Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Tipping Point - Revived

BK Notes: In private emails I made note of the fact that I read Vincent Bugliosi's "Reclaiming History" and found a few interesting facts in it that I could find no where else - specifically that Asst. Dallas DA Bill Alexander was going to charge Oswald with "furthering a communist conspiracy" and was goaded on to do so by Joe Goulden - one of David Atlee Phillips media assets. David Kaiser requested the source and I gave it  to him - Bugliosi - and CAPA attorney Larry Schnapf looked it up and said that I misrepresented what Bugliosi says. Well here's my original article from seven years ago, with the complete original quotes - so you can decide if I misrepresent anything. - This is a synopsis - about half of the original article. Notes to be added when I can.. 


The Tipping-Point was the moment the big switch occurred cover stories from what Peter Dale Scott has called the “Phase One” – Cuban Castro Commie conspiracy behind what happened at Dealey Plaza, to the “Phase Two” – placing sole responsibility on a Deranged Lone Nut. [1]

This specific point in time must have come early – sometime shortly after the assassination – between the time Oswald was associated with the murder and while his background was being discovered and disseminated within the government and by the mass media.

From what can reasonably be determined, it was LBJ himself who made this decision, probably with the advice of J. Edgar Hoover, Cliff Carter, Walter Jenkins and McGeorge Bundy, sometime between 7PM and 9 PM, EST, while LBJ, Carter and Jenkins were ensconced in the Vice President’s office in the Executive Office Building (EOB) next door to the White House.

This decision is significant on many levels but especially because by doing so LBJ asserted his authority early on and separated himself from those who planned the assassination and “Phase One” cover story that Castro was behind the assassination. By not adhering to it, and instead deciding that the assassin was to be considered alone and deranged LBJ distanced himself from the conspiracy and utililzed the “Phase One” story as an excuse to avoid a nuclear war to raffirm the “Phase Two” version of events. 

The official switch had to have occurred before the day was done, and although there is no direct evidence of it among the conversations on the existing AF1 radio transmission tapes, it may be a subject edited from the existing tapes, or occurred before Air Force One took off. [2]

Generals Clifton and McHugh were aboard Air Force One, as well as LBJ aides Jack Valenti and Cliff Carter, all of whom could have communicated with others by telephone over secure Whie House Communications Agency - WHCA circuits while Air Force One was still on the ground, or over one of the  radios in use while Air Force One was in the air. Although there are no such conversations on the existing tapes, there are reliable reports that such things were discussed. T.H. White, William Manchester, Pierre Salinger, Jim Bishop and Maj. Harold Patterson have all referred to radio conversations that are not on the tapes, including the determination that Oswald was the lone assassin. [3]

This decision was vocally and emphatically expressed on Friday night when LBJ’s aide Cliff Carter telephoned Dallas authorities and ordered them not to charge Oswald as being part of a communist conspiracy because it could start a war. [4]

So while it doesn’t appear that the new president was overtly concerned that war was eminent, as he didn’t discuss it on the record or even communicate with the Generals aboard Air Force One, the Joint Chiefs of Staff or Secretary of Defense, that war was a possibility was clearly on his mind. We know LBJ was thinking about it because he wondered aloud, during the flight home, whether “the missiles were flying.”

He also used the threat of nuclear war to get the Dallas authorities to change the wording on the warrant charging Oswald as the assassin, so it didn’t read “in furtherance of an international communist conspiracy.” He then used the possibility of a communist conspiracy and nuclear war as an excuse again to get a reluctant Earl Warren to chair the Commission, which was charged with determining there was no conspiracy, foreign or otherwise.

The timing of the Cliff Carter’s calls to Texas officials, in the name of the White House (8-9 P.M.) seems to indicate that this occurred while LBJ, Walter Jenkins and Carter were in the Vice President’s office at the Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.

As soon as they landed at Andrews, LBJ gave his brief speech before the TV cameras and also quickly and briefly conferred with Secretary of Defense McNamara, National Security Advisor Bundy and Under Secretary of State George Ball (since Dean Rusk was on the Cabinet Plane). From reports, he simply asked them each individually if there were any decisions he had to make immediately, and they each replied no. [5]

According to LBJ’s aide Jack Valenti, they then boarded helicopters to the White House lawn, and walked to the Vice President’s suite of offices in the ExecutiveOffice Building. [6]


Bill Clinton, in his review of Robert A. Caro’s “The Passage of Power” wrote, “Then tragedy changed everything. Within hours of President Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson was sworn in as president, without the pomp of an inauguration, but with all the powers of the office. At first he was careful in wielding them. He didn’t move into the Oval Office for days, running the executive branch from Room 274 in the Executive Office Building. The family didn’t move into the White House residence until Dec. 7. But soon enough, it would become clear that the power Johnson had grasped for his entire life was finally his.”  [7]

Jack Valenti – in “A Very Human President” (1973, p3) wrote:

“It was a few minutes after 6:00 P.M., EST, Friday, November 22, 1963. Air Force One bearing the new president, and the body of the slain John F. Kennedy, had just landed after a flight from Dallas.” [8]

“The trip of eighteen miles by chopper from Andrews to the White House took seven minutes…The president’s chopper had landed at 6:32 P.M.,…The president was still at the entrance to the Diplomatic Reception Room, talking to Under Secretary of State George Ball, and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. I joined them and we all began to walk, not through the Diplomatic Reception Room, but through the Rose Garden to the walkway that led from the Mansion to the West Wing. We strode to the doorway of the West Wing, but not to the president’s Oval Office. I found it strange that the president would not go to his office. I learned later that LBJ had decided not to use JFK’s office but for the time being to continue using his vice-presidential suite in the Executive Office Building. That is why we descended the stairs from the West Wing first floor to the basement and through this underfloor to the exit at the West Basement. We walked across the private street dividing the West Wing from the EOB and thence up the elevator to the third floor vice-presidential office.”

“The vice-presidential office was a three room suite and within minutes it was crowded. The president ensconced himself in the large, high-ceilinged, fireplace room, comfortably but not luxuriously furnished. Shortly before 7:00 P.M., I escorted Senator J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ambassador Averell Harriman into the office. I fidgeted outside, in the middle of what would have appeared to be an objective onlooker to be a mélange of confusion. No one of the Johnson aides, Marie Fehmer, his secretary; the late Cliff Carter, his chief political agent; Bill Moyers, nor any of the rest, was quite certain of what lay ahead. We were all busy on the phone and trying to assemble what measure of office discipline we could construct. Supervising all of this was Walter Jenkins, the number one assistant to the president, a privileged post no one in the Johnson entourage contested, nor chose to. Jenkins, a mild and scholarly man, generous to his colleagues, full of integrity, endlessly at work, sat in the background and, as usual, was on the phone constantly with his notebook in front of him, transcribing conversations as he talked in that swift Gregg shorthand he knew so well.”  [9]

[BK Notes: Where are Jenkin’s notes today? Are they at the LBJ Library or NARA?]

It is not known, or yet established, whether the WHCA did anything to secure the telephones in the Vice Presidential Suite (VPS) in the Executive Office Building (EOB), as they did at the Elms, LBJ’s residence, or whether they used ordinary insecure commercial circuits, but they certainly made a lot of phone calls while there.  [10]

There was also another office in the EOB that the WHCA did re-wire and connect, via radio, to Air Force One – and that was the office of Gerald Behn, the head of the Secret Service White House Detail. Behn, who ordinarily traveled with the President, did not go on the Texas trip and was scheduled to take a vacation instead, but inexplicitly went to his office that morning and ended up coordinating the Secret Service post-assassination response from the phones and communicating with Air Force One via a radio connection set up in his office. [11]


6:30 (CST?) In Dallas, Dallas Police Homicide Capt. Will Fritz, Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels and Assistant Dallas District Attorneys Alexander and Allen conferred over dinner at the Majestic Café, evaluating the evidence against Oswald, considered the possibility of conspiracy and discussed what the charges against Oswald should be. [12]

7:00 P.M - LBJ talked with former President Harry Truman.
7:10 - LBJ conversed over the phone with former President Dwight Eisenhower.
7: 20 – LBJ on the phone with Sargent Shriver
7:25 – LBJ calls JE Hoover. Orders full investigation and report.
7:30 - LBJ writes Caroline and John John notes [13]
7:40 – Valenti: “At about 7:40 the congressional leadership came to call. They were ushered in. I sat quietly near the wall of the office, listening to the president importing to them for their help and their counsel.” Shortly after 8 PM, as Valenti puts it, “LBJ sat at his desk to have some soup. It as his first food since his morning breakfast in Fort Worth.” [14]

[BK Notes: Also see LBJ official schedule from LBJ Library: JFKCountercoup2: LBJ 11/22/63]

6:45  McGeorge Bundy in EOB
6:50 Taxewell Shepard
6:55 Secretary Harriman and Sen. Fulbright
7:05 f President Truman
7:10 t General Eisenhower
7:29 t sergeant Shriver
7:35 Mac Kilduff
7:36 Eating dinner in 274 EOB
7:40 Congressional delegation : McCormick, Hale Boggs, Halleck, Albert, Mansfield, Dirksen, Humphrey, Smathers, Kuchel, Morton
8:06 Mac Kilduff, George Reedy, Bill Moyers
8:25 t Ted Sorenson
8:31  f Speaker McCormack
8:45   Kilduff
9:00 f Sen. Russell
9:06 t Justice Goldberg
9:10 t Dick McGuire
9:25 Depart 8212 EOB 

[BK Notes: the abov document created by LBJ's secretaries does not reflect any of the outgoing calls to Texas authorities we know were made by Cliff Carter between 8:30 and 9:30 PM in the inner office behind closed doors, though the Kilduff reference might be regarding the subject of these calls - the charges against Oswald]

The VP office in the EOB #274 is a three room affair, with a fireplace in one room, televisions and a telephone in each room. Beginning at around 8 PM, as LBJ sat down to his soup, he apparently did so behind closed doors alone with Cliff Carter and Walter Jenkins, with Valenti out of the picture, as Valenti “fidgeted around” outside for over an hour until they emerged from LBJ’s office, their immediate mission, whatever it was, complete. One of the things we know happened was Carter made calls to Texas officials about a rumor that Oswald was going to be charged as part of a Communist conspiracy.

According to Vincent Bugliosi in “Reclaiming History,” - “No sooner than Fritz and Alexander get back to City Hall from dinner than the telephone rings in the Homicide and Robbery office of the Dallas Police headquarters and Alexander takes the call. It’s Joe Goulden, a former reporter for the Dallas Morning News who is now on the city desk of the Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Bugliosi: “‘What’s going on down there? We’re not getting anything straight. It’s all garbled. Is Oswald going to be charged with killing the president?’ the reporter asks.”

“‘Yea, we’re getting ready to file on the Communist son of a bitch,’ Alexander tells him. When Goulden asks Alexander why he called Oswald a Communist, Alexander tells him about all the Communist literature they found at Oswald’s Beckley address. ‘We have the killer,’ Alexander says, ‘but we’re not sure what his connections are.’”'

“Goulden wants to know exactly when the charges will be filed against Oswald. ‘As soon as I can draw up the complaint,’ Alexander replies. Goulden says his editor won’t print the part about Oswald being a Communist for fear of a libel suit. The only way he’s print that is if he could say it was part of the formal charge. Alexander, who would later allow that, ‘I let my mouth overlook my ass,’ says sarcastically, ‘Well, how about if I charge him with being part of an international Communist conspiracy? Could you run with that?’”

“He knew he couldn’t draw up a complaint like that, but Alexander was itching to show Oswald for what he was, a damn Communist. Goulden was more than eager to oblige.‘You got it!’ the reporter says.”  (879)   END Bugliosi Quote. [15]

[BK Notes: Joe Goulden, then working for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was a close personal friend and media asset of David Atlee Phillips, the CIA officer responsible for the monitoring of the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City. Goulden was also one of those reporters who later floated the trial balloon story that Oswald was an FBI informant.]  [16]

8-9 PM – Sometime between 8 & 9 PM Cliff Carter, in the name of LBJ and the White House, called Texas authorities, including Texas Attorney General Wagner Carr and some Dallas officials. Since it is not mentioned by Valenti, this must have been when LBJ was in his office with Jenkins and Carter for over an hour, when Cliff Carter began to make a series of calls to Texas officials, ordering them not to promote the idea of a conspiracy.

Between 8 & 9 PM – Waggoner Carr – Attorney Gen. of Texas, reported:  “I received a long-distance telephone call from Washington from someone in the White House. I can’t for the life of me remember who it was. A rumor had been heard here that there was going to be an allegation in the indictment against Oswald connecting the assassination with an international conspiracy, and the inquiry was made whether I had any knowledge of it, and I told him I had no knowledge of it. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t been in Dallas since the assassination and was not there at the time of the assassination. So the request was made of me to contact Mr. [Henry] Wade to find out if the allegation was in the indictment. I received the definite impression that the concern of the caller was that because of the emotion or the high tension that existed at the time that someone might thoughtlessly place the indictment in such an allegation without having the proof of such a conspiracy. So I did call Mr. Wade from my home, when I received the call, and he told me…that he had no knowledge of anyone desiring to have that or planning to have that in the indictment; that it would be surplusage, it was not necessary to allege it, and that it would not be in there, but that he would doublecheck it to be sure. And then he called back, and – as I recall I did – and informed the White House participant in the conversation of what Mr. Wade had said, and that was all of it.” [17]

There are unsubstantiated reports that the Oswald indictment was to read “in furtherance of an international communist conspiracy,” and supporting the Phase One cover story that what happened at Dealey Plaza was done at the behest of Castro and foreign communist elements. It appears that LBJ decided that was a bad idea, because he said it could lead to war, and instructs Cliff Carter to call Texas officials and tell them not play up the idea of a conspiracy of any kind, Cuban Communists or otherwise.

9 PM – LBJ calls Arthur Goldberg
9:10 PM – In Dallas DPD jail LHO is told he is to be charged with murder of Tippit. [18]

Bugliosi wrote (p. 177): “Henry Wade is returning home after dinner with his wife and some friends when he hears a report on the radio that Oswald is going to be charged with being part of an international Communist conspiracy to murder the president. Wade, the Dallas DA since 1951, can barely believe his ears. There is no such law on the Texas books, and anyone familiar with Texas law knows that if you allege anything in an indictment, you have to burden of proving it.”

“Wade barely gets in the door when the telephone rings. The caller is Wagner Carr, attorney general for the state of Texas. He had just received a long-distance call from someone in the White House who had heard a similar report. Carr wants to know if Wade has any knowledge of it. Wade said he didn’t.  
“‘You know,’ Carr says, ‘this is going to crate a hell of a bad situation if you allege that he’s part of a Communist conspiracy. It’s going to affect international relations and a lot of things with this country.’”

“‘I don’t know where the rumor got started,’ Wade says, ‘but even if we could prove he was part of an international conspiracy, I wouldn’t allege it because there’s no such charge in Texas.’”

“Within a few minutes, Henry Wade gets phone calls from his first assistant, Jim Bowie, and U.S. Attorney Barefoot Sanders – both of whom have gotten very concerned calls from Washington. Wade assures both of them that he will check into the rumor.”

“Wade immediately decides to take ‘charge’ of he matter and goes down to the police department to make sure that no such language appears in any complaint against Oswald. His man down there, Bill Alexander, denies to Wade that he had anything to do with the rumor, not telling Wade that his own lips had given birth do it.”[19]

According to Valente, “at 9:27 PM, the president came out of his office followed by Walter Jenkins and Cliff Carter. He smiled at Marie Fehmer and then he motioned for me to come to him. He put his arm around me and said, ‘Drive home with me, Jack. You can stay at my house tonight and then we will have a chance to do some talking. Are you ready to leave now?’ Well, I thought, I suppose I'm ready in view of the fact I was not sure precisely why I was even here in the first place. [20]


In “The Kennedy Detail” (p. 256). Gerald Blaine writes, “Lyndon Johnson was now the President of the United States, but the White House was still the residence of the Kennedy family. Johnson would meet with his staff there as soon as he arrived, but he couldn’t stay the night in the mansion. It wouldn’t be right. Johnson decided he would stay at his home the Elms until Mrs. Kennedy had time to move out, but this created yet another urgent and unprecedented situation for the Secret Service. The Elms was located in an upscale neighborhood called Spring Valley, in northwest Washington, D.C., and due to the unusual circumstances, it required an immediate upgrade in security.” [21]

“Paul Rundle, the agent who’d come from the Denver office prior to Blaine and Hill, was put in charge of securing Johnson’s residence. There would be three perimeters of security. The first, outer layer would be manned by the D.C. metropolitan police, the next perimeter would manned by the National Guard, and the third and final layer of protection would be the Secret Service agents from the presidential and vice presidential details, supplemented by agents from nearby field offices.” [22]

Gerald Blaine, in “The Kennedy Detail” (p. 261 – 262), wrote, “Afterward, the supervising agents who had been on the Texas trip were requested to stay, and while the memories were still fresh, type up their recollections of everything that had happened that day. There would of course be an investigation and Rowley knew his men would be at the center of it?” [23]

Blaine: “Agents Andy Berger, Sam Sulliman, Dick Johnson, and Ernie Olsson went with President Johnson on Marine One from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House and stayed with him as he met with White House staff and key members of Congress at his offices at the Executive Office Building. None of these Kennedy Detail agents had ever been to Johnson’s residence before, so Rundle gave them a quick tour. Every half hour the agents would rotate posts in a counterclockwise direction, just as they did at the White House – with one major difference. Tonight, along with the .38-caliber revolver each agent always carried, every security post would be armed with a Thompson submachine gun.” [24]

So, from the Executive Office Building next to the White House they ostensibly went to the Elms, LBJ’s Spring Valley residence a five minutes drive away. I say ostensibly because they left the EOB in two cars two minutes apart, but according to at least one report, LBJ didn’t arrive at the Elms until over an hour and a half later, indicating they possibly went somewhere else first.

Gerald Blaine wrote: “At 9:25 P.M. the afternoon shift traveled with President Johnson to the Elms at 4040 Fifty-Second Street, just five minutes from the White House, where Agent Paul Rundle was waiting to brief them on the new security.”

An unofficial chronological timeline however, indicates:

9:27 PM – LBJ leaves EOB for Elms 4040 52nd St. (per Valenti)

10:40 PM – According to Vincent Bugliosi, (Reclaiming History, p. 178), at 10:40 PM, LBJ had still not arrived. “Horace Busby, LBJ’s longtime aide, speechwriter and confidant, is waiting for President Johnson to arrive at Johnson’s home, the Elms, a large brick home in the Spring Valley section of Washington…The Elms is being overrun by Secret Service agents and telephone people installing new lines. After LBJ arrives and has a meeting with his close aides, friends, and Mrs. Johnson he retreats into the sun room with Busby.”

10:59 – LBJ Arrives at Elms. SS Agent Paul Rundle – briefs him on arrival.

If LBJ leaves the EOB at 9:27 PM and doesn’t arrive at the Elms until 10:59 PM, that’s an hour and thirty-two minute discrepancy in the record – for LBJ to drive the five minute trip across town.

It could be a mistake or a typo, but those times appear in more than one record, and if it is in fact correct, then there’s quite a bit of time there in which the whereabouts of the new President of the United States is unknown.

According to their exact timings of events, the Secret Service agents left the EOB two minutes before LBJ and Valenti, Carter and Jenkins, (9:25 PM)  but according to two accounts, LBJ didn’t arrive there until over an hour and a half later. (10:59 PM) [25]

“Listen,” Rundle said to his men when they arrived at the Elms, apparently ahead of LBJ, “There are rumors flying all over the place but the truth is, nobody knows what might have been behind the assassination. They’ve got this guy Oswald in custody in Dallas, and while he could easily just be a deranged sociopath, there’s still the chance that he was part of a larger conspiracy. Could be Cuban, Mafia, or some Soviet-backed plan to overthrow the government. It’s just too early to know, but the orders we’ve been given are to be excessive in our protective measures.”

Rundle vocally mentions “Cuban, Mafia or some Soviet-backed plan to overthrow the government,” but doesn’t seem to consider the possibility it was a domestic conspiracy, an inside job, a coup d’etat.
Returning to the Elms (aka “Valley”) was one of the items on the checklist of answers to questions that had been asked over the Air Force One radio transmissions and is on the existing tapes, as well as the order for the WHCA to disconnect the regular telephone lines at the Elms and install secure circuits for the President.
Gerald Blaine, one of the Secret Service agents assigned to secure the Elms that night, also mentions the installation of secure telephone lines, but by the time LBJ got there, they had somehow not yet finished the installation.

Vincent Bugliosi, in “Reclaiming History” (p. 178) quotes LBJ, on his arrival at the Elms, as saying, “I guess I am the only person in the United States who doesn’t know what happened today.”

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