing, for someone dealing with so convoluted a subject.

Re Brad's financial situation, it's tragic. But many other veterans have suffered similar abuses and still found their way out without having to take money from strangers. To insinuate that he is not responsible for his life is an insult to all the other veterans who have faced and conquered similar difficulties. I'm happy to hear you did not trade money for his help, as that adds to the credibility of the identification, and of course I sincerely hope the government pays Brad all that he is due. And I hope he finds a way of supporting himself. I bear him no ill will, and it's pretty cheap of you to try to paint me as a patriot-basher.

Re his credibility, I'm aware of a publisher who turned down his work because he didn't find it credible enough. That isn't a reflection on the reality of Ayers work, since no one but Brad knows that. But it is a reflection on the perception of his work by a company that does publish books on similar topics.

Re the identification by Eddie Lopez, that would be more compelling if Dan Hardway, who spent as much time with Joannides as Lopez since Hardway and Lopez were a team, had also identified Joannides. You said on Black Op Radio that you sent the same photo to both - Hardway didn't find the photo compelling and could not be certain it was Joannides. Why was Hardway's rejection of this not included in either your article or video? That cuts Lopez's credibility severely since the two saw him the same amount, roughly, over the same perid of time, as Hardway and Lopez worked closely together during their association with Joannides. That not only damages Lopez's credibility, it damages yours for not sharing in your work Hardway's ultimate denial.

How many other people rejected the identification? When will you tell us all the people you talked to and exactly who ID'd or rejected the identification? If three people say that's him and 10 people who knew him equally well say that's not him, that's not a credible identification, no matter the certainty of the three. I don't know what the numbers are since you haven't shared that. Your figures could be better or much worse, for all we know.

I notice that, after you criticized my asking why not mention Pena and Hernandez if you're talking about CIA involvement in the RFK assassination, since both had proven ties to the Agency and both controlled the LAPD's investigation of the crime, you then talked about Pena and Hernandez on Black Op Radio tonight and said they were a "kind of a flashpoint" re the CIA's involvement in this case. So you bash my point here and then use it on the radio! Pretty disingenuous, Shane.

Re the girl in the polka dot dress, of course it isn't who she ISN'T that's important, it's who she is, and I have information related to her that would be very relevant to furthering the case of the CIA's involvement that I have not yet published anywhere.

You end with a challenge to investigate these guys. When someone approached me a year ago saying it's possible Morales was in the pantry, I did not deem it worthy to investigate for the reasons I stated in my blog. But I have read everything in print on both Morales and Joannides, of course. They are absolutely "persons of interest" in the JFK assassination.

Take your own advice and leave the snide comments out. Tell us the truth, and the WHOLE truth. So far you haven't done that yet, so I see no reason to pursue your alleged lead.

When you lay out all you have, everyone you talked to, and the work I assume you must have done seeking records to indicate alibis for that night, if I see something worth pursuing, I will of course look into it. But so far you haven't given me enough to interest me. I fear you are being set up to take a fall. If you don't, and I'm wrong, no one will be happier than me to see this crime solved once and for all, so long as it is the correct solution. But if this is not the correct solution, why should I waste my time on this avenue?

Give me a reason to believe, Shane. I'm not there, yet.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog Lisa, you have an interesting take on real history. There is one thing that I find strange in your overall story, maybe you can explain it to me. In one post you state: "How right Plato was, eh? We're the ones living in the shadows while the covert people live, for the most part, in reality." And later on you say: "What you don't seem to understand is that CIA people lie to each other, and that's where the problem comes."

If CIA people or secret agents lie to each other how can they be in reality?

4:20 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Good question. What I mean is, that when they learn something firsthand, it's often more true than what the public is told. But for the same reason - they are then are as subject to disinfo as the rest of us on the things they are not directly involved in.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My take on Plato's cave and the shadows would be the other way round. What you do to others you do to yourself. When you lie to someone you lie to yourself. When you deceive someone you deceive yourself. When you kill someone you kill yourself. So a secret agent, in a platonic way would drive himself not towards the light but to the shadows, from truth and enlightentment of the sun to the lies of the shadows.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Much clearer, and good point. I feel that goes for injury as well as lies, which is why the Iraq war is killing all of us on some level. It has to stop.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there any high resolution videos or photos from O'Sullivan's report online? That might give the general public a better idea of how realistic these ID's really are (as most of us have only seen the low quality BBC video stream).


4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa write that rfk book soon. I cannot wait....


10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Well, now that Jefferson Morley and David Talbot have both published their findings on their investigation, it appears I was correct. Morley and Talbot interviewed numerous friends and associates of Campbell, Joannides, and Morales. Turns out Campbell was dead before 1968, so that can't be him. Others said those photos did not show either Morales or Joannides.

See Morley's and Talbot's work on this here, and see Talbot's work in his book "Brothers." He put a section in towards the end of this book on his investigation. Notably, both thought I was wrong and that these probably WERE Morales and Joannides, at least, when they started their investigation. Both came to conclude none of these men were there that night.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Btw - having Morales and Joannides at the Ambassador would absolutely strengthen my thesis. But it's just not true, and I will not grasp at straws. I base my research on hard evidence, not wishful thinking.

10:15 AM  
Blogger recklesskelly said...

Well I believe the CIA was involved in both the RFK and JFK assassinations. They didn't need to pull the trigger in either murder but they played a big role in what happened.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Ares Vista said...

The CIA definitely played a role in the death of RFK and JFK. The fact that they are allowed to cover up their actions is as close to proof as it gets.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous download music said...

The CIA is the U.S. government's mafia.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

P.S. See my writings on the RFK case here.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa when is your book on RFK coming out? How do we get ahold of you? I have some interesting questions for you... You are by far the most serious journalist looking into this......Email?


3:02 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Find the video of me, Oliver Stone, Jim Douglass and Robert Ellsberg. My email is at the end of each segment. Right now, you can find that video on the starting page of this blog.

6:56 AM  

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