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"The people will recognize that the CIA was behaving during those years like a rogue elephant rampaging out of control . . ."
-Sen. Frank Church, Chairman of Select Committee on Intelligence, July 1975

Rogue Elephant

The Drug Trade, the Kennedy Assassination, and the War in Vietnam

Kent Heiner, 2002

[with later edits and annotations in brackets; as years have passed, I have become more careful in drawing conclusions]

For [over fifty years], the circumstances surrounding the death of President John F. Kennedy have been the subject of controversy. Many scholars, witnesses, and commentators have come forth offering some sort of sweeping explanation, as if to settle the controversy once and for all. [Since the original publication of this article in 2002, the best such account has been JFK and The Unspeakable by James Douglass, which gives a compelling presentation of Kennedy's murder as a consequence of his peace efforts subsequent to the Cuban Missile Crisis]. Rather than offering a final analysis of the assassination, I will endeavor only to show how a particular perspective on the event may be the best starting point in understanding it.

Though a few authors have written about the assassination from a broader perspective, many "pet theories" have been offered which blame the assassination singly on the Mafia, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Cuban exiles, the Dallas police, or Texas oil interests. There is certainly evidence to support each of these hypotheses but, by the argumentative nature of the proponents, I am reminded of the story of the "learned men" who, though blind, were asked to examine an elephant. One, feeling the elephant’s leg, said that an elephant is best likened to a tree. Another, examining the tail, argued that an elephant is not at all like a tree, but rather like a rope. The sage holding the elephant’s trunk exclaimed that an elephant is very much akin to a snake, as if to settle the matter.

When trying to describe the true nature of the conspiracy against President Kennedy, the question that we, also being somewhat blind in the matter, might most profitably ask ourselves is this: what kind of elephant is part Mafia, part CIA, part Cuban exile, part Dallas police, and part Texas oil? This metaphorical elephant represents the slain president’s political rivals, with whom the Kennedy administration was in a life-and-death power struggle. This essay will examine the elephant’s sources of power, its conflicts of interest with the Kennedy administration, and the administration’s specific efforts to destroy it.

Not included herein will be a chronology of events, a discussion of the untimely deaths of many witnesses in the case, a complete study of the facts discrediting the "lone assassin" theory, or a thorough explanation of how the true nature of the assassination was covered up. For such, other works suffice. The significance of the illegal drug trade to the assassination will be shown in the following respects:

    1. One of the more significant common interests of the key players in the assassination conspiracy was drug smuggling;
    2. The President and Attorney General were not only standing in the way of the expansion of this smuggling enterprise into new territory, but were also prosecuting many of the ring leaders;
    3. The assassination conspiracy had as one of its major objectives the protection and growth of this enterprise.

This is not to say that drug smuggling was the full extent of the conspiracy, but it may very well have been the essence of it; recognizing this aspect of the conspiracy is perhaps the best place to begin. The connection to this activity of all the parties known to have had a hand in the president’s death provides a motive for the murder, as well as a common ground and motive for cooperation among these parties; to this end, any one of the many illegal activities engaged in by all these groups might suffice as a good starting point for analysis. For instance, arms smuggling also is a commonality among many of the conspirators, but the author chooses drug smuggling in particular because of its greater prevalence among the key figures in the conspiracy as well as its relevance to the present day and its effect on administrations since Kennedy’s.

All of the above-mentioned interest groups, namely [elements of] the Mafia, CIA, Cuban exiles, Dallas law enforcement, and Texas oil interests, conspired to assassinate John F. Kennedy. More specifically, the following parties [are among the most likely suspects]:

Others who knew of the true nature of the assassination either before or immediately after the fact and who, either by their silence or by conscious efforts, conspired to cover it up include:

The Nature of the Beast

The origins of the outlaw group which eliminated the Kennedys could be traced to the wartime alliance of U.S. intelligence with organized crime. In 1942, in an effort to protect New York harbors from acts of sabotage by Axis agents, naval intelligence enlisted the help of Joseph Lanza, mafia boss of the East Side docks, to mobilize dock workers. Later in 1943, seeking to expand the operation to the West Side, they contacted the boss of bosses, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, then in prison. The West Side docks were controlled at the time by the heavily Italian longshoremen's union; through "Operation Underworld," partly arranged by Luciano's associate Meyer Lansky, the Mob's union contacts were mobilized in this wartime effort (Scott 1993:145; McCoy 1991:31-32). The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) also contacted Luciano, through Lansky and Luciano's deputy August del Gracio. The OSS, which was the precursor of the CIA, wanted Luciano to use his contacts in the "old country" to pave the way for the U.S. invasion of Sicily (Marks 1979:7-8). American military officials could presumably have pursued similar cooperation with the Italian anti-Fascist underground, but fears of potential Communist advances in postwar Italy led them to favor the mafia, cutting back support to the leftist underground. The Mafia arranged enthusiastic welcomes for the allied liberators and provided guides for General Patton's troops. After the invasion, Mafia heads in western Sicily were installed in mayoral posts by the American occupation force (McCoy 1991:35). The OSS also plotted with the Mafia against the Italian Communist party. It was as a direct result of his cooperation with the intelligence services that Luciano was paroled from a U.S. prison in 1946 and deported to Sicily (Marks 1979:7).

The arrangement with the Sicilians was by no means unique; the pattern was repeated with French organized crime. The CIA used Corsican gangsters to break up labor strikes in Marseilles on at least two occasions, once in 1947 and again in 1950. That murders resulted in the first instance did not seem to deter the CIA from calling on the Mob for a second time (Scheim 1983:191). Marseilles at the time housed the world’s most productive heroin laboratories. While the OSS and the other wartime intelligence services were being replaced in 1947 by the CIA, Luciano had become a central figure in the trade of opium (and hence heroin) from Indochina via Marseilles and the French Corsicans in Saigon. A renewed flow of heroin through Marseilles accompanied the CIA's anti-Communist efforts there in 1950-51 (Scott 1993:176). The Indochina-CIA-heroin connection would continue at least into the next two decades as the U.S. took over the anti-Communist war in Vietnam from the French.

As in Operation Underworld, the Mob's union connections were again used for purposes of "national security" in 1947. Fear of Socialism as a path to Communism outweighed any concerns regarding criminal control of the unions, and the United States government again allied itself with organized crime to defend the country from foreign threats, re-establishing Meyer Lansky's syndicate in the postwar battle for control of the American unions between the Mob and the socialists. With the protection of the CIA, some mobsters gained a competitive advantage trafficking in drugs. In the far east, Charles Willoughby, MacArthur's chief of intelligence from 1941 to 1951, hired Japanese mobsters to take action against groups such as the Japanese Communist Party. Army Intelligence in Japan "used Japan's dope-dealing yakuza gangs to break up left-wing strikes and demonstrations." (Russell 1992: 126,169,178)

As America gained hegemony over the world economy, the State Department and CIA worked to protect and expand this dominance. Under the pretext of safeguarding democracy abroad, the agencies supported business-friendly right-wing dictatorships and brought down governments who threatened American business interests. By the mid-1950s the Syndicate (as the American crime network was sometimes called) had begun to play a key role in such efforts, in close partnership with the covert action staff of the CIA. Indeed, the partnership could almost be described as a "merger," with both parties cooperating in the smuggling of guns and drugs, the laundering of money, the overthrow of governments, and the rigging of elections in Latin America, East Asia, and the Near East. Oil and banking tycoon David Rockefeller served as Eisenhower’s liaison with the CIA. Richard Nixon is known to have had extensive contacts in organized crime and was said by some on Capitol Hill to have "run the CIA" as Vice President, probably meaning that he was heavily involved in the covert operations of the agency (Groden and Livingstone 1989:252). By early 1954, Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana was boasting that his "Outfit" and the CIA were "two sides of the same coin." The following Giancana quotation, an excerpt from the biography written by his brother, is revealing of the mob boss’s perspective on his relationship with the CIA if not reflective of the true nature of the relationship:

Sometimes our government can't do s--- on the up and up. Sometimes they need a little trouble somewhere or they need some bastard taken care of. . . . they can't get caught doin' s--- like that. What if people found out? But we can. Guns, a hit, muscle . . . whatever dirty work needs to be done. Right now, we're workin' on Asia, Iran, and Latin America. . . . we got this deal all sewn up. Ike [President Eisenhower], all he does is play golf . . . it's [Vice President] Nixon that's got the power. He's the one with the backing of the big money, like [Howard] Hughes and the [mafia] guys in California and the oilmen in Texas. . . . Hump [Mob ambassador Murray Humphreys] says Nixon's gonna call us if he needs a little hardball behind the scenes (Giancana 1992:215).

The CIA became increasingly involved in its mafia partners’ drug smuggling operations. Indeed, by 1960, it had become impossible to make a clear distinction between the two organizations. Many CIA operatives were also foot-soldiers for organized crime. A significant faction in the CIA had taken upon itself the responsibility of reorganizing the international drug traffic to its own advantage. Henceforth, the term "CIA" should be understood to have two possible meanings: either this faction within the CIA, or the agency as a whole. Due to the size and influence of this faction, a clear distinction between the two meanings is hard to make, but analysts in the agency’s Directorate of Intelligence would rightly be offended to be "lumped in" with their more seditious colleagues. No matter how much honest work is done at the CIA, however, the fact remains that for more than fifty years it has served as a front for what is now the most powerful drug-trafficking organization in the western hemisphere. During the time period currently under discussion, the faction referred to resided mostly in the Agency’s Directorate of Operations and consisted of unofficial "agents" and "assets" as well as career officers.

During the mid-1950s, the CIA and mafia fought a heroin turf war against the French in far-away Saigon; this fight is key to understanding the origins of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and will be discussed shortly. Under the CIA program code-named ZRRIFLE, foreign heads of state who stood in the way of American control of the drug traffic were targeted for assassination; this program is essential to understanding the origins of the plot against President Kennedy.

The intention of this corrupt faction in the U.S. government of the 1950s was to commandeer the strategic positions in the international heroin trade then held by French interests. Part of this plan necessitated a large U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia. The French heroin labs in the CIA-Luciano network got some of their raw material from the poppy fields of Indochina. The Corsicans' connections to the Indochinese heroin trade (via the French colonial presence in Southeast Asia) and their connections to American and French intelligence gave them a competitive edge over the Sicilians, who had also trafficked in heroin before the war and resumed doing so afterward. The Corsicans used their intelligence connections as a cover for their heroin trafficking, and the French used the trade as a way to fund their war in Southeast Asia, then known as French Indochina:

The French military's Operation X . . . involved collecting opium from Indochinese mountain tribes, transporting it to Saigon, and transmitting it to the Corsican underworld. Clandestine laboratories in Saigon processed the base into morphine, and the Corsicans arranged for its shipment to Marseilles for further refinement into heroin (Blumenthal 1988:94-95).

Schemers in Washington may have felt that the French were reaping drug profits that were rightfully theirs, because the United States had been carrying the majority of the financial burden of the French Indochina war in the early 1950s and had also supplied hundreds of advisers. One such advisor was the CIA’s Colonel Edward G. Lansdale. Lansdale had been the American most responsible for the victory of Ramon Magsaysay over President Quirino in the Philippines; the CIA man had bolstered his client's popularity with the use of "psychological warfare" and counterinsurgency campaigns. Lansdale and Magsaysay had staged mock attacks and liberations on Philippine villages. The destruction was real, but the deception lay in the fact that the attacks were not initiated by the Communist guerillas but by the same faction who heroically came to the villagers’ "rescue." (Prouty 1992:35) Lansdale was named by Sam Giancana as one of the many political connections of Harry Stonehill, a Chicago-affiliated businessman in the Philippines, where Lansdale was proconsul. Stonehill later made moves to set up trade in opium (Giancana 1992:135,176-77). This is important to note because so much of Lansdale’s later career was spent in the periphery of the drug trade. On an investigative tour of Indochina in the summer of 1953, Lansdale flew to the Plain of Jars in Laos, where he learned some of the details of the French opium operations, including the fact that General Salan, the Commander in Chief of the French Expeditionary Corps, had ordered his officers to buy up the 1953 opium harvest. The opium was subsequently shipped to Saigon for sale overseas (McCoy 1991:140)

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In the winter of 1953-54, the French faced defeat at the hands of the Viet Minh at Dienbienphu. As the French fought off the attack, they informed President Eisenhower that unless U.S. forces came to their aid, the war would be lost. Admiral Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended sending U.S. troops; Vice-President Nixon concurred. But Eisenhower declined to involve U.S. forces directly, much to the rage of many French military men. Eisenhower thought that Indochina was a lost cause and that there was not enough domestic support for a second Asian war so soon after Korea. As the president had said in a January 8th National Security Council meeting,

The key to winning this war is to get the Vietnamese to fight. There is just no sense in even talking about the United States forces replacing the French in Indochina. If we did so, the Vietnamese could be expected to transfer their hatred of the French to us. I cannot tell you how bitterly opposed I am to such a course of action. This war in Indochina would absorb our troops by divisions! (Prouty 1992:51)

Unable to get the president’s approval for direct military involvement, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles proposed that the U.S. should carry on guerilla operations against the Viet Minh in the event of French defeat. The Council decided that Allen Dulles was to develop this contingency plan. On the 29th of January, the President's Special Committee on Indochina met (in the absence of the president himself) to discuss possible aid to the desperate French. "At the end of the meeting," writes Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, "Allen Dulles, then the director of central intelligence, suggested that an unconventional-warfare officer, Col. Edward G. Lansdale, be added to the group of American liaison officers that General Henri Navarre, the French commander, had agreed to accept in Indochina." (Prouty 1992:38-39,349) The absence of the President for this critical decision was not atypical of the administration’s Southeast Asia policy (Scott 1972).

The battle at Dienbienphu was lost by May 1954. Because the U.S. would not become directly involved, the conflict was taken to the conference table, and a peace settlement was reached that year in Geneva, creating separate administrations in northern and southern Vietnam. The north was to be Communist, led by Ho Chi Minh, and the south non-Communist, until an all-Vietnam election in 1956 could unify the country. The elections never took place; Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of South Vietnam sponsored by the U.S. and managed by Lansdale, declared that the terms of the Geneva Accords were unacceptable and that there would be no elections as therein specified.

Colonel Lansdale went to Vietnam and established the Saigon Military Mission (SMM), chiefly a CIA covert warfare office, and immediately set about destabilizing the country as a pretext for increased U.S. involvement. The SMM's damage to the meager existing order in Vietnam was incalculable. Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, the Pentagon's chief of special operations in the early 1960s, writes,

By midsummer more men had joined the SMM, and its mission was broadened. Its members were teaching "paramilitary" tactics - today called "terrorism" - and doing all they could to promote the movement of hundreds of thousands of "Catholic" Vietnamese from the north with promises of safety, food, land, and freedom in the south and with threats that they would be massacred by the Communists of North Vietnam and China if they stayed in the north.

This movement of Catholics - or natives whom the SMM called "Catholics" - from the northern provinces of Vietnam to the south, under the provisions of the Geneva agreement, became the most important activity of the Saigon Military Mission and one of the root causes of the Vietnam War. The terrible burden these 1,100,000 destitute strangers imposed upon equally poor native residents of the south created a pressure on the country and on the Diem administration that was overwhelming. . . . It is easy to understand that within a short time these strangers became bandits, of necessity, in an attempt to obtain the basics of life. The local uprisings that sprung up wherever these poor people were dumped on the south were given the name "Communist insurgencies" and much of the worst and most pernicious part of the twenty years of warfare that followed was the direct result of this terrible activity that had been incited and carried out by CIA's terroristic Saigon Military Mission (Prouty 1992:66-67).

By mid-year, Lansdale was raising the specter of "Communist insurgency" just as he did in the Philippines. This destabilization became one of the root causes of the Vietnam War and "had more to do with the scope, severity, and duration of the American-made war in Vietnam than anything else." (Prouty 1992:71) On the advice of the U.S., Diem exacerbated the situation by the ejection of the French law enforcement authorities who had helped to keep what little peace there was, and of the Chinese merchants who were crucial to South Vietnamese trade. This resulted in a temporary absence of police power and in the collapse of the system by which rice farmers obtained goods in exchange for their crops. When economic and social chaos resulted in hunger and civil strife, U.S. intelligence was quick to cry "Communist insurgency." The geography of the "insurgency" should have made it plain that there was more to the problem than ideology or politics. It was the southern districts, where the refugees were, that were the most volatile, not the northern areas bordering on enemy territory. This is evidenced in the 1963 McNamara-Taylor report to the president, which became the administration's plan for gradual withdrawal from Vietnam. The report projected a completion of the campaign in the northern and central areas by 1964, and in the southern delta by the end of 1965 (Prouty 1992:260-64).

Why would the United States deliberately create chaos in Southeast Asia? As a pretext for greater involvement. Why become involved? The military-industrial complex's interest in Vietnam cannot be discounted. Billions of dollars in armaments were used in the Vietnam War and related military campaigns. Hundreds of bombing sorties went out every day. Bell's helicopters were used to excess and to the point of wasting both equipment and lives. Based in Texas, Bell Helicopter was likely to have had influence over Lyndon Johnson. Dow Chemical produced a defoliant called Agent Orange for the war and was associated with the powerful Rockefeller family. President Lyndon Johnson’s sponsoring company, Brown and Root, was awarded large contracts in Vietnam. In addition to military interests, the cooperation of the CIA with organized crime in the Southeast Asian drug trade and the profits that this operation eventually reaped also deserve consideration as a motivation for increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Indeed, during the 1950s and 1960s one major aspect of U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia was to take over the drug trade from the faltering French.

By the early 1950s, the CIA had solidified its contacts in Marseilles, where heroin was made from Indochinese morphine. In the mid-1950s, the CIA established a presence in Saigon, where the opium from the region’s poppy fields was refined into morphine and shipped overseas under the supervision of French intelligence. By 1960, the CIA was supporting the indigenous peoples in Laos who had supplied the opium crop to the French.

Lansdale began his investigation of France’s "Operation X" soon after he came to Saigon in June 1954, hoping to assess his opponent's strength. He quickly aroused the antipathy of the 2eme Bureau, France’s military intelligence agency; his investigation ended when a local Chinese banker who was helping him was murdered. Lansdale openly allied himself and Premier Ngo Dinh Diem with an army of 2,500 whose leader had murdered a French general in 1951 and was responsible for a 1953 bombing in downtown Saigon. In February 1955, when the French handed over the Vietnamese army to the Americans, Lansdale also used Saigon Military Mission funds to buy out the religious sects under French control and placed the sectarian armies under the command of Diem. The Binh Xuyen, a Vietnamese organized crime syndicate, controlled Saigon. By the time fighting broke out between Diem's forces and the organized- crime-supported United Front in March 1955, the U.S. and France had already chosen opposing sides. In fact, the two sides were "pawns in a power struggle between the French 2eme Bureau and the American CIA." Diem's forces prevailed after a month of skirmishes and six days of heavy and destructive fighting; the Binh Xuyen were pushed back into the swamp areas from which they had come. In retaliation, some of the French started a terrorist bombing campaign against Americans in Saigon. This ended when Lansdale determined "who the ringleaders were (many of them were intelligence officers) [and] grenades started going off in front of their houses in the evenings." (McCoy 1972:119-25)

Working their way further up the supply chain, U.S. forces moved into Laos. Opium was the main cash crop of the Hmong (or "Meo") tribesmen in northern Laos. The Hmong had long been fighting the Communist forces in that area, the Pathet Lao, and had sold their opium crops with the aid of the French. In 1960, the Hmong gained the support of the CIA, which facilitated the sale of their opium by cultivating a relationship with the local heroin traffickers and their associates in local government. The Agency called upon one Vang Pao to lead the CIA-trained Hmong as their General. The Agency built landing strips in outlying areas for the delivery of supplies by its airline Air America, and allowed the Corsican traffickers to use the strips for the pickup of the Hmong opium (McCoy 1972:277).

In 1959, the CIA’s campaign to claim a major strategic position in the world’s drug traffic was progressing in Southeast Asia, despite Eisenhower’s refusal to send in combat troops. But that year, American interests lost control of Cuba, an island nation only 90 miles from Florida which was also an important transit point for narcotics. It is well-established that beginning some time around 1959, the CIA contracted with organized crime to assassinate particular foreign heads of state. What is not generally recognized is that, not at all coincidentally, those foreign heads of state were often in countries key to the CIA-Mafia drug traffic. Prime targets were Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who survived numerous attempts on his life, and the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo, killed in 1961.

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In the late 1950s, the Havana underworld was controlled by Florida mob boss Santos Trafficante. Among the many vices run by Trafficante was the cocaine trade, which used Cuba as a transit point for Peruvian cocaine destined for the U.S. (U.S. Treasury 1961). Sam Giancana was in on the action too. According to Giancana, the CIA (or at least a faction therein) took ten percent of the proceeds from the Havana drug pipeline in return for ignoring the traffic (Giancana 1992:259). Before Castro's 1959 overthrow of the Batista regime, Havana had been the single greatest source of revenue for organized crime in the western hemisphere. The Havana casinos, drug dealers, and abortion clinics brought the mob hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But when Castro came to power, he closed the casinos and imprisoned Trafficante. The common account of the origin of the CIA-mafia assassination plots against Castro is that CIA representative (and Howard Hughes aide) Robert Maheu contacted John Roselli, the Las Vegas representative of the Chicago Mob. Roselli introduced Maheu to Chicago boss Sam Giancana, and then on Giancana's behalf Roselli contacted Trafficante. Trafficante and Carlos Marcello of the New Orleans mob both had extensive Cuban connections and became involved in the CIA assassination plot, part of a larger program known as ZRRIFLE. Trafficante and Marcello supplied the CIA with Cuban hit men to take Castro out in a military-style ambush. When it became apparent that subtler methods were needed, poison pills and other, more bizarre schemes were attempted; they never succeeded.

After Castro took over Cuba and closed the island to mafia activity, the Dominican Republic became a staging point for a CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba, as well as a new transit point for Trafficante’s narcotics traffic. Henrik Krüger writes: "Furthermore, the CIA, according to agents of the BNDD [Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs], helped organize the drug route by providing IDs and speed boats to former Batista officers in the Dominican Republic in charge of narcotics shipments to Florida." (Krüger 1980:145) President Rafael Trujillo may have done something to get in the way of the drug traffic, for the CIA-mafia alliance marked him for death and he was assassinated in May 1961, just after the CIA's failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.

Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa and Santos Trafficante cooperated in smuggling drugs into the United States, with Teamsters Local 320 in Miami being one of the fronts for the business (Krüger 1980:143). Chicago mobster David Yaras, who answered to Sam Giancana, had assisted Hoffa in organizing Local 320, where Trafficante kept an office (Scott 1993:175). Jack Ruby of Dallas reported to Yaras and was another of Giancana’s men, involved in drug trafficking as well as gambling, arms smuggling, and operating a strip club. The CIA was aware of Ruby’s drug smuggling activities, according to former anti-Castro operative Robert Morrow, who worked under the CIA’s Tracy Barnes. Barnes was one of the Bay of Pigs planners, perhaps the most high-ranking one to have survived the Kennedy post-invasion firings. According to Morrow, Barnes said that one of Ruby’s arms smuggling partners was also one of the Agency’s ZRRIFLE assassins and that Ruby was taking advantage of that fact, counting on the CIA to remain silent on the smuggling for fear of exposing the assassination program (Morrow 1992). As one of the CIA-connected men who had supplied Castro with arms before he came to power and subsequently fell from favor with the U.S., Ruby is thought to have negotiated Trafficante’s release from Castro’s prison (Giancana 1992:279; Marrs 1989:394-98).

Though, after the assassination, the government would later try to portray Jack Ruby as a small-time hustler, Ruby was an influential man in Dallas, almost an unofficial mayor. Ruby came from Chicago to Dallas in 1947 at about the same time the Chicago mob was establishing itself in Dallas (Scott 1993:160) Though Jack Ruby’s associate Joseph Civello was eventually identified by the House of Representatives as the "boss" of the Dallas mob from 1956 onward (Scott 1993:129), Ruby himself was reputed to be in control of many of the local vices. He knew everyone in a position of influence, and was particularly careful to cultivate good relationships with the police force, sheriff’s department, and district attorney’s office. Ruby is estimated to have been on speaking terms with 700 of the 1200 officers on the Dallas police force. Hundreds of officers came to Ruby’s night club; some came for conversation, some to get the free food and drinks he offered all officers. Ruby alone could give consent to a new gambling operation in the city. As a police narcotics informant, he was also "in a position to say which [drug] deals will go through and not be arrested. Those deals he doesn't approve of, he tells the police, and there's an arrest. Three or four Dallas policemen have told us Ruby was their informant on narcotics matters." (Tarby 1996) Ruby supplied prostitutes to Dallas businessmen and visiting VIPs as well as to some police officers (Scott 1993:233,342).

Thanks to Ruby and many others like him, the Dallas authorities were so compromised by the vices that many of them were not in a position to refuse to cooperate when called upon to frame the innocent, intimidate witnesses, falsify reports, and destroy evidence in the Kennedy murder. Sheriff Bill Decker was described by peers as "an old-time bootlegger" and a "payoff man" for the local rackets (Scott 1993:161). Decker ordered many of his subordinates to take "no part whatsoever" in the security of the presidential motorcade, and eventually fired one deputy for showing too much interest in the case (Craig). In 1937 Decker had testified as a character witness for Joseph Civello, who was seeking a pardon on a narcotics conviction (Scheim 1983:184).

But there were honest men among the Dallas authorities; the chief homicide detective, Will Fritz, had received numerous phone calls after the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald urging him to terminate his investigation into the murder of President Kennedy because, "You have your man." Despite these promptings, Fritz continued until late the next day, when he got a personal telephone call from new president Lyndon Johnson, who "ordered the investigation stopped," to the officer’s dismay (Groden and Livingstone 1989:245). Dr. Charles Crenshaw, who was treating the dying Oswald, also received a personal telephone call from Johnson, who pressed the doctor for a deathbed confession from Oswald. Furthermore, it was Johnson who derailed the Texas investigations into the President's murder by forming a presidential commission to handle the matter.

Ruby had been the subject of investigation by federal narcotics agents as early as 1947, for suspected involvement in a scheme to fly opium over the border from Mexico (Scheim 1983:117). It may have been as a result of this investigation that Ruby first became a federal informant. In 1947, an FBI staff assistant in Congressman Richard Nixon’s office wrote a memo asking Ruby to be excused from testifying before congress on the grounds that Ruby was "performing information functions" for the Congressman’s staff (Marrs 1989:269). By 1956, another FBI informant reported that Ruby was "Mister Big" in "a large narcotics setup operating between Mexico, Texas, and the East" (Scheim 1983:117-118). One infers from the informant’s report that Ruby had some sort of recruiting film for the operation which demonstrated the operation’s efficiency and immunity from border guards and narcotics agents. This immunity is likely to have derived from Ruby’s status as an FBI informant himself. This status is sometimes accorded to criminals of great influence in order to protect them; when thus conferred, it often amounts to a federally-issued "never-go-to-jail-unless-you-murder-someone-on-camera" card. From such a position, Ruby was able to give his FBI handlers valuable tips while eliminating his own criminal competition by informing on them.

Among the wealthy Texans that Sam Giancana counted as business associates were oil magnates Syd Richardson, Clint Murchison, and H.L. Hunt, some of whom had been introduced to Giancana by oil-company geologist and Dallas-area resident George DeMohrenschildt, one of Lee Harvey Oswald’s CIA handlers (Giancana 1992:322). The Murchison family fortune was based partly on loans from the corrupt Teamsters Pension Fund (Scott 1993:218). Murchison's other political and business connections included mob boss Carlos Marcello and Bobby Baker, whose dealings with organized crime on Lyndon Johnson's behalf nearly ruined LBJ's political career when they came to light in 1963. Murchison was a common friend of both FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello (North 1991:56). In the early 1960s, Sam Giancana confided in his younger brother that a cocaine smuggling ring which he ran with Marcello and Trafficante also had the CIA and wealthy Texas oilmen as partners; the group used offshore oil rigs to bypass U.S. Customs inspection (Giancana 1992:350). This operation apparently survived until the later 1970s, even after Giancana’s death. In New Orleans in the summer of 1977, CIA and military personnel were discovered using offshore oil rigs to smuggle drugs into the U.S. in cooperation with the Marcello crime family (Ruppert 2000). Some of the rigs were owned by George H. W. Bush’s own Zapata Offshore company (Bush was CIA director until 1977) and were serviced by Brown and Root, the Houston-based contracting company which sponsored Lyndon Johnson’s political career. Brown and Root is currently owned by Halliburton, for which current Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO. Bush was involved in CIA Cuban operations in the early 1960s, according to an FBI memo of the time and was also acquainted with DeMohrenschildt. At the time of DeMohrenschildt’s 1977 death, his address book contained George Bush’s name with the words "Zapata Petroleum Midland" (which places the entry at a pre-1959 date), and George’s college nickname, "Poppy" (Tarpley and Chaitkin 1992).

In 1948, at around the same time that Jack Ruby was settling in and cultivating the Dallas rackets for the Chicago and New Orleans crime organizations, George Bush graduated from Yale University, where he had enjoyed membership in the secret "Skull and Bones" society, an organization founded in 1833 by a member of the Russell family, which owned the largest opium-trading company in the United States (Tarpley and Chaitkin 1992). Following Russell & Company and Skull and Bones throughout their long histories, one finds several family names of great significance, among them Delano (as in Franklin Delano Roosevelt), Luce (owners of the Time-Life publishing empire), and Dulles (the brothers who led the Eisenhower administration’s foreign policy). The number of influential families and figures to emerge from the "old China trade" is a fascinating subject in itself and too large a subject to be treated here. It was from this social environment that George H. W. Bush came to Odessa, Texas. At this time, the so-called Eastern Establishment would have been seeking to incorporate the growing southwest oil industry into their plans before the new Texas rich became a serious threat. With family money behind him, "Poppy" went into the oil business and built partnerships with Texan powerhouses like Brown and Root, possibly introducing them to the CIA-mafia network and initiating them in the mysteries of government-protected drug trafficking. He was tremendously successful, building a Texas power base which took him from the vice presidency of Zapata Petroleum to the presidency of Zapata Offshore (1959), the U.S. House of Representatives (1967), the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (1972), the directorship of the CIA (1976), the Vice Presidency (1981), and finally the Presidency (1989).

According to Joseph McBride of The Nation, "a source with close connections to the intelligence community confirms that Bush started working for the [Central Intelligence A]gency in 1960 or 1961, using his oil business as a cover for clandestine activities." The earliest operations of Zapata Offshore coincided in time with the victory of Fidel Castro and coincided in geography with the three centers of power in the assassination conspiracy: Texas, Louisiana, and Florida:

1959 was the year that Bush started operating out of his Zapata Offshore headquarters in Houston; it was also the year that Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba. Officially, as we have seen, George was now a businessman whose work took him at times to Louisiana, where Zapata had offshore drilling operations. George must have been a frequent visitor to New Orleans. . . . And then, there were Zapata Offshore drilling operations in the Florida Strait (Tarpley and Chaitkin 1992).

Bush is thought to have had a role in the Bay of Pigs invasion, as he was involved with the CIA and Cuban exile politics even in this early time. Many of the names associated with the invasion represent the things dearest to Bush. Zapata, the code name for the invasion, was the name of the Cuban peninsula where the invasion was originally planned and coincidentally the name of Bush’s oil company. One of the ships used in the invasion was named "Houston," which was Bush’s new home, and another was the "Barbara J." Barbara was, of course, his wife but one would have to explain the "J" to suppose that she was the ship’s namesake. More interesting than Bush’s possible involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion are his activities around the time of the assassination. A 1963 FBI memo informs us that "George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency" was briefed by the FBI on the reaction of Cuban exiles to the assassination of President Kennedy..

According to journalist Daniel Hopsicker, records have recently come to light showing that Felix Rodriguez, a CIA cocaine smuggler during the Iran-Contra years and an associate of George Bush, was a member of the CIA's Operation 40 Cuban death squad in the 1960s and was recruited into the CIA in 1961 by a man named Bush, presumably George. Rodriguez was one of Fulgencio Batista’s policemen in pre-Castro Cuba, participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and eventually went to work at the CIA’s station in Miami, which was code-named JMWAVE. Rodriguez fits Sam Giancana’s vague description of one of the Kennedy gunmen as a "crooked former Batista cop." Both Bush and Rodriguez, and Richard Nixon are among the few men of their respective generations who deny being able to recall the exact circumstances in which they learned of the President’s murder (Hopsicker 167-68, Prouty 1992:119-120).

John F. Kennedy’s vice president and successor was also closely linked to the narcotics smuggling interests. Lyndon Johnson's political career was built on fraud and graft and thrived on its continuation. The U.S. Senate seat that he took in the 1948 election was stolen (Scheim 1983:233). While serving as Senate majority leader, Johnson did favors for Carlos Marcello, the New Orleans crime boss whose territory extended into Johnson's home state of Texas. In exchange for shooting down anti-racketeering bills and steering congressional investigations clear of Texas, Johnson got hundreds of thousands of dollars from Marcello in the form of campaign contributions (Scott 1993). Johnson and FBI Director Hoover may have used evidence of Kennedy’s extramarital sexual escapades to blackmail JFK into taking Johnson as his running mate (Summers 1993:271-73). Acting as the illegal drug industry’s most highly-placed "mole" in the White House, LBJ fed information to the President’s enemies, including telling CIA Deputy Director Charles Cabell of JFK’s plans to eviscerate the CIA (Morrow 1976:22). Cabell was close to Ed Lansdale and his brother, Earle Cabell, also happened to be the mayor of Dallas.

Using John Newman’s JFK and Vietnam as a basis for commentary, Professor Peter Dale Scott discusses in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK one of Johnson’s early diplomacy efforts as vice president, which was to encourage Ngo Dinh Diem to request an increased U.S. troop presence in Vietnam:

. . . Johnson had been, since 1961, the ally of the Joint Chiefs (and in particular Air Force General Curtis LeMay) in their unrelenting efforts, against Kennedy’s repeated refusals, to introduce U.S. combat troops into Asia. In May 1961 . . . LBJ had briefly been a "linchpin" in an attempted end-run around Kennedy’s reluctance. On May 10 the Joint Chiefs sent a recommendation to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that [Diem] be "encouraged to request" U.S. combat troops. . . . Johnson acted on the unapproved recommendation . . .and obtained from Diem the response that he "did want an increase in U.S. training personnel." Moments later, Diem had accepted the compromise . . . that U.S. combat troops be introduced "for direct training purposes." . . . [This] compromise "parallels precisely" a formula inserted into policy documents two weeks earlier in Washington by General Lansdale, saying that 16,000 U.S. combat troops were required in Vietnam as trainers (Scott 1993:30-31).

Newman himself had this to say:

Lansdale was not a combat troops man, yet the very first piece of paper ever in the history of the Vietnam War where an American officer recommends a U.S. troop commitment to Vietnam, Lansdale was the one who authors it. It's right in that critical time frame right after the failure at the Bay of Pigs; right before the crucial decision Kennedy has to make on going into Laos. His Vietnam Task Force paper is coming in through the door. The night, the very night that the Joint Chiefs figure out that Kennedy is going to say no on Laos, Lansdale, late at night in the Pentagon, slips in this combat troop proposal in the Vietnam Task Force report.

Thus we have the loosely-connected association of General Edward Lansdale, his Air Force superior Curtis LeMay, Lyndon Johnson, and others unknown acting in concert to pressure the new president to send combat troops into Vietnam, a commitment that President Eisenhower had adamantly refused to make.

Dave Ferrie was a CIA pilot, a close associate of Carlos Marcello, and much more. Ferrie is said to have flown Marcello back into the United States after his deportation by Robert Kennedy. As well as making clandestine flights into Cuba, Ferrie also flew drugs and guns out of Central America for Marcello (Giancana 1992:331). As an instructor in the Civil Air Patrol, Ferrie recruited Lee Harvey Oswald and Barry Seal into his clandestine world. Much has been written about all three men. Oswald, of course, is best known as the fall guy in the Kennedy assassination. Seal was Ferrie’s successor as manager of the CIA’s Louisiana air fleet after Ferrie’s 1967 murder during the prosecution of Clay Shaw, a New Orleans businessman who ran the International Trade Mart, where Seal is known to have had an office in 1969 (Hopsicker 2001). Seal was also the CIA’s most flamboyant drug trafficker until his own death in Baton Rouge in 1986 (Reed and Cummings 1993).

Also working closely with Ferrie was Guy Banister, a former FBI agent who had resigned the Bureau as Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office in 1955 and come to New Orleans. In the early 1960s it was not uncommon for Banister’s office to contain crates of ammunition or Cuban paramilitary men (Hinckle and Turner 1992:229-236). The available facts strongly suggest that Banister was directing Lee Harvey Oswald's activities during Oswald's stay in New Orleans. Oswald was seen at Banister's office and some of the political literature which Oswald distributed was stamped with the address of the same building Banister's office occupied (see photos).

Dave Ferrie worked closely with Clay Shaw. One of Seal’s CIA handlers, Dave Dixon, was Shaw’s close friend (Hopsicker 2001). Shaw remains the only man ever indicted in connection with the Kennedy assassination. Shaw was also on the board of Permindex and Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC), two CIA front companies involved in illegal arms transfers. Permindex and CMC had many officers in common. The Centro was originally formed in Montreal before moving to Rome in 1961. One of the CMC’s major stockholders was Major L. M. Bloomfield, formerly of the American OSS, who also was the Chairman of Permindex’s Montreal branch (Garrison 1988:100-101). Montreal is a significant city for many reasons, one of the lesser-known reasons being its role as a major North American hub for narcotics trafficking during this period. The Montreal syndicate was run by French Corsicans and was of great significance to the American traffic, described as "dominant" by one expert (Chambliss 1978). Major Bloomfield was also the attorney for the Bronfman family, which owned the Seagrams liquor company. The Canadian Bronfmans had made enormous amounts of money selling alcohol to America during the prohibition era. Criminologist William Chambliss has pointed out that the bootleggers of the 1920s were in many cases among the major heroin wholesalers of the decades to follow (Chambliss 1978). One Jules Kimble told New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that he had accompanied Dave Ferrie and Clay Shaw to Montreal some time around 1962 (Garrison 1988:136-138).

Jack Ruby also worked with Ferrie and Shaw to buy guns for the Cuban exile underground on behalf of the CIA (Morrow 1992). The OAS, a French terrorist group of the time, also figures heavily in this milieu. The OAS, or Secret Army Organization, was financed in large part by drug money and was determined to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle (Krüger 1980). There is evidence to suggest that one or more OAS terrorists were on hand at the assassination of President Kennedy (Twyman 1997:411). Permindex funded the OAS; de Gaulle in 1962 publicly accused Permindex of doing so (Marrs 1989:499; Garrison 1988:88-89). DA Jim Garrison discovered that Guy Banister had sent an associate to Paris with a suitcase containing between $100,000 and $200,000 in cash for the OAS (Marrs 1989:499). Ruby’s arms smuggling partner, Thomas Eli Davis, worked with the OAS (Twyman 1997:421-22). The Schlumberger Corporation, which is Brown and Root’s (that is to say, Halliburton’s - Brown and Root is now owned by Halliburton ) biggest competitor in the oil well services business even today, also supported the OAS (Garrison 1988:53); its president, Jean de Menil, was also on Permindex’s board of directors (DiEugenio 1993:213). Schlumberger was begun by a Houston family into which de Menil married; the de Menils were contributors to the arts and respected members of Houston society. George DeMohrenschildt counted de Menil as a close friend. The CIA also supported the OAS in the early 1960s and supplied Schlumberger with anti-personnel ammunition (Garrison 1988:53). After the apparent demise of the OAS, Dave Ferrie and several anti-Castro Cubans in the employ of Guy Banister removed explosives from a Schlumberger bunker at Houma, Louisiana for use in anti-Castro operations. Several crates of the munitions were seen at his office by a visiting friend (Hinckle and Turner 1992:230).

Surveying the entire sordid mess from his Washington, DC office was J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was a careful man who had not openly defied any President or Attorney General (his nominal superiors) but who doggedly pursued his own agenda, namely the protection and accumulation of his own power. No one has claimed to have been close to him, and none of those closest to him claim to have understood him.

Hoover denied the existence of a national crime syndicate until the 1960s, when bureaucratic pressures from the White House became too great to withstand. How do we explain the reluctance of the nation's top law enforcement officer to prosecute organized crime? One possible reason is that Hoover practiced homosexuality and the mafia knew it and threatened to expose him. A 1993 biography would seem to establish as fact Hoover's deviant sexual behavior and presents evidence that Hoover protected mob boss Meyer Lansky because Lansky had photos of Hoover in compromising sexual behavior (Summers 1993:243-45). Such photographs are reported by more than one source to have been in the possession of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton (Hopsicker 2001:119; Summers 1993:244-45). It is believed that Hoover's second-in-command and constant companion Clyde Tolson was also his lover; this was something of an "open secret" in Washington (Summers 1993). A man of otherwise good character who was thus vulnerable to blackmail would find it difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute the crimes of those who held his weakness over his head at all times like Damocles' sword. For a man already inclined toward graft, such blackmail was the most common form of insurance against a sudden attack of conscience. But there are still those who insist that Hoover was not homosexual. Cartha DeLoach, one of Hoover's top assistants, ridiculed the research of Hoover biographer Anthony Summers on this subject as "gossip" and attacked the credibility of his sources. But could one truly expect "respectable" citizens to be firsthand witnesses to such behavior and thus to be available as sources? Contrary to the impression given by DeLoach in his book Hoover’s FBI, these allegations have been around for decades. Even in the 1940s, FBI agents were squelching rumors of Hoover’s alleged homosexuality (Theoharis 1995:346-356).

Another explanation, one based on more common knowledge, is Hoover's affiliation with right-wing individuals who were connected to organized crime. He was a very close friend of Del Webb, the owner of the New York Yankees baseball team whose finances had been entangled with those of organized crime figures the likes of Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, and of right-wing oil baron Clint Murchison, whose Murchison Oil Lease Company was found by the U.S. Senate to be 20 percent owned by the Genovese crime family of New York (Summers 1993:231-33). Murchison arranged for the FBI director to lend his name to the famous anti-Communist book Masters of Deceit, which he arranged to be published through his own company (Scott 1993:207). Hoover was sighted on several occasions meeting with mob boss Frank Costello.

Hoover's retirement in January of 1965 was eventually waived by his old friend and neighbor, President Lyndon Johnson, with whom he had at least two things in common: an intense resentment of the Kennedys and little or no chance of staying in office if JFK had been reelected. The two men allegedly shared complicity in the assassination, having had foreknowledge of the shooting in Dallas. Madeleine Brown, Johnson’s mistress, recalled the following from a party on the evening before the assassination, hosted by Clint Murchison and attended by J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson, Richard Nixon, John McCloy, George Brown (of Brown and Root) and H.L. Hunt:

The group . . . went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, re-appeared. I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing . . . not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I'll always remember: "After tomorrow those g—d--- Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's no threat - that's a promise." (Brown 1997)

There had been credible death threats against the Kennedys which had come to the attention of the FBI for several months prior to the assassination. Designed as the FBI was, only Hoover, and possibly some of his men at the top, could have seen the "big picture" which was being formed from bits of information passed on by the various field offices. It appears that Hoover sat on the information rather than passing it on to the Secret Service, and sat rather aloof from the developing conspiracy until it came to its climax in Dallas (North 1991).

Hoover’s actions after the assassination were not consistent with his office. Not only did he mislead and withhold information from the presidential commission appointed to investigate the event, he publicly demanded that the Warren Commission agree with his declaration that Lee Harvey Oswald bore sole responsibility for the murder (North 1991:14). As soon as the commission’s seven members had been chosen, Hoover "ordered his aides to compile secret dossiers on each member . . . so he would have adequate dirt in his files, if a need arose." (North 1991:448) Congressman Hale Boggs, one of the seven commissioners, complained years later that Hoover had "lied his eyes out" on several points relevant to the case and accused Hoover of using "Gestapo tactics" to intimidate him. Boggs disappeared on a plane flight in 1972. (Groden and Livingstone 1989:116; Marrs 1989:562).

Not all of the commissioners were disposed to complain about Hoover’s behavior. Former CIA director Allen Dulles was on the commission, and had no desire for an investigation that would expose the CIA’s proximity to the conspiracy. Future president Gerald Ford was Hoover’s active accomplice on the commission. According to the William Sullivan, then an Assistant Director at the FBI,

Hoover was delighted when Ford was named to the Warren Commission. The Director wrote in one of his internal memos that the Bureau could expect Ford to "look after FBI interests" and he did, keeping us fully advised of what was going on behind closed doors. He was our . . . informant on the Warren Commission (North 1991:448-49)

Ford altered the wording of a report describing the deceased president’s wounds to make a single-gunman explanation plausible (Feinsilber 1997). Ford, along with commission counsel and future U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, was among the chief authors of the so-called "magic bullet" theory, which proposed that three shots were fired and that one of the bullets caused an impossible series of wounds, later to emerge from two men’s bodies showing no signs of impact. It was an implausible theory, but it was the best that could have been done, and in those days fewer people thought to question the government. The year after the Commission released its report, Ford authored Portrait of the Assassin, which supported the Commission’s conclusions. Though the book used materials that had been ordered sealed, Ford suffered no legal consequences.

These details might be worth forgetting were it not for events in Ford’s later career. In the middle of Richard Nixon’s second term as president, Ford was appointed by Nixon to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew due to legal proceedings against Agnew. When the Watergate cover-up caught up with Nixon, he resigned and left Ford to take over the office; Ford immediately pardoned Nixon in advance of any Watergate-related charges which might be brought against the ex-president.

Fifteen months after Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, Gerald Ford chose George Bush to head the CIA. It was in these circumstances that the National Security Council, over which Ford had direct oversight, made a deliberate and secret decision to use drug profits to fund the arming of the Kurds. As part of this program, the CIA used offshore oil rigs, some of which were owned by Bush’s Zapata Offshore company, to smuggle the contraband past U.S. Customs (Ruppert 2000).

The Kennedys' War For Control

The Kennedy Justice Department’s targeting of the Teamsters Union and other persons affiliated with organized crime is well-known. The Teamsters were at the time aligned with the Republican party and thus represented a source of power and revenue to the Kennedys’ opposition. The Kennedy administration’s war on organized crime had earlier roots in the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, also known as the McClellan Committee. The committee was formed in 1957; Robert Kennedy was Chief Counsel and his brother John was a member. The McClellan Committee’s most notorious target was Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union. The committee reported that Teamsters Local 320 in Miami was a front for narcotics smuggling and identified the Marcello organization as the "key distribution point for drug shipments entering the United States" (Morrow 1993:39). The committee also put Sam Giancana in the hot seat; America watched on television as he pled the fifth on all questions and was ridiculed by Bobby Kennedy. After the 1961 inauguration, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, appointed by his brother the president, formed a "Get Hoffa" squad in the Justice Department to take down the powerful leader of the Teamsters.

New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello was aligned with Hoffa, the anti-Castro Cubans, and other Republican interests, particularly anti-Communist organizations, and was summarily deported by Robert Kennedy to Guatemala in 1961. After what Marcello described as an ordeal in a remote Guatemalan jungle, Dave Ferrie flew him back to the states. Ferrie was with Marcello in court on the day of the assassination and had to make a hasty trip to Dallas, where he and Barry Seal are reputed to have flown getaway planes for the conspirators (Hopsicker 2001: 164-65).

In addition to cleaning up organized crime – at least where it was serving rival interests – the Kennedy administration angered its enemies by seeking to replace the mafia-favored Cuban exiles with others more to its liking. Even before JFK’s inauguration, he had been warned by his Cuban confidants that former Batista cronies, those allied with Marcello and other underworld figures, were now in positions of prominence in the CIA’s Cuban "government-in-exile." There was a split in the CIA over which sort of Cubans ought to be leading the exile movement. A right-wing faction in the Agency had gained Vice President Nixon’s approval in creating "Operation Forty," a Cuban hit team with the mission of eliminating supposed leftists from the exile movement. Nixon and Charles Cabell, the deputy director of the CIA, created the squad in October 1960 with Mario Kohly, an exile financier and the CIA-mafia alliance’s Cuban President-designate. Operation Forty, presumably named after the National Security Council committee (the "Forty Committee") responsible for the approval of covert operations, was to execute the leftist leaders of the Cuban Revolutionary Council – the Cubans favored by the new administration – in connection with the Cuban invasion (Morrow 1993:26). A half dozen of these leaders were indeed put under house arrest by the CIA during the Agency-sponsored invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs the following spring and would likely have been left as martyrs dead on the beach if the invasion had succeeded and put Kohly in power.

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NSAM #55
(click to enlarge)

Although his reappointment of CIA Director Allen Dulles and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover were Kennedy’s first official acts as President, circumstances quickly changed to show that these two powerful men would not remain in those positions. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, President Kennedy was determined to reorganize the intelligence community in a way that would neutralize his opposition in the CIA. Kennedy fired the top leadership responsible for the invasion, including Director Allen Dulles, his deputy Charles Cabell, and Dick Bissell, the deputy director in charge of the CIA’s covert action wing. Enraged with the Agency's apparent pursuit of an independent agenda, the President threatened to "smash the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." On June 28, 1961 Kennedy signed National Security Action Memoranda (NSAMs) 55,56, and 57, which placed the responsibility for covert operations – traditionally the CIA’s – in the hands of the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These memos sent shock waves through the defense establishment, but they were only the beginning. The Kennedy Administration created the Defense Intelligence Agency in October 1961. By year's end, Bobby Kennedy had become the cabinet officer in charge of Cuban operations. If his brother had had a second term as president, Bobby would likely have been made head of the CIA. In a series of meetings, memos, and telephone calls, he hounded the "Special Group" of Cuban operations officers to do more to undermine Fidel Castro in a new NSC operation dubbed "MONGOOSE." When RFK discovered the CIA/mafia joint effort to assassinate Fidel Castro, he was outraged and "turned it off." (David and David 1986:228) The Kennedys were determined to overthrow Castro, but on their own terms and in their own way and with people of their own choosing. Warren Hinckle and William Turner, authors of Deadly Secrets, described the Kennedys’ anti-Castro efforts this way:

They would pick their own people, Kennedy people, and the second act of the Cuban drama would be directed from the White House, not Langley, not Miami. This was how the Kennedys saw it; but in their patrician manner, they didn’t tell it that way. They continued to wave before all the exiles the flag of a free Cuba while simultaneously cutting away many exile groups, and conversely anointing others to participate in the secret agenda (Hinckle and Turner 1992:170).

If Cuba were to be made free, the Kennedys vowed, it would not be allowed to return to its former status as a cash cow for their rivals. Despite their aggressiveness, however, the Rogue Elephant had its revenge. President Kennedy made the serious mistake of making Ed Lansdale the administration’s right-hand man in Cuban operations, in charge of Operation MONGOOSE.

Lansdale had been one of those who had challenged Allen Dulles’ claim that the Bay of Pigs invasion would succeed without direct U.S. military support. He did not believe that a popular uprising would follow, as Dulles claimed (Wyden 1979:71-73). This opposition, as well as Lansdale’s well-known service in Vietnam and the Philippines, may have contributed to Lansdale’s merit in Kennedy’s eyes and vouched for his fitness as a key figure in a new Cuba campaign. But, as we have seen, Lansdale may have been serving in Vietnam the very domestic interests the Kennedys were combating. And, as we shall see later, Lansdale’s position in MONGOOSE afforded him access to information and personnel which he may have used to organize the 1963 assassination and cover-up.

At its heart, MONGOOSE was a series of air and sea raids against Cuba aboard small, non-military planes and watercraft. It was absolutely enormous, and was all coordinated by a secret CIA station at the University of Miami, code-named JMWAVE. If all the boats had belonged to another country, it has been said, it would have been one of the largest fleets in the western hemisphere.

Since the raids on Cuba were in violation of the neutrality act, MONGOOSE was illegal on its face. In order to put a cloak of secrecy around the project, numerous other laws were broken. The south Florida business world was turned upside down by the arrival of hundreds of CIA front companies for which phony incorporation papers were filed.

Income tax returns gave bogus sources of income. FAA regulations were violated by the filing of spurious flight plans and the taping over of registration numbers. The transportation of explosives on Florida highways transgressed state law. Possession of illegal explosives and war materiel contravened the Munitions Act, and acquisition of automatic weapons defied the Firearms Act. Every time a boat left for Cuba the Neutrality Act was broken; every time it returned Customs and Immigrations laws were skirted (Hinckle and Turner 1992:129-30).

The CIA made arrangements with law enforcement at all levels – from the Dade County Sheriff’s Office to the FBI and Coast Guard – to look the other way and to release any of its people who got themselves into trouble. Pilots working for CIA fronts would be fed information from Agency contacts in the military on how to time their flights to pass through temporary holes in U.S. radar systems (Hinckle and Turner 1992:129-30). Of course, a transnational undertaking that is already illegal in nature and has neutralized all possible threats from law enforcement will create rampant drug smuggling. This has been proven to be the case not only with respect to Cuba but with every similar project since then. Where there is a protected smuggling pipeline, there is great wealth; and where there is wealth of that enormity, there is great power. And when that power is threatened, it will do anything to preserve itself.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Kennedys began what seemed to be a complete dismantling of the Cuba project. The exile training camps were shut down and where paramilitary activity persisted, the camps were raided by federal authorities. Counterfeiters involved in a CIA-sponsored program to flood Cuba with bogus currency were apprehended by U.S. Treasury agents. MONGOOSE was shut down; this meant that many of the most active exile Cubans were left out in the cold, and perhaps most traumatic of all to the administration’s deadliest enemies, there could be no more MONGOOSE-protected drug flights. In reality, the administration had not given up on ridding Cuba of Castro but was merely moving its anti-Castro operations overseas and purging certain exile elements. This purge was aimed chiefly at removing the administration’s enemies from the Cuba project and creating an exile Army with which the administration could cooperate both during the anti-Castro campaign and after its anticipated success. The exile factions excluded from the administration’s new Cuba operations included many who were angry with Kennedy’s performance during the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile crises and those who were allied with the Gulf States crime syndicates – the syndicates hoping to re-establish their criminal power bases in a Castro-free Cuba. As a result of the purge, these exile factions could only have become more dependent on mob patronage and even more anti-Kennedy.

At the height of the missile crisis, as the American and Soviet navies faced off in the Caribbean, CIA officer William Harvey was dispatching commando teams into Cuba, in an attempt to precipitate a full-scale invasion into Cuba. This move enraged the Attorney General and got Harvey dismissed from the Cuba project. Harvey had designed many aspects of the CIA's ZRRIFLE assassination program, was in charge of Task Force W, the CIA’s Cuban section, and answered to Ed Lansdale. Bobby Kennedy sent him to Rome, where he embarrassed the diplomatic corps by his public drunkenness and by engaging in diatribes against the Kennedys. However, Harvey continued to be a key player in the Agency’s ZRRIFLE program, for which he managed and recruited assassins. He was in touch with underworld figures such as Johnny Roselli throughout 1963. He and Roselli had multiple visits with David Morales, the JMWAVE station’s chief of "dirty work," who later made a drunken boast of having had a hand in JFK’s assassination. That summer, Harvey also made contact with David Atlee Phillips, another CIA officer and prime suspect in the assassination (Twyman 1997:307). Phillips’ role will be described shortly. In short, Harvey was the wrong sort of person for the Kennedys to have alienated. It was around the time of the missile crisis that plans to assassinate JFK reached a new intensity. Some staff members of the House Select Committee on Assassinations rightly concluded that Harvey was likely to have played a high-level role in engineering and coordinating the assassination of the president.

By November 1963, the Kennedy Justice Department was hot on the trail of the Vice President. Johnson faced not only political ruin, but the strong possibility of going to prison if any of the matters being pursued developed into a viable case against him. Johnson had been getting enormous sums of gambling profits from Carlos Marcello through a Dallas gangster named Jack Halfen - $500,000 over a ten-year period. In return, Johnson had used his influence in the Senate to kill anti-racketeering bills, take the teeth out of the bills he couldn’t stop, and slow down investigations of organized crime (Marrs 1989:293; Twyman 1997:799) Another conduit for the Marcello money was LBJ's secretary Bobby Baker, and that sordid story was beginning to come to light in 1963. Baker was forced to resign on October 8th, and on the day of Kennedy's fateful motorcade in Dallas, Richard Nixon was quoted in the newspapers predicting that the Baker scandal would result in Johnson being dropped from the 1964 ticket. Kennedy did in fact indicate to one of his secretaries that he intended to cut Johnson loose. Johnson had long since realized that his next destination after leaving the White House would likely be prison. This, of course, was not to be. On the day after the assassination, the FBI stopped sending Robert Kennedy reports on the Baker matter (Russell 1992:523). Though the issue did not die immediately, and Baker went to jail, Johnson ultimately survived it. Nearly hysterical, he ordered subordinates to make payoffs:

[Baker] is going to ruin me. If that [deleted] talks, I'm gonna land in jail. . . . I practically raised that [deleted], and now he's gonna make me the first President of the United States to spend the last days of his life behind bars. . . . Nat can get to Bobby. . . Tell Nat to tell Bobby that I will give him a million dollars if he takes this rap. Bobby must not talk. I'll see to it that he gets a million dollar settlement (Scheim 1983:224).

The "Nat" referred to was a Mob "fixer," or bribe broker. Several years later, biographer Robert Caro would write:

For years, men came into Lyndon Johnson's office and handed him envelopes stuffed with cash. They didn't stop coming even when the office in which he sat was the office of the Vice President of the United States. Fifty thousand dollars (in hundred-dollar bills in sealed envelopes) was what one lobbyist - for one oil company - testified that he brought to Johnson's office during his term as Vice President. (Scheim 1983:248-49)

Johnson's political career was not only advanced by the assassination of President Kennedy, it was saved by it. Johnson may not have had foreknowledge of the killing, but he was at least manipulated into helping to cover it up. This manipulation would have been possible for J. Edgar Hoover, who of course was aware of all the evidence building against Johnson in the famous scandals involving Bobby Baker and Billie Sol Estes.

There was no love lost between Hoover and the Kennedys. Because of Hoover's incompatibility with the administration, President Kennedy had planned to let the FBI Director go when his mandatory retirement came up at age seventy. A battle of rhetoric was afoot between the left and right over the nature of the Communist threat to America; Hoover and the Kennedys were on opposite sides and at the forefront of this battle. President Kennedy asserted that "our peril . . . comes from without, not within." Several days later, Hoover rebutted: "The communist threat from without must not blind us to the communist threat from within." Turning Hoover's words against him, Senator Mike Mansfield suggested that the right-wing idea that the greater communist threat is from within indicated a lack of confidence in Hoover and his FBI. In the same month, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy added his opinion to the debate, saying, "If we think that the great problem in the United States now is the fact that there are 10,000 communists here, if we think that that's what's going to destroy our country, we are in very bad shape . . ." (North 1991:113-120)

When Jack Kennedy took office and appointed his brother Bobby as Attorney General, Bobby broke with a long tradition in the Justice Department by asserting the authority of his office over the FBI. Hoover, who as FBI director had enjoyed relative autonomy for decades, now had to answer to this young upstart, who was leading a crusade against a crime syndicate whose very existence up to that point Hoover had denied. Not only had Hoover refuted allegations of the existence of a national crime syndicate, he had caused the disbanding of a federal task force and hindered the work of his agents who tried to investigate it. As Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy constantly jibed at and prodded Hoover to do more. He went out of his way to point out his authority over Hoover, going as far as having a hotline and buzzer installed in Hoover’s office to summon him on a moment’s notice (North 1991:68). After being snubbed by the Director during his first weeks in office, he tried to make a point by behaving distractedly and throwing darts during their first meeting (North 1991:65-66). RFK threw a monkey-wrench into Hoover’s religiously-observed routine by visiting FBI headquarters on Saturdays to demand direct access to particular Bureau files. In the past, Hoover had been able to control what other Attorneys General had been allowed to see; Hoover began working Saturdays to keep an eye on him (North 1991:70).

Though he publicly spoke of a commitment to winning the war, John F. Kennedy's private opposition to further U.S. involvement in Vietnam was unpopular in some powerful circles. In the spring of 1963 the president told White House aide Kenneth O'Donnell,

In 1965, I'll become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. I'll be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser. But I don't care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy scare on our hands, but I can do it after I'm reelected. So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected (O’Donnell and Powers 1972:16).

In a CBS interview with Walter Cronkite on September 2nd 1963, Kennedy emphasized the Vietnamese government's domestic failings and placed final responsibility for the success of the war on the Vietnamese: "In the final analysis, it's their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it." In the early days of that month, advisers returned from a fact-finding mission in Vietnam. Based on their information, the President endorsed a plan for the reduction of the U.S. presence in Vietnam, caused this to be written as a report, and sent Defense Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on a second "fact-finding" mission to Vietnam. McNamara and Taylor made this tour during the last days of September 1963 and returned from the country with the ready-made report in hand (Prouty 1992:263). The report's contents were the seeds of National Security Action Memorandum #263 of October 1963. In its final months, with NSAM 263, the Kennedy administration announced its plans to withdraw 1,000 military personnel from Vietnam by the end of the year and to have the bulk of the approximately 15,000 such personnel out of Vietnam by 1965. It wasn't just the military personnel that Kennedy intended to remove from the area. According to an Air Force officer who worked under General Ed Lansdale, Kennedy wanted all CIA officers and agents out of Vietnam as well (Lane 1991: 105).

nsam63.jpg (81374 bytes)

NSAM #263
(click to enlarge)

This was unwelcome news for military contractors and suppliers who were counting on escalation of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. One example of such a supplier was Bell Helicopter of Fort Worth, Texas. In 1960, the CIA moved twenty H-19 "Huey" helicopters from a base in Udorn, Thailand (where they were being used for operations in Laos) to the Saigon area. This move resulted from a telephone call by Charles Cabell, the CIA's deputy director, to the Office of Special Operations (OSO) in the Defense Department in December 1960. Col. Fletcher Prouty, who worked in the OSO at that time, notes that this telephone call

. . . came shortly after the First National Bank of Boston had arranged for the Textron Corporation to acquire the Bell Helicopter Company. The CIA had arranged a meeting in the Pentagon in order for a vice president of the Boston bank to discuss Cold War uses of, and demand for, helicopters before it recommended the merger to the officers of Textron. It was the Bell-built "Huey" that became the most-used helicopter in Vietnam (Prouty 1992: 109).

Prouty also says that by the end of the war, some 5,000 helicopters lay destroyed in various parts of Southeast Asia, accounting for one third of all U.S. fatalities. General Moshe Dayan, the hero of Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War, noted in that year that "Helicopters may be first-class equipment, but the way they are being used in Vietnam, they are wasted." (Prouty 1992:108)

Bell took a significant share of the hundreds of billions of dollars that the U.S. poured into the Vietnam war effort; foreseeing such profits, they and others like them thus had reason to dislike the Kennedy administration's announcement of planned withdrawal from the area.

There were other factors that bred resentment of the administration among members of the military-industrial complex. The president and his Secretary of Defense had craftily awarded an immense defense contract on the basis of its foreseen effects on the 1964 presidential vote. The contract for the TFX (Tactical Fighter, Experimental) appeared sure to go to Boeing of Seattle and involved $6.5 billion, an unprecedented amount for a peacetime contract. The Source Selection Board had deliberated over the contract, and the general impression was that Boeing would be selected to build the 1,700 aircraft. Yet on November 24th, 1962, Defense Secretary McNamara announced that the contract would go to General Dynamics and Grumman. Though the administration wished the public to believe otherwise, this announcement was the result of a detailed study by McNamara's staff of the voting districts populated by the workers and dependents of Boeing and its competitors.

McNamara's rejection of the Source Selection Board's recommendation, and the administration posture that accompanied it, sent shock waves through the military-industrial machine and the finance community. In an April announcement, McNamara's deputy Roswell Gilpatric spoke about the decision and noted: "We can try to make a special effort to give work where it can be done effectively and efficiently, to depressed areas." Perhaps some listeners saw the political motivation behind the awarding of the contract (Prouty 1992:143-49).

With both the Justice Department and the Defense Department being used as political instruments, inside observers might have wondered what might come next. Would the emerging space program, led by Kennedy, be used similarly? Might traditional defense spending be cut in favor of the recently-approved Apollo space program (which admittedly had major defense implications), a more humane (and possibly more Kennedy-controlled) way to stimulate the economy?

The potential loss of military-industrial revenue resulting from withdrawal from Vietnam does not seem sufficient alone to inspire a serious plot against the President. Powerful interests might for this reason give an approving nod to such a conspiracy but would not have sufficient motive to instigate one. But Vietnam involved more than just weapons. It was also strategically important for the heroin supply. If abandoned, the area's resources would be lost. Though by 1961 the CIA had positioned itself at all points in the French heroin supply chain, it was not yet in a position to muscle them out of the business. That would require more personnel; personnel which would only be supplied in the type of conflict that men like Edward Lansdale and Lyndon Johnson had been so busy creating and promoting. If Kennedy had his way, the American inroads into the Southeast Asian drug trade would be lost before they reached fruition. Like Eisenhower, Kennedy refused to send combat troops to Vietnam. By the end of his administration, though the number of American soldiers there had grown from 1,000 to 16,000 – as a result of bureaucratic pressures outside the White House, the recommendations of Ed Lansdale and others, and the diplomatic efforts of Vice President Johnson – the president had made clear his determination to reduce the American role in the conflict. He determined in the fall of 1963 to remove 1,000 advisors. By 1962 he was cracking down on crooked CIA operatives in Southeast Asia and secured an indictment against at least one of the major players:

When President John F. Kennedy in 1962 attempted a crackdown on the most hawkish CIA elements in Indochina, he sought the prosecution of Willis Bird, who had been charged with the bribery of an aid official in Vientiane. But Bird never returned to the U.S. to stand trial (Krüger 1980:130; see also McCoy 1991:168-69).

If Kennedy survived much longer, many drug profiteers and their henchmen – including Vice President Johnson – would be facing indictments and prison terms. But the assassination of November 1963 was a turning point in American policy; we will shortly see Lyndon Johnson’s reversal of Kennedy’s policies, the escalation of the war, and the transfer of several American mobsters and "black ops" personnel from Cuba to Southeast Asia, where they will continue to develop America’s market share in the drug economy.

The Empire Strikes Back

Over the years, the individuals involved in the assassination and the roles they played have been revealed in various ways. Some of them are merely implicated by the testimony of others; some have privately confessed to their own involvement or are on record plotting against the president. A select few were caught on film; fewer still were photographed in Dealey Plaza, the site of the Dallas shooting, during the very hour of the assassination.

Antonio Veciana, the head of the Cuban exile organization Alpha 66, captured the attention of investigators of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) during the late 1970s by saying that his CIA case officer, using the name "Maurice Bishop," introduced him to Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in October 1963. Veciana then tantalized the HSCA staff by all but identifying "Bishop" as David Atlee Phillips, a well-known CIA officer who had masterminded the propaganda aspects of the overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 (Fonzi 1993). During the HSCA investigation a film surfaced – and later disappeared – showing Phillips, Veciana, Lee Harvey Oswald, Dave Ferrie, and several Cubans on a training exercise in Louisiana in September 1963 (Hopsicker 2001:153-54).

Phillips was an actor as well as a propagandist and was capable of masterful deceit both in person and on a much larger scale. Phillips was without a doubt the mind behind one cover story for the assassination, namely that Oswald was an agent of Castro. Setting up an enemy government to make it appear responsible for CIA-organized assassinations was standard practice in the ZRRIFLE program as outlined by William Harvey: "Planning should include provisions for blaming Sov[iet]s or Czechs . . ." (Twyman 1997:397-404) Phillips had no doubt done so in the past and certainly continued to do so in the future. Phillips was probably behind some or all of the many "false Oswalds" appearing in Mexico City, Dallas, and other places, who were behaving ostentatiously in ways that would suggest Oswald was planning to kill the president and/or was under Communist control.

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William Harvey's handwritten
notes for ZRRIFLE

"Planning should include provisions for
blaming Sov[iet]s or Czechs . . ."
(click to enlarge)

In attempting to establish Oswald’s ties to Castro as fact, Philips had the aid of the Mexican Gobernacion, or ministry of the interior, which oversaw the DFS, the Mexican equivalent of the FBI (Scott 1993:104-105). The DFS was so deeply involved in the drug traffic that in later years DEA agents would regard a DFS badge as a "license to traffic." Through the DFS, Gobernacion issued cards to major drug traffickers identifying them as agents of the government. The DFS’ chief, Miguel Nazar Haro, was a close friend of Win Scott, the CIA’s Mexico City Station Chief, and it was through this station that false reports came from Gobernacion regarding Lee Harvey Oswald’s alleged attempts to acquire visas at the Cuban and Soviet embassies just prior to the assassination. In further effort to paint the assassination as a Communist conspiracy, Phillips attempted to bribe one of Antonio Veciana’s relatives, a Cuban official in Mexico City, to say that Oswald had contacted him while there (Twyman 353).

There is fascinating evidence that at least one faction within the CIA was aware of the assassination plot and tried to foil it, whether to prevent an international incident or to save the life of the President, it is not clear. Though he feared for his safety and would not speak straightforwardly about it, CIA agent Richard Case Nagell implied over many years that a Soviet "mole" in the CIA - along with CIA officer Tracy Barnes - sent Nagell first to infiltrate the Banister-Ferrie organization in New Orleans and then to assassinate Oswald and thus stall the plot against JFK. Nagell indeed investigated the Louisiana team which was setting Oswald up, but ultimately refused to kill Oswald. Nagell's handlers could only do so much to compensate without risking exposure; thus the plot went forward. The evidence that Nagell was able to produce is compelling. His story is extremely complicated and cannot be done justice in any less than several pages, which space is not available here. The fullest account ever assembled and published is Dick Russell's The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The New Orleans chapter of the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC) was at the center of Oswald's New Orleans activities, during which his credentials were established as a Castro supporter. The CRC was crucial to setting up Oswald as the fall guy. The CRC's New Orleans chapter was led by the Cuban exile Sergio Arcacha-Smith and received funding from local mob boss Carlos Marcello through David Ferrie, Arcacha-Smith's partner and Marcello's legal researcher (North 1991:56). Their office was at 544 Camp Street, which was also in the same building as Guy Banister’s offices and by no coincidence also the address which Oswald once had printed on his pro-Castro leaflets.

Carlos Bringuier, a Cuban who picked a street fight with Oswald and later debated with him on WDSU-TV, had been the CRC's secretary for publicity. For Bringuier, the CRC’s propagandist, Oswald was not in fact an adversary, but a public image project. With the help of Banister and Bringuier, Oswald raised the public profile of what was in reality a one-man, unauthorized chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). The FPCC was at the time a national organization regarded as subversive in some circles in the federal government. It is likely that Oswald thought he was building an intelligence "legend" that would enable him to infiltrate the FPCC, when he was in fact being set up as a pro-Castro patsy. After his pro-Castro credentials were established in New Orleans, Oswald moved into the Dallas orbit of Jack Ruby, a member of the weapons-smuggling network with which Ferrie and Banister were associated.

Another of Tracy Barnes' agents was Robert Morrow, who was instructed by Barnes to purchase four 7.35 mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifles and modify them so that they could be easily broken down and reassembled. Morrow did so and delivered three of them to David Ferrie, who said they were for use against a "head of state." Morrow is certain that they were used in Dallas, as were the radios he created for Ferrie's compatriot Eladio del Valle. Some time after receiving the equipment, del Valle phoned Morrow to tell him that it would be put to use soon: Kennedy was about to "get it" in Dallas (Morrow 1993).

An FBI informant had overheard a discussion earlier that year in which Cuban exiles discussed that there would be "snipers firing from several different points [and] a main signal would have to be given. . . .What you do is have something - a street sign, anything - and a guy standing beside it takes his hat off. He's telling you that your target's right on the money." (Russell 1992:410-415) Movies and photos of the assassination scene show that at the time of the first shot, a man is standing next to the presidential limousine and under a sign reading "Stemmons Freeway - Keep Right." The man does not remove a hat, but instead waves an open umbrella. After the shooting, two men were photographed sitting on the sidewalk nearby. One appears to be holding a radio and the other has the unmistakable profile of CIA anti-Castro operative Gordon Novel (DiEugenio 1992).

Immediately after the shooting in Dealey Plaza, some of the witnesses had rushed to the grassy knoll in pursuit of a gunman there. Deputy Sheriff Seymour Weitzman was the first officer to scale the fence, and he encountered Cuban Revolutionary Council member and Cuban exile leader Bernard Barker, who showed phony Secret Service credentials and told him that everything was under control. Beginning in June 1972, Weitzman ended up in at least three federal rest homes after having a nervous breakdown, possibly as a result of recognizing Barker in news coverage of the Watergate break-ins. Barker, a long-time associate of Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis from the anti-Castro operations of the early 1960s until the Watergate arrests of 1972, was identified by Weitzman from photographs shown to him (Weberman and Canfield 1992:56-57).

About one half-hour after the shooting, men in Dallas Police uniforms pulled three tramps from a railcar behind the Texas School Book Depository. Though they were presumably booked by the police, there was no record of their arrest. But several photographs of the three men, commonly known as the "tramp photos," remain. It is difficult to imagine that one of the three is any other than CIA officer Howard Hunt, a close associate of David Atlee Phillips, with whom he worked in the both the CIA’s Guatemalan campaign of 1954 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Hunt would later be arrested for his role in the Watergate affair. Though the identity of the "tramps" remains a controversy, this author believes that the other two are Texas hit man Charles Harrelson (father of actor Woody Harrelson) and Sam Giancana’s assistant Richard Cain. High on cocaine while being arrested for the murder of a federal judge several years later, Harrelson confessed to having been involved in the assassination of the president (Marrs 1989:333-337). In one photograph, a man is shown walking past the three in the opposite direction. This man was independently identified as Edward Lansdale by two men who knew Lansdale well (Twyman 1997:540). An analysis by Allan Eaglesham and Martha Schallhorn of photos taken in Dealey Plaza that day finds "familar faces": those of CIA operatives Ed Lansdale, Ted Shackley, Lucien Conein, and Gerry Patrick Hemming, among others (See "Familiar Faces in Dealey Plaza"). Hunt, Lansdale, Shackley and Conein are all known for their involvement in the more shadowy aspects of the intelligence world, particularly the drug traffic (McCoy 1991; see also "Langley's Revenge").

Howard Hunt has denied being in Dallas on the day of the assassination and has even brought suit against those who have published literature identifying him as one of the tramps. But he has been unable to establish a credible alibi, and one witness placed Hunt in Dallas on the previous day. In one of Hunt's libel suits, one Marita Lorenz gave sworn testimony that Lee Harvey Oswald, American mercenaries Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming, and Cuban exiles including Orlando Bosch, Pedro Diaz Lanz, and the brothers Guillermo and Ignacio Novo Sampol, had met one November midnight in 1963 at the Miami home of Orlando Bosch and had studied Dallas street maps. She also swore that she and Sturgis were at that time in the employ of the CIA and that they received payment from Howard Hunt under the name "Eduardo," an alias which Hunt is known to have used in his dealings with Cuban exiles. After studying the maps, she and the men departed for Dallas in two cars, taking a load of handguns, rifles, and scopes in the follow-up car. They arrived in Dallas on November 21, 1963 and stayed at a motel, where the group met Howard Hunt. Hunt stayed for about forty-five minutes and at one point handed an envelope of cash to Sturgis. About an hour after Hunt left, Jack Ruby came to the door. Lorenz says that this was the first time she had seen Ruby. By this time, she said, it was early evening. In her testimony, Lorenz identified herself and her fellow passengers as members of Operation Forty, the CIA-directed assassination team formed in 1960 in preparation for the Bay of Pigs invasion. She described her role as that of a "decoy." The group blamed Kennedy for the failure at the Bay of Pigs and conspired to kill him, she said. Knowing that something more sinister than gun-running was involved, she left the group about two hours after Ruby's visit and returned to Miami. Sturgis, she said, later told her that she had missed out on the group's killing of Kennedy (Lane 1991).

An article written by former CIA officer Victor Marchetti appeared in the 14 August 1978 edition of The Spotlight, a Washington newspaper. In this article, Marchetti alleged that a decision had been made that March by the CIA to make a limited admission of CIA involvement in the assassination. According to "sensitive sources in the CIA and on HSCA [House Select Committee on Assassinations]," some of the minor figures in the conspiracy were to be exposed. Chief among these was to be Howard Hunt, then a major figure in the relatively recent Watergate scandal. Also allegedly marked for exposure were Gerry Hemming, a long-time Cuba mercenary, and Frank Sturgis, one of Hunt's fellow Watergate burglars.

If, as Charles Harrelson once claimed, he did fire a shot at President Kennedy, it would not have been inconsistent with what is known of his later career. Harrelson is now serving time for killing federal judge John Wood. If the Kennedy conspiracy centered on the protection of a CIA-connected drug ring, it would have that in common with the Wood assassination, as shown in the following excerpts of an article which appeared in From the Wilderness:

[Gary] Eitel [former CIA pilot in Laos during the Vietnam War] says a man by the name of Bill Branson (not his real name), a former employee approached him with a lucrative offer of CIA contract work. He was offered a chance to make more in one day than he could make all month. While Eitel clearly told Branson he would play no part in illegal activities, Branson told Eitel he'd be contacted again in the future.
At a baseball game in the spring of 1973, Eitel says a man in a ball cap, blue jeans and dark glasses sat beside him in the stands.
'Do you like baseball?' Eitel remembers the unidentified man's opening line.
Eitel says was not about to run drugs for anyone, but when the contact wanted expertise on how to set up a dummy aviation company, he agreed to give advice, he says.
The contact pressed a roll of $100 bills into his hand, and at a subsequent meeting Eitel described in detail how to set up a dummy aviation proprietary that would offer cover and deniability.
Again, Eitel says he declined to actually participate in anything illegal.
'I had no problem flying for the CIA (during his Army tour), but I had a lot of problems breaking federal law to fly for the CIA,' says Eitel.
In early 1979 Eitel says Branson called to congratulate him for his wise decision to refuse the drug-hauling contract.
. . .

Eitel says that Branson told him that the drug hauling operation had been unplugged because a federal judge in San Antonio, Texas, John Wood Jr., had gotten wind of the operation and was furious.
'I didn't think a lot about it until later,' says Eitel, 'then it (the call) all made sense.'
Later that year Judge John Woods was assassinated outside his San Antonio home.

Jim Hicks told New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that he had been at Dealey Plaza as the radio coordinator for the gunmen (Groden and Livingstone 1989:213). Corroborating Hicks' own claims, CIA contract agent Robert Morrow recognized one of four radios he bought for Cuban exile Eladio del Valle in a photograph taken at Dealey Plaza that day. Though he did not name Hicks, Morrow described a photograph similar to one in which a small radio is seen protruding from the back pocket of a man fitting Hicks' description (Russell 1992:537). The Giancana biography also supports Hicks' story that the communications center for the assassination was in the Adolphus Hotel, across the street from Jack Ruby's night club, where high-level CIA officials were present (Giancana 1992:335). Hicks was taken to a military mental institution after talking to the authorities about his role and was kept there until his 1988 release, shortly after which he was murdered (Groden and Livingstone 1989:213).

Critics of conspiracy theories regarding Kennedy's death point to the difficulty of getting the cooperation of several local and federal agencies in any undertaking; such critics reason that the orchestration of a criminal cover-up in such a manner would be nearly impossible. Ironically, it may have been not a criminal conspiracy but rather the efforts of JFK's own brother Bobby which provided the means for one element of the cover-up. As a contingency plan for possible violence against high-level U.S. officials as retaliation by Castro for plots on his life, Bobby and those close to him had decided that all information and evidence in an assassination of a public figure should be tightly controlled to reduce the possibility of speculation of Cuban responsibility. Such speculation could, of course, have sparked an international incident and this was something the Kennedys became increasingly wary of after the Cuban Missile Crisis. This well-documented contingency plan, discussed by researchers Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann on the A&E video production The Men Who Killed Kennedy, goes a long way to explain some of the events immediately following Kennedy's death, such as the illegal pre-autopsy removal of the president's body from Parkland Hospital and the manner in which the autopsy was performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital. After that, the Dallas authorities and conspiratorial or misguided elements in Hoover's FBI, led by Hoover himself, buried whatever evidence came up to threaten the official story.

Thus we see that allegations of an official cover-up do not have to be as simple (and implausible) as to suppose that the conspiracy had to have been coordinated from the beginning by unified FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and Dallas authorities. Oswald's pro-Castro cover as an FBI informant and his former espionage mission to Russia were exploited to paint him as a subversive; this image of Oswald, along with attempts by the conspirators to link the assassination to Castro, was a deliberate ploy. The presence of Cuban gunmen at Dealey Plaza and Oswald's alleged trip to the Russian and Cuban embassies in Mexico City in September were meant to point in Castro's direction. This ruse was meant - by the extreme right-wing element among the conspirators - to place the blame on the Communists (particularly Castro) and to provoke a U.S. invasion of Cuba. Theories that the assassination was really an act of revenge masterminded by Castro persist to this day; it is possible that the cover-up will continue as long as Castro is alive. It is only in recent years that the Assassination Records Review Board (created largely in response to public pressure which followed the release of Oliver Stone's film, JFK) has released documents several decades old which show that Castro's military went on alert following the assassination; apparently Castro was caught off-guard and feared that the assassination would be blamed on Cuba and that the U.S. would invade (Lewis 1997).

In addition to having spent a year and a half at the controls of the CIA’s Cuban assassination machine, Edward Lansdale had proven himself in the Philippines and Vietnam to be a master magician, able to stage deceptive events on the grandest scale. He, more than anyone else, would have been the man able to organize the assassination and the diversion of blame in Dallas. It may have been his sleight-of-hand that caused the President’s body to disappear long enough for military surgeons to alter it prior to the official autopsy (Lifton 1980). As the Kennedys’ man in charge of all Cuba operations, Lansdale would have known about the contingency plans which Robert Kennedy had put in place and which would have provided for just such an arrangement; William Harvey was likely to have known as well. In fact, such plans would have been difficult to prepare without word leaking to the administration’s enemies in the CIA, who had informants among the Secret Service. Once the plans were discovered, they would have been easy to exploit.

Jack Ruby’s complicity in the assassination could not be hidden. As well as shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, Ruby had many other roles that weekend. After having been observed dropping off a gunman at the grassy knoll [Since the writing of this article, I have come to doubt this alleged incident] and possibly remaining to witness the assassination from the Dealey Plaza offices of the Dallas Morning News, he was seen at Parkland Hospital not long after the arrival of Kennedy's body, where someone planted a rifle slug on President Kennedy’s stretcher (Groden and Livingstone 1989:102,228,339).

Ruby's next destination after the hospital may have been the Texas Theatre. Local resident George Applin sat six rows from the rear of the theater and was present as the Dallas Police made their arrest of Oswald. Applin told the Dallas Morning News in 1979 that he had seen Jack Ruby sitting in the back row that day watching as Oswald was arrested, though Applin suggested to Ruby that it would be safer for Ruby to move away (Marrs 1989:352). As the police closed in on Oswald, Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander waited with several others at the back door, hoping to shoot Oswald in an attempt to flee the theater (Craig; Groden and Livingstone 1989:204). They were disappointed, for Oswald did not try to run. Two witnesses, including the one who had tipped off the police to Oswald's conspicuous entrance into the theater, insisted that they heard the authorities clearly indicate that Oswald was the President's assassin, though less than an hour had passed since the shooting (Marrs 1989:352).

Some time during the day, Ruby made a trip to the bank, having suddenly freed himself from chronic financial troubles. He had owed the IRS almost $40,000, but he had $7000 in cash, half of which was found on him the Sunday morning following the Friday assassination. Some reports said that the trunk of his car was full of money (Groden and Livingstone 1989:241). At a midnight press conference at Dallas Police headquarters twelve hours after the assassination, he shouted out a correction to a statement identifying Oswald as a member of the "Free Cuba Committee," an anti-Castro organization. Ruby called out, "That's [the] Fair Play for Cuba [Committee], Henry," identifying Oswald with the pro-Castro organization in the name of which Oswald had distributed leaflets and made television appearances in New Orleans that summer (Scott 1993:161). Ruby knew Oswald, despite the government’s denials that this was the case, and even more significantly, he knew that Oswald’s part in the conspiracy was to be the pro-Castro patsy.

The following day, Ruby met with Bill Alexander, whose task force at the Theatre had failed to dispose of Oswald (Groden and Livingstone 1989:120). The responsibility had now fallen to Ruby, who would have to kill Oswald during the transfer from police headquarters to the jail, or else there would be consequences coming from his Syndicate superiors which would be more terrible than a court-administered death penalty. That night, Ruby made an anonymous call to Dallas Police Officer Billy Grammer, threatening that if Oswald were moved as planned the next morning, "we will kill him." Ruby was either trying to get out of the assignment, hoping that the anonymous threat would result in a change of plans, or perhaps he was trying to manipulate the police into a situation that would somehow simplify the job (Marrs 1989:417).

On the morning of November 24th, 1963, Ruby went to wire some money to Karen Bennett Carlin, an employee who was out of town and hard up. He then showed up at the nearby Dallas Police Headquarters one hour after Oswald's scheduled transfer, but apparently the police had delayed the transfer while waiting for him. He shot Oswald at the police station on live national television; he was immediately arrested and jailed. When Officer Don Archer brought him the news that Oswald was dead, and that Ruby would probably get the electric chair for it, Ruby seemed greatly relieved at the news, as though his life had depended on it (Marrs 1989:423-24).

Rose Cheramie, a heroin addict, had been thrown from a moving vehicle by two men while on a drug pickup for Jack Ruby. On a trip from Florida to Texas in November 1963, she was left for dead in Louisiana and told hospital staff about the President’s impending assassination in Dallas (DiEugenio 1992:25-26). Jack Ruby, as mentioned previously, was a major figure in the drug trade, operating from both Dallas and Miami. But the Warren Commission, the 1964 panel appointed by President Johnson to issue an official report on Kennedy’s death, actively assisted Hoover’s FBI in obscuring Ruby’s organized crime connections, particularly with regard to narcotics trafficking.


Commission Document 84
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The Warren Commission had in its possession an FBI report linking Ruby to convicted narcotics trafficker Joseph Civello. In Contract on America, David Scheim points out a significant difference between the FBI report as it appears in the Commission’s published exhibits (Commission Exhibit 1536) and the report as originally written and stored among the Commission’s documents in the National Archives (Commission Document 84). The field report, filed by Special Agents Donald F. Hallahan and Thomas G. McGee on November 27, 1963 records the statement of one Bobby Gene Moore, a man then living in Oakland who had known Ruby in Dallas. Moore had seen a television interview in which one of Ruby’s associates asserted that Ruby had no connections to any gangsters. Moore wanted to go on record as having observed Ruby frequenting a gambling operation which took place in the liquor store attached to Moore’s rooming house. This much appears in Commission Exhibit 1536. The next three paragraphs of the report, however, were blanked out in CE 1536 in a way that one would not have known that those three paragraphs were even missing. The copy of the report as seen in Commission Document 84 – the version withheld from the public – goes on to say that Mr. Moore also worked for Joseph "Cirello" and Frank La Monte, handling imported Italian cheese. Based on the fact that Moore was not allowed to open certain shipments, he suspected that "Cirello" was importing narcotics. Furthermore, Jack Ruby was a frequent visitor and associate of Moore’s bosses, "Cirello" and La Monte. Moore then goes on to name two law officers who were regular patrons at the liquor store and were probably involved in the gambling operation and a municipal judge into whose car Moore was frequently requested by "Cirello" and La Monte to "put hams and other food stuffs." "Cirello" was of course Joseph Civello, who had been convicted on narcotics charges in the 1930s and was suspected by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to been a major trafficker in 1957 (Scott 1993:129). This incident of censorship not only demonstrates dishonesty by the Warren Commission but also shows the FBI’s habit of misspelling sensitive names (see also Scott 1993:207,341).

The HSCA’s official investigation of the President’s murder made note that Jack Ruby was in contact with Teamster hit men Lenny Patrick and David Yaras throughout late 1963; the Warren Commission was aware that in the weeks before the assassination Ruby contacted convicted Teamster organizer Barney Baker, who in turn had called David Yaras in Florida on the night before the assassination (Scott, 1993:163). Ruby’s sister told the FBI of Ruby’s strong connections to Patrick and Yaras, but the Bureau misspelled Yaras’ name as "YERES." (Groden and Livingstone 1989:254).

Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa had dreamed of assassinating Robert Kennedy to relieve the pressure brought on him by the Justice Department (Scheim 1983:86-87). Records of the FBI and the House Select Committee on Assassinations record that Hoffa discussed an assassination plan remarkably similar to the one eventually perpetrated in Dallas.

Having been unceremoniously dumped in the Central American wilderness by immigration officials, New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello was infuriated and swore revenge on Bobby Kennedy. However, he spoke aloud his belief that the only way to stop Bobby Kennedy was to get rid of Jack. In September 1962, he made known his intention to assassinate the President. He was still facing deportation in 1963 and was in a court hearing with his legal assistant Dave Ferrie on the morning of the assassination.

On his deathbed, Santos Trafficante expressed disagreement with Marcello’s solution. He told his lawyer, "Carlos f---ed up. . . . We shouldn't have killed Giovanni [Italian for 'John']. We should have killed Bobby." (Ragano and Raab 1994:348)

Sam Giancana confided in his brother that his fellow crime bosses and elements in the CIA and military worked together to assassinate the President, with Texas oilmen paying for the murder (Giancana 1992: 329-332). This is corroborated by Lyndon Johnson’s mistress, Madeline Brown, who said that after she confronted LBJ about the rumors of his guilt in the assassination, Johnson became very angry and said that it had been done by the "oil people" and the CIA (Twyman 1997:851). The assassination’s ties to the oil industry go beyond the oil barons who paid for the hit. One of Lee Harvey Oswald’s CIA handlers was oil-company geologist George DeMohrenschildt, who had many influential contacts and friends in the industry, including George Herbert Walker Bush and Jean De Menil, as mentioned previously. DeMohrenschildt was also familiar with Sam Giancana.

The Texas wells services contractor Brown and Root (a large contractor involved in clandestine warfare, narcotics trafficking and offshore drilling) is a firm known to cooperate with the CIA; the Kennedy threat to the CIA-Mafia-Oil industry smuggling ring was a threat to Brown and Root. Brown and Root clearly benefited from the assassination, having been the number one power behind Lyndon Johnson’s political ascent and one of the greatest beneficiaries of his continued power and his escalation of the Vietnam conflict as soon as he was reelected in 1964 (Caro 1982). Brown and Root was awarded the contract for the dredging of Camh Rahn Bay. George Brown was also named by Madeleine Brown (see above) as having been at the alleged gathering on the eve of the assassination.

Gary Underhill was one of many former intelligence personnel who was "suicided" after proving unable to bear the strain of carrying the Agency’s dark secrets. He was close to many high officials in the military and CIA and was a former military affairs editor for Life magazine. On the day of the assassination and a few months before his own death, he frantically told friends that his life was in danger:

Charlene Fitzsimmons realized something was wrong with the usually rational and objective Underhill. But Underhill insisted he had not been drinking. It was the Kennedy assassination, he explained. It was not what it seemed to be. "Oswald is a patsy. They set him up. It’s too much. The bastards have done something outrageous. They’ve killed the President! I’ve been listening and hearing things. I couldn’t believe they’d get away with it, but they did!"

Charlie did not know what he was talking about. Who were "they"?

"We, I mean the United States. We just don’t do that sort of thing! They’ve gone mad! They’re a bunch of drug runners and gun runners – a real violence group. God, the CIA is under enough pressure already without that bunch in Southeast Asia. Kennedy gave them some time after the Bay of Pigs. He said he’d give them a chance to save face."

He could tell that Charlie did not believe him. "They’re so stupid," he continued. "They can’t even get the right man. They tried it in Cuba and they couldn’t get away with it. Right after the Bay of Pigs. But Kennedy wouldn’t let them do it. And now he’d gotten wind of this and he was really going to blow the whistle on them. And they killed him!" (DiEugenio 1992:28)

This account echoes Sam Giancana’s description of the involvement of American "military brass" from Asia and reinforces the suspicion that the assassination was carried out with a view toward clearing the way for greater U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia and thereby the restructuring of that region’s drug trade.

The Underhill account identifies the Kennedy conspirators with both the Agency’s ZRRIFLE assassination program and its Southeast Asian operations. One man involved at the highest levels in both areas was Edward Lansdale. Another was Desmond Fitzgerald, who in 1962 left his assignment as the CIA’s head of Far Eastern operations to replace William Harvey as head of the Cuba task force. Fitzgerald took many members of his Far Eastern staff with him on the Cuba assignment. On the day of the Kennedy assassination, Fitzgerald was in Paris meeting with a Cuban agent, code-named AMLASH, whose mission was to assassinate Castro. Desmond Fitzgerald was personally close to Winston Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico City, where Fitzgerald often traveled in 1962-63 (Russell 1992:241-42).

The first National Security Action Memorandum issued by President Johnson was finalized only two days after President Kennedy’s death and had probably been drafted before that time in anticipation of the President’s demise. NSAM 273 of November 24, 1963, according to General Maxwell Taylor, "ma[de] clear the resolve of the President to ensure victory." But Johnson would not escalate the conflict until making it past the next November’s elections: "At a White House reception on Christmas eve, a month after he succeeded to the presidency, Johnson told the Joint Chiefs: ‘Just get me elected, and then you can have your war.’" (Scott 1993:32)

Johnson’s first full term of office began in January 1965. That year, Ed Lansdale went to Vietnam as Senior Liaison Officer of the U.S. Mission to South Vietnam. The years 1965 and 1966 were enormous landmarks for CIA involvement with Southeast Asian heroin. The CIA-mafia alliance moved many of its former Cuba operatives to Southeast Asia. By 1965, a power-hungry Laotian general named Ouane Rattikone was "on a big move . . . to consolidate the opium business" and had cut the Corsican transport pilots out of the picture, leaving Air America as the only alternative (McCoy 1972:301,362-63). From that point on, General Ouane was "the principal overseer of the shipment of opium out of the Golden Triangle via Air America" (Chambliss 1988a) as the CIA-owned airline began picking up the Hmong opium in the hills and flying it to Long Tieng and Vientiane, the political capital of Laos. The business developed, and as time went on the opium was transported aboard Air America from remote airfields in Laos, Burma, and Cambodia to marketplaces and refineries in cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Vientiane, and Saigon. The CIA headquarters for secret operations in northern Laos came to share the city of Long Tieng with a heroin-refining laboratory which General Vang Pao opened in 1970 (McCoy 1972).

Russell Bintliff, former special agent of the Army's Criminal Intelligence Command, discovered that with U.S. government financing, Pepsi-Cola set up a plant in Vientiane which "never produced a single bottle. . . . It was for processing opium into heroin." (Scheim 1983:274). Other sources say the plant (which began construction in 1965 and stood for several years unfinished) was used as a cover for purchases of chemicals vital to heroin processing (McCoy 1972:186). From there, the CIA's mafia associates took over and shipped the end product, heroin, into the U.S. for sale. Pepsi-Cola had other peripheral links to the drug trade:

The major organizer of the opium and heroin traffic in Southeast Asia was a Chinese businessman from Laos by the name of Huu Tin Heng, who organized the Chiu Chow syndicate. Huu was, among other things, the Laotian manager of the Pepsi-Cola company. The president of Pepsi-Cola has been one of Richard Nixon’s long-time and most important friends and supporters. In return, Pepsi-Cola has received substantial help from Nixon, such as monopoly franchises in foreign countries, including a franchise on the Soviet Union market (Chambliss 1979).

In the early 1960s, Pepsi-Cola had interest in removing Fidel Castro from Cuba due to his disruption of the company’s business in buying Cuban sugar. Richard Nixon cited business with Pepsi-Cola as being the reason for his presence in Dallas on the day of President Kennedy’s murder, but his alibi did not check out (Marrs 1989:270).

Ted Shackley had been the CIA’s JMWAVE station chief in Miami from 1962-65 and had directed the Cuban Bay of Pigs veterans against Castro; through Shackley's JMWAVE station, the CIA had a close relationship with mafia figures Santos Trafficante and Johnny Roselli. William Harvey, chief of Task Force W, the CIA’s Cuban task force, worked with Shackley and Roselli. Together, they schemed to undermine Castro, using sabotage and assassinations. There is as yet no proof that Shackley himself was acquainted with Roselli, and it is not uncommon for even higher-level officials involved in top-secret projects to be denied information which they do not have a "need to know." However, both Shackley's immediate superior and subordinate were known to have direct contact with Roselli. Shackley was present with his CIA superior William Harvey when the CIA passed Roselli a truckload of armaments; Shackley's JMWAVE operations chief, David Morales, also knew Roselli. As noted previously, Morales once implicated himself in the assassination ("We took care of that son of b----, didn’t we?"); he worked with David Atlee Phillips many times during his career.

Shackley became the CIA’s Deputy Chief of Station in Laos 1965 and brought in some of his former Miami CIA colleagues (including case officer Thomas Clines); Trafficante was not far behind. In Vietnam, subordinates of Trafficante arrived not long after the first U.S. combat troops (Scott 1993:8). Frank Furci, the son of Trafficante's Tampa lieutenant, arrived in Saigon in 1965, soon taking over the military club racket (McCoy 1972:213). Miami syndicate representative John Pullman made a long stop in Hong Kong that year (Marshall, et al 1987:36). After his release from prison in 1966 and before his departure for Mexico, Sam Giancana told his younger brother, "Overseas is where it’s all headin’, Chuck . . . " and shared how Trafficante was "on board for Asia." He continued, "The Vietnam War is gonna make a lot of guys rich" (Giancana 1992:328). Trafficante himself met with prominent Corsican gangsters in Saigon and other gangsters in Hong Kong as early as 1968. One DEA informant said that Trafficante brought "untold millions" to Southeast Asia that year, distributing it to important figures in the region's heroin industry, including the CIA's Hmong leader, Vang Pao. Trafficante was ensuring himself of a steady heroin supply, doing as Meyer Lansky had done by bringing six million dollars on similar trip to Marseilles in the late 1950s (Chambliss 1978:153,185). In the 1980s, Opium warlord Khun Sa named Trafficante as the man to whom he had sold his product in years past. Khun Sa also named Richard Armitage (George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State) as the "money man" for the arrangement (Gritz 1991:369-373). In a 1987 letter to the Department of Justice, Khun Sa fingered both Armitage and Shackley as his accomplices.

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A Special Forces colonel who was in Laos in early 1965 told Journalist Daniel Hopsicker that up until that time, the opium bought from the Laotian hill tribesmen was disposed of in a monthly bonfire. He noted that the arrival of Ted Shackley, Oliver North, and Richard Secord coincided with a change in procedures; orders were given to store the opium for removal to another site instead of burning it. Secord sent his Air Force planes to bomb Vang Pao’s rivals. Barry Seal at some point became a part of the Southeast Asian enterprise, piloting personnel and contraband (Hopsicker 2001:183-88).

The loose association between Seal, North, Shackley, Clines, Secord, a handful of their anti-Castro Cuban associates from Miami - Felix Rodriguez, Rafael Quintero, and Luis Posada - and the pilots from Air America would survive the Southeast Asian years and come again to prominence during the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s. The Christic Institute, a public interest law firm, charged that Shackley and others helped sell Laotian guerrillas' opium to Santos Trafficante in return for a "piece of the action." Shackley is alleged to have had an account in an Australian Nugan Hand bank where his percentage of the proceeds was deposited. Frank Nugan and Michael Hand, a CIA agent from Long Tieng, had founded the bank with four Air America officials. Indeed, from Watergate to the Chilean assassinations to the Nugan Hand banking scandal to Iran-Contra, and in many of the scandals in between, the JMWAVE Cubans were always there. The antics of the Christic Institute's head lawyer and publicist in the case, Tom Sheehan, brought no small amount of ridicule upon their case. A 1994 biography of Shackley paints Sheehan as a rumor-monger and reckless opportunist, and his case as a "grand unified theory" of all conspiracies, portraying Shackley as a modern Professor Moriarty pulling all the strings (Corn 1994). In fairness to Sheehan, it must be pointed out that in nearly every place in which the CIA was involved in large-scale dirty deeds over a period of several years, one does not have to look far to find a connection to Shackley. Ted Shackley rose to the post of Associate Deputy Director of Operations (an office with Agency-wide responsibilities to which he was appointed by Director George Bush) before officially retiring from the CIA in 1979 after the Carter Administration had been doing some "housecleaning" in the Agency by dismissing hundreds of covert operatives.

The heroin trade from Southeast Asia was affecting the lives of many Americans who bought it as an import, but it had more immediate effect among U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, eleven percent of whom were smoking the ultra-pure grade available there. Not long after Trafficante's 1968 visit to Hong Kong, opium refineries in the Golden Triangle were producing this high grade of heroin, 90 to 99 percent pure, with the help of master chemists brought in from Hong Kong and Bangkok. Of these, one of General Ouane's several refineries became the largest. By late 1969, they were producing limited supplies for the GIs. Trafficante's Florida syndicate had followed the army into Vietnam in 1965 and had several military club managers "on the take." Such places would seem ideal outlets for some of the narcotics that the Mob was smuggling through the area. Heroin was almost as common among GIs in Vietnam as cigarettes were in the States. After suffering withdrawal long enough to pass their home-going medical exam, they carried this addiction back to the states, where the habit was much more expensive and often required criminal activity for support. In other words, some GI addicts became dealers, using overseas contacts as suppliers (McCoy 1972). Alfred McCoy (1991) suggests that the addiction of the GIs in Vietnam represented a "consumer test" for the U.S. market.

From 1968 until 1972 there was a major change in the pattern of heroin smuggling into the U.S. Near Eastern opium refined and processed by the Corsicans comprised 90 percent of the heroin entering the U.S. in 1968 (Chambliss 1978:153). This "French Connection" peaked in 1971 at an estimated annual import of ten tons into the U.S. but began to dry up in 1972, when U.S. law enforcement began to catch up with the traffickers (Blumenthal 1988:94-96). As U.S. forces took over and supercharged the opium and heroin sources in Southeast Asia, the Nixon White House worked through diplomatic channels to cut off the French Connection's major heroin supply in Turkey (Mills 1986:1118). At that point, the Sicilian-American mafia's share of the market grew to equal the French Corsican share. CIA-trained Cuban exiles became prevalent among traffickers; in one major bust, seventy percent of those arrested were members of Operation Forty. By the early 1970s, American organizers had supplanted the Corsicans in the heroin trade (Krüger 1980).


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