Monday, October 20, 2014

AARC Bethesda Day 3 Saturday

SATURDAY - September 27, 2014 – Morning Session 


Brenda Brody introduced Peter Kornbluh, the director of the NSA – the “other” NSA – the National Security Archive, who has frequently and successfully sued the government for the release of sensitive information, especially about the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the coup in Chile and other Deep Political events.  [The National Security Archive]

As also recounted in his new book (“Back Channel to Cuba – The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana” w/ William M. LeoGrande), Kornblugh gave an interesting and detailed report on the backchannel negotiations between JFK and Castro in the months and days leading up to the assassination, without actually saying they were related to his murder. It was all done through improvised channels, Kornbluh said, noting that “there is a department of dirty tricks but no department of peaceful tricks,” and Kennedy certainly preferred talks and negotiations over violence and war.

[Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana by William M. LeoGrande | 9781469617633 | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble / Project MUSE - Back Channel to Cuba / Back Channel to Cuba : NPR]

While I didn’t get a chance to ask my question to him while he was on stage, I did catch up to him just beyond the door and talked to him for a few minutes with a few others who wanted to follow up on his presentation – Morley, Simpich and Lesar.

Did the anti-Castro Cubans learn of the supper-secret backchannel negotiations? That’s what I want to know.

I mentioned the fact that Arthur Slesinger told Anthony Summers that if the anti-Castro Cubans did learn about the secret talks that would have certainly given them motivation to kill Kennedy, if they needed any more after the Bay of Pigs, but Kornblouh responded that while they might have, he didn’t come across any indication that the anti-Castro Cubans learned about the talks.

Before the others got to him, I asked Kornblouh another quick question – did he think the death of the key intermediary - network TV reporter Lisa Howard suspicious? Kornblough described Howard as “the Barbara Walters of her day,” and described her role in detail, but he did not think her drug overdose death suspicious.

“No,” Kornblouh said, “I looked at that very closely and she was depressed and got a prescription for 20 pills and added a zero and got 200 and bought a soda and went and killed herself.”

I thought this suspicious, not only because of the similar deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Kilgallon, but because from what I had learned, she died on a Sunday when the drug store was closed and so had to get the pharmacist to open up just to serve her. And then he sells her a Coke and lets her kill herself in his parking lot? Anyway, call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not convinced that the death of Lisa Howard isn’t suspicious.

In the meantime, down in the Breakout Room, Patrick Speer (DVD “The Mysterious Death of Number 35”) did his talk on “The Single-Bullet Theory, Voodoo Science, and Zombie Lies” that Marie Fonzi later spoke highly of. I also agree with Pat’s assessment of the conference at the Ed Forum [Ed Forum Link]
The Breakout Room should have been on the same floor as the main conference room so people could easily move back and forth, but for the most part, the conference ran smoothly and was a major success.

For the first time I met the prolific writer Lamar Waldron ("Withheld in Full," “Legacy of Secrecy” with Thom Hartman, “Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy and the Murder of JFK” who gave me a copy of his book “Watergate: The Hidden History / Nixon, The Mafia, and the CIA.”  We had an intense but short conversation on some esoteric details of the JFK case – he gave me a new name – Frank Ippolito, and we joined the mutual admiration society, as I think Waldron’s primary theory holds water and is basically what happened. That is - a CIA plot to kill Castro was hijacked and redirected to kill JFK at Dealey Plaza, and this is what John Newman is coming to understand when he finds a “plot within a plot.”
While the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro get all the attention, I think the Valkyrie plot as described to the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Desmond FitzGerald on September 24, 1963 [See: Higgins Memo] is the specific plan that was redirected to JFK at Dealey Plaza, and not one of the earlier Mafia plans. While the Mob has used snipers as hit men, as they did with Bugsy Siegel, they don’t do disinformation and black propaganda, a key ingredient in the Dealey Plaza operation.

Waldron’s talk “Withheld in Full” also reflects on the extreme number of significant records still being with held for reasons of national security and as detailed in his book “Legacy of Secrecy.”

Relegated to the Breakout Room, Gaeton Fonzi’s widow Marie Fonzi (“The Last Investigation” by the late Gaeton Fonzi with introduction by Marie Fonzi) did a talk called “On the Home Front,” and later gave me a typed transcript of a statement Fonzi recorded  for his Third Decade conference speech that was played at the Wectht symposium: 

“In 1976, more than a decade after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – and long after a majority of Americans had decided they didn’t believe the Warren Report – the United States Congress announced it was going to conduct a [quote] ‘full and complete investigation.’ - Congress lied. Congress said that its new investigation would be more impartial than the Warren Commission’s, would examine with unbiased finality every piece of evidence, and would explore the possible involvement of every individual or group with the means and motivation to kill the President. Congress lied. Congress said that its probe would debunk all the wild theories and crazy speculation that had sprouted over the years and that it would confront all the unanswered questions surrounding the mystery of the assassination. Congress lied. And the leaders of Congress’s new investigation said that it would definitely be the last investigation. That, finally was the truth. I believe there will never be another official government investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination.”
Marie should be credited in large part for convincing Antonio Veciana to come out and make a rare public appearance and said, “Gaeton wasn’t very pushy, I’m more pushy than he was,” and she helped get some things done that might not have otherwise. [I will be writing another separate sidebar on Veciana-Fonzi and will post it soon.]

In the main room Dr. Donald Thomas (“Hear No Evil”) gave his talk on the acoustical evidence from the Dallas Police dictabelt tape, and  is in his element here. While he was a little off base trying to figure out the Tippit murder, he is on more firm ground with “JFK Acoustical Evidence:  Challenge and Corroboration,” which reviews the efforts to determine how many shots are captured on the Dallas PD dictabelt tape.
While I was in the Breakout Room giving an Update on the Air Force One radio transmission tapes, [See: Links], Temple University professor Joan Mellen (“A Farewell To Justice” and “The Great Game in Cuba”) was in the center ring giving a much talked about presentation on the “CIA and the HSCA:  How CIA Controlled the HSCA and the Writing of its Final Report.”

I call Joan Mellen the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” of JFK researchers because of her flamboyant manner and style, and unceasing critique of others and their theories, she has a pin to pinch everybody, but then, behind your back, she will say something nice about you, even if she doesn’t agree with you.

People at my talk were getting tweets on the fireworks at Mellen’s talk upstairs, and I look forward to seeing the video of what she had to say. She later told me she was unhappy not being able to make her case the day before, when the HSCA investigators Lopez and Hardway were on, as what she had to say complimented what they were talking about.

Professor David Kaiser (“The Road to Dallas” 2008) updated his book with a talk on “What We’ve Learned Since The Road to Dallas,” and while he believes Oswald was the shooter who killed JFK, his belief that the conspiracy was based in a Mafia related plot has been expanded somewhat, and he seems open to persuasion that other factors contributed to the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in the Breakout Room, a disenchanted Jim DiEugenio (“Reclaiming Parkland” / “Destiny Betrayed”) would have preferred to be under the Big Top upstairs, rather than a sideshow in the Breakout Room, but he gave a very persuasive presentation on JFK’s foreign policies: “Who Was John F. Kennedy, and Why Was He Murdered?”  Jim reportedly was later given time to talk under the Big Top.
William Paris, my ride to DC, brought along his father, a retired US Army Colonel, who served during the Kennedy administration and he said he was especially impressed with DiEugenio’s talk, and learned some things that he didn’t know when they were actually going down.


Cyril Wecht, who also spoke at the other conference on the other side of town, regaled us once again in his talk “Two Autopsies. Two Cover-ups – JFK, RFK,” and explained how relevant the proper RFK autopsy is in trying to understand the botched autopsy of JFK.

Also on hand was Cyril’s son Ben, an administrator at the Cyril Wecht Center for Forensic Science and Law at Duquese University in Pittsburgh, and organizer of the October conference. I have suggested to Ben that he consider holding a special symposium focused on the topic of the increasing use of acoustical evidence in high profile cases such as JFK, RFK, Kent State, Trevor Martin, etc., and he said he is seriously considering it.

After so many years Dr. Wecht can give his talk in his sleep, as can Gary Aguliar, whose talk was on “Junk Science and the Death of JFK – What We Now Know that We Didn’t Know Then.”

Eric Hamburg (“JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone & Me” / "Bond of Secrecy" by St. John Hunt) was supposed to give his talk on   “Conversations with Fabian Escalante and E. Howard Hunt — Two views of the Kennedy assassination,” but I didn’t catch it and couldn’t find him in the revised program.

I attended the Breakout Room report on “The Raleigh Call and the Fingerprints of Intelligence” by Dr. Grover P. Proctor Jr. Dr. Proctor gave a clear and concise report on the evidence and witness reports on the phone call Oswald tried to make while incarcerated in the Dallas jail, a call that could have led to a former US Army counter-intelligence officer who was living in North Carolina. Without speculating or embracing any conspiracy theory, Dr. Proctor just laid out the facts and allowed for you to make up your own mind, and he promised to keep everyone updated on any future developments at his web site.

On the other hand, there was more speculation in Dr. Randolph Robertson’s talk “The JFK Assassination – 5 shots + 3 shooters + 3 sniper’s nests = CONSPIRACY.” Robertson, a AARC board member, made a study synchronizing the acoustical evidence with the Zapruder film and concluding there were five shots from three different directions. “There is no longer a debate over the fact that there was a conspiracy, only a debate over how many shooters fired from how many locations.”

Dr. Robertson then joined Dr. David Mantik in a discussion of the “Harper fragment,” a chunk of JFK’s scull that was found in Dealey Plaza and not seen by either the Parkland or Bethesda doctors. Dr. Mantik later gave a Breakout Room session on “JFK autopsy X-rays, photographs and medical evidence,” and when I sat with him at dinner that night, he expressed interest in the Valkyrie plot as it relates to Dealey Plaza, so I sent him the relevant links. [JFKcountercoup: Valkyrie At Dealey Plaza - Updated ]

                                                         Professor G. Robert Blakey 
                                                                 Photo Brent Lyons 

In the early afternoon session miss titled THE CUBNS, THE CIA, AND THE COVERUP Prof. G. Robert Blakey, who had missed his scheduled session the day before, made it in time to talk on “The Culture of Secrecy and Democratic Accountability,” which touched heavily on his role as the second chief counsel to the HSCA.

After his talk I sat down with Blakey and told him how I had obtained Jim Braden’s Camden NJ arrest report and gave it to him when he requested it while writing his book on the mob. I also told him how I had given a copy of that report to Richard Sprague, who didn’t turn his records over to the HSCA when he was fired, but kept them and took them back to his Philadelphia law office, where they reside today.

This is the case even after I told the ARRB in my public testimony that Sprague had his HSCA papers, but they never obtained them, and the NARA are only just now getting around to asking Sprague for his HSCA files that according to the law should be included in the JFK Collection and open to the public. Blakey just shrugged.

David Kaiser (“Road to Dallas” 2008) followed Blakey and gave his talk on “What We’ve Learned Since The Road to Dallas,” while in the Breakout Room Lisa Pease talked about her special interest, “James Jesus Angleton and the Warren Commission,” and detailed there interesting relationship.


A panel discussion on “Why Won’t the Media Cover the Story?” pretty much repeated what has been said before, over and over again, at almost every previous conference, including the Wecht Conference, where there were two panels on the subject. Afterwards, Jeff Morely said it would be last panel on the media and JFK that he would participate in, and I agree, it has all been said before and there’s nothing new here under the sun.

At some point in the proceedings,  during a panel discussion, David Talbot called in to talk and answer some questions about his current research on Allen Dulles, the former CIA director and Warren Commissioner - “the chairman of the board,” who Talbott said, had connections “everywhere,” never considered himself retired and continued to connect with operational people in the CIA long after he was fired.

Dulles, said Talbot, was not motivated by money, but power, and we look forward to his upcoming book “The Devil’s Chessboard,” which will be published in 2015.

Andrew Kreig (“Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters”), who assisted Policoff in the preparation for the conference, did a talk on “The JFK Cover-up’s Long Shadow.”

Walt Brown (“The Warren Omission” and JFK Master Chronology) was supposed to give a talk on “The Dulles Commission – the 50th Anniversary,” but since he was relegated to the Breakout Room, he decided to pass and didn’t bother to show up at all. He apparently does have a scheduled appearance at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on November 22, 2014, which should be interesting.

Russ Baker (“Family of Secrets”) was very convincing in his talk on “The Role of the WC Staff in the Cover-Up,” which has direct implications on the recent discovery of new Warren Commission documents among the personal papers of a former WC attorney, documents that apparently are not part of the JFK Collection at the National Archives.

It wouldn’t have been a conference without Robert Groden (“The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald” / “The Killing of the President” / “Absolute Proof”) who did his talk on “A View From the Grassy Knoll,”  a view that he now knows intimately from being there a few days every week. Robert’s new book “Absolute Proof” is one of the best of the new books, over 1,000 photos, every one clear and glossy, and with explanatory captions that make it worthwhile, and not overpriced at $75. 

                                                                  Robert Groden 
                                                                Photo Brent Lyons 

I asked Bob about a new reference in his book and he explained that he had interviewed a former TSBD secretary Geneva Reid, who told him that she was with Oswald handing him change when the shots rang out. Reid had requested this not be published until after she died, and she has since passed away, so Bob included this new story in his latest book.

Meanwhile, back on the main stage, a most interesting dialog was acted out on stage by eight professional actors – a dramatization of the remarks of Warren Commissioners at a special, secret meeting at which they discussed the rumor that Lee Harvey Oswald was an undercover FBI agent, a unique and effective way of understanding the issues that were brought up at that important meeting. The audio recording of this reading should make a good radio program.

For the record, the professional actors who played out this vocal dramatization were recruited by Ed Ashner were: John Heard (complete with bow tie) portraying Allen W. Dulles, John Lescault – Chief justice Earl Warren, Michael Quinlan – Gerald Ford, Michael Willis – John Sherman Cooper, Dave Fendig – Hale Boggs, Ed Lieberman -  John J. McCloy and Andy Brownstein as Richard B. Russell. Brian Conners played Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, and Robert Conners stood by to fill in if necessary.
This recording should make a good FM radio program if formatted correctly.

The Saturday night banquet speaker Dr. Peter Kuznic (“The Untold History of the United States”) is the American University history professor who has collaborated with Oliver Stone in producing a series of a dozen one hour historical documentaries, of which we viewed the one about the Kennedy administration, which puts the assassination in its proper, historical cold war perspective. [Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick Discuss "The Untold History of the United States" - YouTube / Oliver Stone: The Untold History of JFK's Assassination - YouTube]

Stone came on a video remote to talk briefly and to say hello to many of his friends who were there, and Stone’s primary researcher for the JFK movie, Jane Rosconi, gave a brief talk, but Kuznic said it best when he mentioned that we must get this information out to the schools and to young people in order to get a new generation interested in these subjects and pursing this research into the future.

At the banquet I sat with Joan Mellen, Malcolm Blunt, two young professionals from Cleveland, Mike Nurko and a gentleman from Belgium - Flip De Mey, who gave us each a copy of his new book “Cold Case Kennedy,” which takes the proper forensic investigative approach to the assassination – the only way that works.

Ed Lopez, Russ Baker, Marie Fonzi and Veciana's translator Fernando 
                                                                  Photo - Brent Lyons 

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