Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Truth Behind Robert K. Tannenbaum’s “Corrupton of Blood”

Robert K. Tannenbaum’s “Corrupton of Blood” (Signet, 1992) Reconsidered.

As the former NYC prosecutor who led the last official investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy by House Select Committee on Assassination,
I was at first glad to learn that Robert K. Tanenbaum wrote a book, since he certainly had an important story to tell.

But I was disappointed when he told me - at the 1992 COPA national conference in DC, that the book was a fictional novel rather than an accurate and historical account of how that investigation was co-opted by co-opted politicians and the CIA.

Because I could not cite it as a reliable research source in my work, my copy of Tanenbaum’s “Corruption of Blood” (Signet 1992) sat on the book shelf for years, and I only recently got around to reading it and finding it worthwhile to comment on.

At first I thought “Corruption of Blood” was the title assigned to the book by a publisher’s assistant who had a list of such titles that novels could be written around, but according to Tanenbaum it comes from the United States Constitution (Article 3, Section 3) which is said to read: “The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attained.”

Now is that the fictional part or does the Constitution really say that, and if so, what does it mean?

In the short acknowledgements, Tanenbaum credits Michael Graber as being his ghost writing collaborator and others were apparently used in other similar novels, but the “Corruption of Blood” is clear in that it is one of a series of “Butch Karp” novels by Tanenbaum, “the master of the judicial system thriller,” including “Justice Denied,” “No Lesser Plea,” “Immoral Certainty,” “Depraved Indiference,” “Reversible Error” and “Material Witness,” most based on his experiences as a New York city homicide prosecutor.

In his Author’s Note, Tanenbaum wrote: “Since it is a matter of record that the author was at one time counsel to the House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Assassinations, and charged with investigating the assassination of President Kennedy, the reader may wish to know whether the present volume tells, at last, the real story.”

“As is inevitable with a work of this type, the answer must be ambiguous. On the other hand, much of the documentary evidence mentioned here actually exists, or did exist at one time. The author observed it with his own eyes. Also of course, some of the characters mentioned are historical personages, either identified by name or thinly disguised, although they may not have done or said the things attributed to them herein. The reconstruction of the assassination itself, as given here, accords with the facts as known to the author and available in the public record, although not necessarily with the conclusions of the Select Committee.”

“On the other hand, obviously no one named Butch Karp was ever involved in the work of the House Select Committee in 1976. Despite superficial similarities, the author is a real person, while Mr. Karp is not. As to the real story of the assassination of President Kennedy, the author remains unsure, as are we all, as, in all probably, we shall ever be. The assassination has receded into mythology, and has become - like the tales of the Old West and the lives of secular saints like Washington and Lincoln - fair game for the fabulist, the moralist, and the entertainer.”

“Thus, in the present work, the shadows thrown by various culprits which we perceived vaguely through a fog of deception nearly twenty years ago, have been resolved into sharp focus by artifice. In short, what you are about to read is, merely and entirely, a work of fiction, based on a real event, like the Warren Report…in my opinion, of course!”

When I first met Tanenbaum, and he told me how he fictionalized his experiences, I looked at him - a six foot six inch tall athlete with chiseled face - the Mayor of Beverly Hills and author of  the Butch Karp novels - and wondered how come they don’t make this book into a movie?  They could get Tanenbaum to play himself, and develop it into a cable TV series like the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire, but no, instead Hollywood makes lone-nutter movie instead.

Mixed in with the obvious fictional parts, there are a number of vivid descriptions of circumstances that ring true and appear to based on reality, including how Tanenbaum was hired by Richard Sprague, the first chief counsel to the Congressional Committee, how they were given important and significant documents by a senator from the Church Intelligence Committee, how the committee was compromised by the CIA and co-opted by Congressman (Gonzales and Dodd), how Soviet defectors fit into the picture and how Sprague’s loyal and diligent secretary saved his records from being confiscated by Gonzales.

“Corruption of Blood” features Tanenbaum as Butch Karp, the crusading senior New York City prosecutor who is recruited by the newly appointed chief counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) - Bert Crane, a thinly disguised Richard A. Sprague, the high powered Philadelphia attorney who previously prosecuted the head of the United Mine Workers for the murder of a union rival.

The fictional Butch Karp’s fictional wife Marlene, “regarded Karp’s trip to Philadelphia as merely a good excuse for a day off and had asked him to bring home a cheese-steak and a Liberty Bell piggy bank. Karp was scarcely more enthusiastic as he rode the elevator up to Crane’s Market Street office. The car was done in dark, gold-flecked mirrors, with shinny baroque brass rails and trim. A fancy building, and a fancy office, he observed when he got there: dark wood panels set off the shine of the mahogany furniture and the blonde receptionist.”

“Crane had a huge corner office with a good view of Ben Franklin hanging in the cloudy sky…They left immediately for lunch, which was taken in one of those expensive, dark, quiet, saloon-restaurants that thrive around every major courthouse in the nation by purveying rich food and large drinks to lawyers and politicians and providing a comfortably dim venue for deals.”

“Crane was a good sized man in his early fifties, who exhibited the perpetual boyishness that seems to go with being a descendant of the Founding Fathers and rich. He had a sharp nose, no lips to speak of, light blue eyes, and a graying ginger hair, which he wore swept back from his high, protuberant brow.”

Crane: “First, some background. What do you know about the JFK assassination? All right, let me say this. If the victim had been a minor dope dealer, and you had Lee Harvey Oswald in custody as a suspect, and the cops brought the evidence presented to the Warren Commission to you as a homicide case, you would’ve laughed in their faces and given Oswald a walk. You wouldn’t have even taken that trash to a grand jury. And they served this up on the most important homicide in American history.”

So Tanenbaum, aka “Butch Karp,” is recruited to lead the Congressional investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy by Richard Sprague, aka “Bert Crane,” who is also supervising a similar investigation of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., as part of a temporary Congressional Committee led by Congressman Henry Gonzales (“George Flores”) and Pat Dodd (aka “Henry Hank Dobbs). 

Crane (Sprague): “…’It’s never been any big secret. As a result, almost from the start the Warren Commission has been under fire (for) three main reasons.’ He held up a big, freckled hand and counted on his fingers.”

“’One, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that even if the conclusions of the commission happened to be correct, no legitimate case had been presented. The chain of evidence for critical material was a hopeless mess. The autopsy was a joke. There was no follow-up on possibly critical witnesses. Two: The conclusions are inherently implausible. The existing amateur film of the actual assassination locks in the time sequence of the shots striking Kennedy, which means that if you want all of the shots to come from Oswald’s rifle you have to make some fairly hairy assumptions about what happened to the three shots Warren assumed that Oswald got off. The magic bullet and all that - you remember the magic bullet? Also, ‘assumed’ is a word I don’t like hearing around homicide investigations, but that’s nearly all Warren is made of. Look - you know and I know that crazy things can happen to bullets. I wouldn’t want to rule anything out a priori. But you also know that if you’re going to make a claim that a missile did a bunch of things that no missile is likely to have done, then your ballistics and your forensics have to be immaculate. Which in this case they are distinctly not. Three - and this is the tough one. It wasn’t some junkie who got killed - it was the president of the United States, a man with important political enemies, some of whom may have been involved in the investigation itself. Then we have the supposed assassin, who is not our garden-variety nut, but a former radar operator with a security clearance who defected to the Soviet Union, who was involved with Cuban weirdos, who had a Russian wife, and who was killed in police custody by a guy who had close ties with organized crime.’”

“Crane was grinning broadly now, ‘This is just the attitude I want. Look - ….I want you because you’re a professional homicide prosecutor, and not a politician or a bureaucrat. You’ve been in charge of hundreds of homicide investigations. The whole Kennedy material has never been approached from that perspective by a real pro, ever. That’s what was wrong with the Warren operation.’”

“’…Anyway, the fact that you’re not interested in political wheeling and dealing is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. That’s what I’m for: I’ll run interference while….you do the real investigative work. Now, as to the possibilities for really doing something: I think they’re good. The journalist material has reached a critical mass. That stuff has to be examined by a professional team, and either tossed out for good or confirmed. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Church Committee, has come up with some amazing stuff. I think that’s part of what’s triggering the House investigation.’”

“In the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, a small group of men is sorting through stacks of paper. The paper has been removed from the filing cabinets throughout the Agency in response to a subpoena duces tecum from the Church committee, a body established by the United States Senate to investigate certain suspected excesses of the CIA. They are obliged by law, and as federal employees, to comply with this order to yield documents, and they are complying, if reluctantly. The men have been trained in strict secrecy since early adulthood, and more than that, they have been trained to be judges of what must remain secret in order to protect national security, and more than that, they have come to believe that they themselves are the best judges of what the national security is.”

“Two of the men are working with ink rollers and thick markers, blotting out the sections of these documents deemed too sensitive for the eyes of United States senators. Some documents have had nearly everything but the addresses and the letterhead blotted out in this way. They have done this many times before and are good at it.”

“One man walks among the desks, picking up piles of finished documents, indexing their reference numbers, and placing them in a carton for delivery to the Senate. It grows late, but the CIA is, of course, a twenty-four-hour, seven-day-a-week operation. Nevertheless, these are all senior employees and not as young as they were once were, when several of them were actual spies. They are anxious to see their suburban beds.”

“The man picking up the documents yawns, shares a slight joke with one of the men at the desks, and picks up by mistake the wrong pile, a thin stack of paper comprising four brief documents that were by no means ever intended to be seen by senators without being reduced to illegibility. He indites their numbers on his list, tosses them into the carton on the floor and moves on.”

At the DC offices of the HSCA: “…He realized of course, that Bea Sondergard was one of the anonymous, self-effacing, and ruthlessly efficient people, almost always women, almost always in their middle years, who hold the fabric of modern civilization together by sheer force of will. There must be at least one in every organization, and in ordre to have any sensible interaction with bureaucracy, the first step is to find out who she is. Bea Sondergard was the one in Crane’s outfit.”

“…He observed as much to Crane, who chuckled, ‘Those are congressional staff, not human beings. Congressional staff have the worst working conditions and longest hours of anybody in the country. The whole place is one huge sweatshop. The laws of this great nation are written by twenty-five-year-olds in the last stages of exhaustion, breathing the farts of their neighbors. That’s why the government works so well.’”

“…This Kennedy thing is a can of worms, with no real political payoff for anyone. The House leadership launched into it very reluctantly….My own theory was that it was a payoff to the black caucus in an election year. Launching a King investigation is something they can sell at home, and its kind of hard for the House Democrat leadership to buck something having to do with King. One you’re looking into King, Kennedy kind of follows. Plus the stuff about federal agencies not being forthcoming with Warren, the stuff that’s turning up in the Church Committee’s work. And the assassination nuts keep yawpling at their heels. A lot of people believe it and it has to be answered. O’Neil’s the key player, of course, and he hates this kind of thing, and consented very reluctantly. Warren is gospel with Tip. The old ‘protecting the family business.’”

Henry “Hank” Dobbs (D. Conn.): “…One assumption some people have is that the mystery behind JFK is a Dallas mystery. Oswald’s life there. Ruby and the cops. What really happened in the half hour or so after the first shots. George (Rep. Henry Gonzales) is connected to the people who run Dallas, and to the extent that the investigation might affect them, especially in a negative way, George has got to be on top of it. Does that make sense?”

“Two things interest him (Gonzales), Hispanic affairs and migrants - to his credit he’s sincere about helping his people - and energy, because he’s in the oil patch down there and that’s how he gets elected. His interest in the Kennedy thing is two fold: first, if you do come up with something rich, it’ll get him on TV in Dallas…”

Dobbs: “…My constituents. The people of the great state of Connecticut are mainly interested in keeping the insurance industry happy and making sure that when ships and weapons get built, they get built in the great state of Connecticut, as a result of which I spend most of my time in the Banking and the Armed Services Committees.”

“…I think practically everyone understands that when Kennedy was assassinated, the country started on a downward slope. I think it had more of an effect on the country than Lincoln’s did, because Lincoln had mainly finished his work and Kennedy had barely started his. Not that I’m comparing Kennedy to Lincoln - that’s not the point. The point is that the country was tipped out of one track and into another, which we’re still on and which is no good….Actually, as much as I morn his loss, …It was mainly because of what happened afterward. The government didn’t tell the truth about what happened. Some people decided that a higher national purpose would be served if the facts about the assassination were bent to prove a point….Have you read the (Warren) report?...That lie was the forerunner of the lies in service of a higher national purpose that got us into Vietnam, and kept us there until the army and the country was nearly wrecked. It was the premise for all the stuff that Nixon’s cronies did. The good of the country, as any bozo wants to define it, is more important than the truth….After a while the people stop believing anything the government says…And it all started in Dallas, and what we made of it in the Warren Report. If we’re ever going to get the country back on the right track, we have to go back to the point when we ran off the rails. That’s why I’m pushing this investigation, my little favor…for the United States of America

“…The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation. Church is the chair, but Dick Schaller is the leading light. They subpoenaed a shitload of stuff from the CIA and most of it was either trash or blanked out - par for the course with the spooks - but there was one incredibly juicy little package that came through untouched. Some of it bears heavily on the JFK assassination…my guy says it’s dynamite…..The(ir) investigation is finished, the report is out. The last thing he needs is to be sitting on something this big that he didn’t use.”

“Document A appears to be an internal CIA report from the winter of 1962 describing the composition and capabilities of a Cuban émigré group called Brigada Sixty-one (Alpha 66) and its involvement in Operation Mongoose....which was designed to launch guerrilla raids on Cuban targets and which included a plot to kill Fidel Castro. The burden of the report is that even though President Kennedy had ordered the end of such attempts as part of the Cuban missile crisis deal with the Soviets, Brigada Sixty-one, with the help of the CIA, or some parts of it, had continued to try to infiltrate Cuba and do the regime some damage. The key section for our purposes is a list of CIA contract agents working with Brigada Sixty-one, among whom we find the name of ‘Lee Henry Oswald.’ Also mentioned in this report is the name of the project’s CIA handler, somebody named Maurice Bishop, and the name of a Cuban banker named Antonio Veroa…”

“Document B appears to be an after-action report, to the same Bishop, in which an actual attempt on Castro’s life by Veroa and a gentleman named Guido Mosca, with some others, is described. This is in 1961. Apparently Mr. Veroa was able to rent, in his mother-in-law’s name, an apartment in Havana overlooking a plaza where Castro was scheduled to give a speech and was able to install Mosca and the others there with a hunting rifle, a machine gun, and a rocket launcher. The attempt failed…”

“Documents C and D are two-page memoranda on CIA letterhead. C is dated November 30, 1963 from Richard Helms to a group of CIA senior staff, directing them, in so many words, to stonewall the Warren Commission about any connection between Oswald and the Cubans working for the CIA and about any connection between anyone that turns up in the assassination investigation and Mongoose or any later CIA operations against Cuba. D is dated June 12, 1968, from….a special assistant in the office of the director of Central Intelligence at the time, to a group of senior CIA personnel, directing them to harass certain witnesses being called by Jim Garrison for the Clay Shaw trial.”

“The last one, E….is a transcription of an interview conducted by one of Schaller’s investigators…during an early meeting of the Warren Commission, Allen Dulles informed Warren that he had evidence that Oswald was a Soviet agent, and that if this got out, the American people would demand a retaliation that would certainly lead to thermonuclear exchange. The other item is a report of a colloquy between old Earl and some of the senior commission staff. The staffer was objecting to taking at face value the CIA’s assurance that Oswald had no intelligence connections. Were they justified in ruling out conspiracy so early in the investigation? Warren replied that there was to be no investigation in that area and that, quote, ‘Our purpose is to assure the American people that the president was killed by a single man acting alone.’”

“…This whole cover-up is designed to do just two things: one, make it impossible to determine exactly how and why and by whom JFK was shot, and two, to obscure who and what Oswald was. The things’re connected, and they’re connected through the CIA….”

“…’Assassinating the president is not treason…Even a coup is not treason. Treason shall consist in levying war against the United States and giving aid and comfort to its enemies. It’s in the Constitution, the only crime defined in the Constitution. So forget treason. Conspiracy to commit murder, interfering with an investigation, tampering with and withholding evidence - that’s different, and we may have found evidence of all of that. It’s enough.’”

“…At four-thirty, Bea Sondergard bust into Karp’s office without knocking. She was pale and wide eyed. ‘Flores (Gonzales) sent the cops. They want Bert (Sprague) out by close of the business. They say they have orders to seal his files.’….Two men in the uniform of the Capital Police, the security force that answers to Congress, came striding purposefully down the hall. They stopped in front of him, and one of them, a large moon-faced man of about fifty, said,… ‘We got orders to remove him and take charge of all government material in his possession.’”

“’No,’ said Karp,…’the full committee rescinded Mr. Flores’s orders a few hours ago…’”

“…After a tense half-minute, the cop said, ‘I’ll have to check with headquarters,’…

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