Monday, April 20, 2015

The Sting at Dealey Plaza

                                                           The Sting at Dealey Plaza
 Image result for The Sting

“President Kennedy's assassination was the work of magicians. It was a stage trick, complete with accessories and false mirrors, and when the curtain fell the actors and even the scenery, disappeared. But the magicians were not illusionist but professionals, artists in their own right.” 
                             -    Attributed to French Intelligence officers – Philippe de Vosjoli or M. Andre Ducret - p.  269 “Fairwell America” -

In his book “Intelligence Wars – American Secret History From Hitler to Al-Qaeda,” Thomas Powers relates a story of how at a birthday party for retired intelligence officer Haviland Smith he met Smith's mentor General William Odom, the former Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI ) and director of the National Security Agency (NSA), who asked Powers, “Should the Army be trying to run agents at all?”

In the course of the party Powers asked Haviland another question - “What makes a good case officer?”

Haviland thought for a second and then answered the question with a question of his own: “Did you see that movie with Robert Redford and Paul Newman – The Sting?”

“That's it!” said Haviland, “ - the con!.”

Image result for The Sting

And what happened at Dealey Plaza was not just a magic trick with disappearing props, but a very particular magic trick – The Big Con – the confidence trick used in the popular movie The Sting.

This is alluded to in much more detail by Joe Smith in his book “Portrait of a Cold Warrior – Second Thoughts of a Top CIA Agent” (Ballentine, 1976, p 75)

Considering the idea that if not the work of a deranged lone gunman, if what happened at Dealey Plaza was in fact a covert intelligence operation that utilized standard covert action techniques, including disinformation, disguises and black propaganda to cover them, then they are using very sophisticated psychological warfare weapons that only a few professional specialists - “artists in their own right,” who could have planned, been the mastermind and pulled off whatever happened at Dealey Plaza.

Allen Dulles, Ed Lansdale, James Jesus Angleton, E. Howard Hunt, David Atlee Phillips – what do they all have in common?

One thing they all have in common is their psych war professor who taught them what they call “the Black Arts,” meet Professor Paul Linebarger, author of the text book “Psychological Warfare.”

 Joseph B. Smith in “Portrait of a Cold Warrior” (Ballantine 1976, p. 75) writes:

….In the early winter of 1952…I got the chance to attend Paul Linebarger’s seminar in psychological warfare. Linebarger had served as an Army psychological warfare officer in Chungking during the war. He had written a textbook on the subject in 1948. In 1951 he was serving as the Far East Division’s chief consultant. He also served as the Defense Department in the same capacity, giving advice on U.S. psychwar operations in Korea, and he was a professor of Asian politics at the School for Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University. His book by this time had gone through three American editions, two Argentine editions, and a Japanese edition.

He was far from a textbook warrior, however. He best described himself when he wrote in the introduction to his book, “Psychological warfare involves exciting wit-sharpening work. It tends to attract quick-minded people – men full of ideas.” His wits scarcely needed sharpening, and he was never at a loss for an idea. 

The seminars were held for eight weeks, every Friday night at his home. Going to Paul Linebarger’s house on Friday evenings was not only an educational experience for those who attended the seminar, it was also an exercise in clandestinity. Learning covert operational conduct was considered part of the course. Each seminar was limited to no more than eight students. They were told to pose as students from the School of Advanced International Studies, to go to Paul’s house via different routes, and to say they were attending a seminar in Asian politics.....The School of Advanced International Studies had its campus in Washington, but over in Baltimore at the main campus of the John Hopkins University, Owen Lattimore, the expert on Asian geography, held sway…..

It would be difficult to say whether it was the political atmosphere in general, the office routine of the day just closed, or the drawn drapes in Linebarger’s living room, but students at the seminar met in an appropriately conspiratorial mood that raised the level of their appreciation of their subject.

The mood was fitting if not essential to an understanding of the material. The first point that Linebarger made was the purpose of all psychological warfare is the manipulation of people so that they are not able to detect they are being manipulated.

Wartime psychwar had been a matter of undermining the enemy civilian and military will to continue to fight. The audience, in brief, was very clearly defined. Determining just who it was they wanted to manipulate and for what ends was also pretty clear to the OPC personnel. Their targets were the Communists and their allies. Having this firmly in mind, any methods of manipulation could be used, especially “black propaganda.”

Black propaganda operations, by definition, are operations in which the source of the propaganda is disguised or misrepresented in one way or another so as not to be attributable to the people who really put it out. This distinguishes black from white propaganda, such as news bulletins and similar statements issued by one side in a conflict extolling its successes, of course, or other material just as clearly designed to serve the purposes of its identifiable authors….the United States was faced everywhere with an enemy that was using an untold array of black propaganda operations to undermine the nations of the world in order to present us with a fait accompli one fine morning when we would wake up to find all these countries under Communist control. Hence, it was vital to understand all about such operations from a defense standpoint if nothing else.
There was, however, something else. This was an attitude produced by the mixture of ancient wisdom that a good offense is the best defense, and the spirit of the times that made the existence of conspiracy seem so real. It was good to feel that we were learning how to beat the Communists at their own game.

Paul Linebarger’s was a seminar in black propaganda only. He loved black propaganda operations probably because they involved the wit-sharpening he loved to talk about. Also, he was so good at them that his was one of the inventive minds that refined the entire black operations field into shades of blackness. Linebarger and his disciples decided that propaganda that was merely not attributable to the United States was not really black, only gray. To be called black it had to be something more…This left the term black propaganda for a very special kind of propaganda activity. Black propaganda operations were operations done to look like, and carefully labeled to be, acts of the Communist enemy.

Not only was the attribution given the source of the propaganda activity used as a criterion for defining what kind of propaganda it was, but equally important was the kind of message used…Black propaganda operations, being attributed to the enemy, naturally did not (support US policies). In fact, black propaganda, to be believable, supported the enemy’s positions and openly opposed those of the United States….

Linebarger was always careful to point out that to have any chance of success, these black operations must be based on good solid information about how the Communist Party we proposed to imitate actually conducted its business. He also stressed we needed an equally solid basis of knowledge about the target audience and what it would really find offensive and objectionable if the Communists were to say or do it. This, he liked to emphasize, was why such operations belonged in an intelligence organization where sufficient expertise and specific knowledge of the kind required was most likely to be found. Intelligence information, especially the kind that is clandestinely collected, should serve more than as bits and pieces of the jigsaw puzzle known as enemy intentions. It should be used directly against the enemy while it is fresh. Otherwise, the distinction between intelligence reporting and historical writing tends to blur….

Linebarger undertook a kind of group therapy approach to try to show us that tricking someone into believing black is white comes naturally to everyone and is something that is practiced from childhood.

“Look,” he began, “can’t you remember how you fooled your brothers and sisters and your father and mother? Try to remember how old you were when you first tricked one of them.”

“I want you all to go out and get a copy of David Maurer’s classic on the confidence man. It’s called ‘The Big Con,’ and its available now in a paperback edition,” Paul continued. “That little book will teach you more about the art of covert operations than anything else I know.”

“Your job and the confidence man’s are almost identical…Of course, your motives and those of the confidence men are different. He wants to fleece his mark out of his money. You want to convince a Chinese, Filipino,…a Thai, that what you want him to believe or do for the good of the U.S. government is what he thinks he himself really believes and wants to do.”

“Maurer’s book will give you a lot of ideas on how to recruit agents, how to handle them and how to get rid of them peacefully when they’re no use to you any longer. Believe me, that last one is the toughest job of all.” 

We were all soon reading “The Big Con.” The tales it told did, indeed, contain a lot of hints on how to do our jobs. For me one sentence seemed to sum it all up beautifully, “The big-time confidence games,” wrote Maurer, “are in reality only carefully rehearsed plays in which every member of the cast EXCEPT THE MARK knows his part perfectly.” 

 Image result for The Sting

He had two leading operational heroes whose activities formed the basis for lessons he wished us to learn and whose examples he thought we should follow. One was Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, the OPC station chief in Manila, and the other was E. Howard Hunt, the OPC station chief in Mexico City. Both of them had what is called “black minds,” and the daring to defy bureaucratic restraints in thinking up and executing operations. He had a number of stories to tell about the exploits of both….

 A note of caution that Linebarger added to these discussions of black operations sounds like a bell down the years. He would explain, after someone had come up with an especially clever plan for getting the Communists completely incriminated in an exceedingly offensive act, that there should be limits to black activities.

“I hate to think what would ever happen,” he once said with a prophet’s voice, “if any of you ever got out of this business and got involved in U.S. politics. These kinds of dirty tricks must never be used in internal U.S. politics. The whole system would come apart.”

Linebarger's grave

David W. Maurer was a professor of linguistics at the University of Louisville Kentucky where he was devoted to a study of street slang, which allowed him to meet an assortment of pick pockets, card sharks, street gangsters and whores working his way up the criminal chain until he got to the confidence men who ran The Big Con, cataloging their unique vocabulary along the way.

The Big Con, as opposed to the short con, utilized elaborate props and actors who took their victims for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And when it was over they didn't even know how it was done.

When I first read an early edition of The American Confidence Man in the early 1990s I called Professor Maurer at his school but he had passed away. His assistant professor however confirmed what Luc Santi says in later paperback editions of The Big Con that the movie The Sting was based on Maurer's book.

But that's not the whole story. When Maurer saw The Sting when it first came out he too recognized his story was used in the screenplay without credit or attribution, and he felt stung.

The Hollywood screenwriters who stole his story denied ever reading Maurer's book -,a non-fictional work, but they couldn't account for using the name Gondorf as a main character as played by Paul Newman.

Image result for The Sting

Newman as Gondorf

Gondorf was a real person and his name does not appear in print anywhere but in Maurer's book, so Maurer won the judgement.

 In applying the Big Con to what happened at Dealey Plaza a few things stand out:

1) The local cops are on the take - it's only a matter of identifying, paying off and working with the right ones - what the Con Artists call the Right Cop - while unbribable cop was the Wrong Coper -

2) The Mark or victim must be from out of town - no locals involved - and must be successful - with money, and greedy and a player on the make for something.

3) Getting rid of the mark and other players, as Linebarger and Maurer allude to is a problem, as David Atlee Phillips discovered with his long time agent and operative Antonio Veciana, who desperately wanted to get back into covert ops against Cuba.

The most significant thing we learn from Maurer isn't how the Big Con works - like a magic trick secret - but that in order to apply it to Dealey Plaza you have to learn the lingo - the nomenclature that's used in the course of conducting covert intelligence operations.

Just as scientists, musicians and con artists all have their own stylized vocabulary, so do the covert intelligence officers who pulled off the Dealey Plaza caper, and some are the same terms as the con artists.

For instance in “The Big Con” the whole operation is run by the “inside man,” who runs the storefront and is the key to the action, while the “roper,” or “outside man” works the street and brings in the mark.
The top officers at Task Force W - the Cuban desk in the CIA HQ basement ran their operations in the same way, as Zenith Technological Services was the fake business front for JMWAVE station in Miami, where the “inside man” was Ted Shackley, who never met the Cubans, who were run by case officers or “outside men” like David Atlee Phillips.

Peter Dale Scott began a glossary of terms that he uses to describe some of these activities and I have added more terms, and also began to list ACRONMYS and CRYPTS.

1 comment:

gerald campeau said...

Excellent Hypothesis Bill but i still say Col Pash and Shallie Brothers. Pash was a good student of Soviet,Nazie and Japanese unit 731 black opps