A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Legacy of Secrecy provides additional evidence showing that John and Robert Kennedy planned to stage a coup against Fidel on Dec. 1, 1963, ten days after JFK's trip to Dallas--and that three Mafia bosses infiltrated that top secret plan. ... The new information includes the confessions of all three Mafia bosses, and some of their associates.
Legacy of Secrecy is the sequel to the hotly debated, but many argue persuasive, Kennedy assassination conspiracy book of a couple years ago, carried in the BuzzFlash Progressive MarketPlace, Ultimate Sacrifice. Both books are authored by Lamar Waldron and our good friend and noted progressive talk show host and writer, Thom Hartmann.
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We know that every BuzzFlash reader has an opinion about who might have been behind JFK's murder; that's in the nature of conspiracy theories. There's no Higher Court of Truth to make a final judgment.
There are four basic theories: 1) Oswald did it alone (sorry Vincent Bugliosi, not a chance); 2) Castro and/or the Soviets directed Oswald; 3) the CIA arranged it and 4) the Mafia was behind the assassination. And, of course, there are various blends of these perspectives. Waldron and Hartmann find a lot of evidence to support theory 4. They present a compelling case, but you be the judge. Co-author Lamar Waldron was interviewed by BuzzFlash.
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Lamar Waldron: Much information has continued to emerge since the publication of the extensively updated trade paperback of Ultimate Sacrifice in 2006, information which provides even more confirmation of what we had originally written. Legacy of Secrecy provides additional evidence showing that John and Robert Kennedy planned to stage a coup against Fidel on Dec. 1, 1963, ten days after JFK's trip to Dallas--and that three Mafia bosses infiltrated that top secret plan. The mob leaders used parts of the secret plan to kill JFK in a way that forced Robert Kennedy, LBJ, and other key officials to cover-up much information, to prevent another confrontation with the Soviets, just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The new information includes the confessions of all three Mafia bosses, and some of their associates.
Ultimate Sacrifice had to cover 1964 to the present in just a few dozen pages, but the majority of Legacy of Secrecy is devoted to those years, showing how all the secrecy surrounding JFK's murder continued to have tragic effects. Legacy finally explains who paid James Earl Ray to kill Dr. King, and why.
Legacy also delves more into CIA officials like Richard Helms and E. Howard Hunt, whose involvement with the coup plan in 1963 continued to impact their careers and cause more cover-ups.
Leading the top secret coup for the Kennedys on Dec. 1, 1963 was going to be Commander Juan Almeida, head (and founder) of the Cuban Army. He wasn't going to take credit for killing Fidel; that would be blamed on a Russian or Russian sympathizer. It was never supposed to be known that the Kennedys were really behind the coup; otherwise, the Cuban people wouldn't follow Almeida and the new coalition government. Fidel didn't learn about Almeida's secret work with JFK for decades. For reasons detailed in Legacy, Commander Almeida is still listed as the #3 official in Cuba today and he could still be a factor in resolving the decades-long impasse between the US and Cuba.
BuzzFlash: What motivated you and Thom Hartmann to take on perhaps the most analyzed and speculated upon assassination in American history -- and to spend two decades doing it?
Lamar Waldron: After spending a couple of years exploring all the various theories, and running into the usual roadblocks and lack of documents, we decided to talk to people who had actually worked with John and Robert Kennedy in 1963. The first was JFK's Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, who revealed that JFK was close to staging a coup and invasion of Cuba at the time of his death--but (unlike the Bay of Pigs fiasco) this plan was so secret that even Rusk was only told about it after JFK's death.
Next, JFK's close aide Dave Powers explained that he and another JFK aide had witnessed shots from the grassy knoll, while they were riding in the limo right behind JFK's. But Powers said they were both pressured to change their testimony to the Warren Commission "for the good of the country." With revelations like those, it was hard not to pursue all the leads until we eventually had the whole story. One Kennedy aide led to another, until we'd eventually talked to more than two dozen people who had worked with John or Robert Kennedy. Their disclosures led us to documentation in the National Archives, and eventually, to helping additional documents be identified and released.
Legacy of Secrecy explains why the whole process took so long--and why we're still pursuing the release of "more than one million CIA records" related to JFK's murder, that are being withheld despite the 1992 JFK Act requiring their release.
BuzzFlash: Between the two books, you have more 1700 pages of documentation on your theory. Yet, about the same time Ultimate Sacrifice was published, famed LA prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi published a book that he said proved that Oswald was the lone gunman and acted alone. There are enough Kennedy assassination books to fill a large public library. Why do you feel your documentation proves your theory that, in essence, the Mafia was at the center of the JFK assassination?
Lamar Waldron: The three mob bosses and two of their associates in the assassination all made credible confessions, backed up by a mountain of evidence, much of it compiled by Congressional investigators. Many "lone nut, magic bullet" theorists like to pretend that there was only one official government investigation--the Warren Commission--and thus only one official conclusion. As Legacy documents, there were at least six government committees and commissions, each getting closer to the truth. For example, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979 that JFK was likely murdered by a conspiracy and pointed to Louisiana/Texas godfathers Carlos Marcello and Tampa godfather Santo Trafficante as having "the movtive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy."
We first showed in Ultimate, and document more extensively in Legacy, that the coup plan was at the heart of the secrecy surrounding JFK's murder. And while the public didn't hear about the coup plan until Ultimate was first published in 2005--and even though the Mafia had been barred from the coup plan or from reopening their casinos in Cuba if it were successful--we document that a dozen associates of the mob bosses learned about the coup plan, and six of those actually worked on it.Another key reason we stand behind our documentation (almost all of it from the National Archives) and conclusions is that so much evidence supports what the Kennedy associates told us, often long before that documentation was released. Also, the medical evidence shows that the "magic bullet" theory is impossible on several counts. For example, a bullet on a steep downward trajectory can't enter JFK's back almost six inches below his collar (as verified by the bullet hole in JFK's coat and the official autopsy diagram) and then exit much higher, from his Adam's apple--and then turn in mid-air and dive back downward, to strike Governor Connally.
BuzzFlash: Let me ask you about one specific detail of the Oswald story that has always stuck out like a sore thumb to me. How could anyone think that the organized crime-connected Jack Ruby would just impulsively decide to go off and shoot Oswald? And why do you theorize Ruby did kill him?
Lamar Waldron: Keep mind that Jack Ruby has only been connected to the Mafia in the public's mind since the late 1970s. For more than a decade after JFK's murder, the news media almost never mentioned the Mafia in relation to Jack Ruby.
Ruby had worked for the Mafia for years and was their pay-off man for the Dallas police, so his job was to arrange for someone to kill Oswald. When he couldn't, he had to do it himself.As we document in Legacy for the first time, from previously withheld FBI files, godfather Carlos Marcello admitted setting Jack Ruby up in business in Dallas, and Ruby would regularly go to Louisiana, to report to Marcello.
BuzzFlash: In Legacy, you go beyond the JFK assassination and talk about possible mob connections to the killings of Martin Luther King and RFK. A lot of people would say this is carrying the organized crime conspiracy a bit too far. Your response?
Lamar Waldron: While Legacy documents that Carlos Marcello was the driving force behind JFK's murder, and people like Georgia white supremacist Joseph Milteer had only a small role in JFK's death, the situation was reversed for Martin Luther King's assassination. Milteer and his associates in Atlanta were the driving force behind King's murder. But after failing to find a hitman on their own, and facing increasing pressure to take action against King, Milteer apparently turned to Marcello. A Justice Department memo, which seems to have been withheld from Congress by the FBI, indicates that Marcello "brokered" the King contract. That's very different from Marcello accepting the contract. The contract was actually handled by one or more of Marcello's lieutenants. The godfather simply collecting a huge fee--at least "$200,000" according to the Justice Department memo, over one million in today's dollars--for hooking them up with Milteer.
It's well documented that Marcello was a virulent racist, who had used at least two white supremacists in the JFK hit. Marcello's vice operations in the South were increasingly disrupted by the demonstrations, strikes, and boycotts of Dr. King and other Civil Rights leaders. Plus, Dr. King himself had publicly declared war on the Mafia because they preyed on minority communities. In addition to those reasons and the $200,000, the Justice Department memo says the Mafioso also wanted the blackmail potential over those putting up the money for the King hit.Using the files of Congressional investigators, we document in Legacy that by the fall of 1967, James Earl Ray was a low-level heroin runner for a drug network that included Marcello's organization. Yet, Ray wasn't an important or long-time member of Marcello's organization, or a professional hitman, who could be traced back to Marcello, which made him a good choice for the hit.
BuzzFlash: Who is Carlos Marcello and why is he such a central figure to the theory that you document?
Lamar Waldron: For decades, Marcello was the unquestioned godfather of Louisiana, much of Texas (including Dallas), and south Mississippi. His influence reached much farther, since he had alliances with all the neighboring mob bosses, like Florida's Santo Trafficante and the Memphis Mafia. Marcello headed America's oldest Mafia family, and as such, didn't need the approval of the national Mafia commission for major hits. Marcello's mob family also had a history of targeting government officials who got in their way.
Marcello was the godfather most heavily targeted in the Kennedys' massive war on organized crime. Close behind were his allies: Trafficante, the Chicago Mafia, and Jimmy Hoffa. During most of the month of November, Marcello was on trial by Attorney General Robert Kennedy's federal prosecutors, and Marcello only got off by bribing a key juror. The week of JFK's murder, The New York Times ran a series saying the Justice Department was getting ready to run the Mafia out of Las Vegas. With Cuba no longer an option (even if JFK's secret coup plan succeeded), Marcello and his associates literally had their backs against the wall and--as Marcello explained to an FBI informant in 1962--they had no choice but to kill JFK in order to end Robert Kennedy's prosecutions of them.
BuzzFlash: What role did the CIA or CIA agents have in the JFK assassination and cover-up, according to your two books?
Lamar Waldron: Ultimate pointed out that of the dozen people knowingly involved in JFK's murder, all were or had been informants, agents, or assets of the CIA or other intelligence or law enforcement agencies. That's what let them feed disinformation into those agencies, and know how those agencies would react.
In Legacy, we take a very close look at the evidence--and lack of it--regarding various people involved with the CIA. CIA asset John Martino confessed his role in JFK's murder, as did David Morales, the Operations Chief for the CIA's huge Miami CIA Station, that had a supporting role in JFK's secret coup plan. Morales was also close friends with Johnny Rosselli, the Chicago Mafia's man in Las Vegas and Hollywood. Rosselli, Trafficante, and Marcello all worked on the CIA's plots with the Mafia to kill Fidel, which had originally begun prior to JFK's election.
Legacy documents that Richard Helms (essentially about the #4 CIA official in 1963) was continuing those CIA-Mafia plots to kill Fidel in the fall of 1963, apparently as a kind of back-up in case the main coup plan failed. However, Helms failed to inform or get authorization from JFK or even the CIA's Director, Helms came to realize those plots had some tie to JFK's murder, which caused him to withhold much information from the Warren Commission and--after he became CIA Director--from LBJ and Nixon. When we talked to Dean Rusk almost thirty years later, Rusk was still livid at Helms' deception.
Helms had to cover-up his unauthorized use of the Mafia in the Castro plot, to protect his own career and reputation. As Legacy documents, Helms successfully made covering up--and supporting the Warren Report's "lone nut, magic bullet" conclusion--the mission of the CIA, as we document in Legacy. But there is no evidence that Helms was knowingly involved in JFK's murder and Helms had every reason to have allowed JFK's coup plan to go forward. If it were successful, Helms would get part of the credit and the CIA would have a new playground in Cuba. If the coup plan failed, any high CIA official who wanted to get rid of JFK could have simply leaked JFK's sponsorship of the coup to the media, to end JFK's career. For that matter, CIA officials on the level of Helms or higher had access to all sorts of personally compromising information about JFK, that could have been used against JFK, to force his resignation; they had no reason to resort to a public execution that also ended any chance of the secret coup plan going forward.Legacy looks at the actions of CIA officials like David Atlee Phillips, William Harvey, E. Howard Hunt, and James Angleton, and the evidence that they did--or did not--have any role in JFK's murder. Based on the evidence and files released so far, David Morales is the highest CIA official tied to JFK's murder, by his own admission.
BuzzFlash: Let's get to the motivation for the original crime. Why did the mob hate RFK so much and why would they kill JFK as a result?
Lamar Waldron: John and Robert Kennedy came to prominence in the late 1950s, by going after Marcello and other mob bosses (and Hoffa) in Senate crime hearings. After JFK's election, they mounted the largest war against organized crime that the US had--or has--ever seen. The Mafia had free reign during much of the 1950s, because of the organized crime ties of Vice President Richard Nixon and because J. Edgar Hoover--for much of the decade--denied the Mafia even existed.
While Robert Kennedy said a few months before JFK's murder that it was almost impossible to prosecute a godfather for anything, especially murder (because they were so well insulated), Marcello was especially vulnerable because he wasn't a citizen. Thus, even a minor conviction could result in his deportation. Early in JFK's administration, Marcello had been briefly, unceremoniously dumped in Central America, and his hellish experience there had only furthered his hatred of John and Robert Kennedy.
BuzzFlash: What was Jimmy Hoffa's knowledge of the assassination plot? Is that why he was murdered?
Lamar Waldron: Hoffa was under too much pressure to actively participate in the plot, but he was aware of it through the attorney he shared with Santo Trafficante, Frank Ragano. Legacy has new information about Ragano's involvement in JFK's assassination, which was more than he ever admitted.
As Legacy documents, Hoffa was one of several associates of Marcello and Trafficante who were murdered in the 1970s, when their names surfaced as Congressional witnesses. Others killed included Sam Giancana (murdered the month before Hoffa) and Johnny Rosselli. Trafficante was linked to all three murders.
BuzzFlash: What were the two assassination attempts on JFK prior to Dallas and why aren't these common knowledge?
Lamar Waldron: As we've noted, the Mafia families who ran Chicago, Tampa, and Texas/Louisiana were the ones most heavily targeted by the Kennedys. The first attempt to assassinate JFK was in Chicago, on November 2, 1963, the day after Marcello's federal trial started. JFK canceled his motorcade at the last minute, and JFK's Press Secretary Pierre Salinger told us that two phony excuses for the cancellation had to be issued. The Chicago attempt was kept out of the press at the time, though Congress did receive some information about it in the late 1970s.
Ultimate was the first book to document the plot to kill JFK in Tampa, four days before Dallas, an attempt which had never been revealed to any government committee. No news of the attempt appeared at the time, though one tiny article slipped out the day after JFK's murder, quoting the Tampa Chief of Police and a Secret Service file that apparently was later destroyed. Thom Hartmann and I found the article after scanning thousands of pages of newspaper microfilm, and then confirmed the account with the Tampa Police Chief from 1963, who said he'd been waiting for someone to ask him about it for more than thirty years.
Legacy has new information about the Tampa attempt, including the name of the recently-deceased Tampa police official who actually worked for Trafficante, and who tipped off Trafficante in 1963 that authorities had learned about the plot.
The information about the Chicago and Tampa plots was withheld from the Warren Commission. When Abraham Bolden, the first black presidential Secret Service Agent, realized that, he went to Washington to tell the Commission staff about the two attempts, and other Secret Service laxity. Bolden was arrested that day, based on accusations of two men he'd sent to prison. Bolden was eventually convicted and sent to prison, even though the judge in his case told the jury he was guilty before they began their deliberations and Bolden's main accuser later admitted he'd lied about Bolden. Legacy and Ultimate note the likely involvement of an associate of Trafficante and Rosselli in Bolden's framing. Bolden is still fighting to clear his name.
BuzzFlash: What do you say to people who call you and Thom Hartmann just a couple of more conspiracy theorists?
Lamar Waldron: No one has really been able to contest the evidence presented in Ultimate Sacrifice, and now there is even more evidence in Legacy of Secrecy. We had hoped to debate the case with Vincent Bugliosi on Thom Hartmann's Air America radio show, but after "Variety" publicized the fact that I'd be on the show as well, Bugliosi canceled his appearance and never rescheduled. We remain willing to debate the case with Bugliosi.
After all, the evidence is on our side. As several people have pointed out, we're simply advancing the investigations begun in secret by Robert Kennedy after his brother's murder, and the conclusions of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, using information and files that weren't available to them.
BuzzFlash: Did you begin your work with a theory that the Mafia was primarily responsible for the JFK assassination or did you end up with that theory after assembling the evidence?
Lamar Waldron: The first couple of years, Thom and I looked at EVERY theory. We found most lacking in evidence. People who worked closely with John or Robert Kennedy not only told us about the secret coup plan, but also pointed us toward the Mafia, particularly Marcello, Trafficante, and Rosselli. It's now known that Robert Kennedy himself told associates that Marcello was behind his brother's murder, and Bobby had suspected someone linked to the secret coup plan within two hours of JFK's death.
In the ensuing years, the evidence has continued to mount supporting the involvement of Marcello, Trafficante, and Rosselli. All made credible confessions (i.e., backed up by much supporting evidence) late in life, to trusted associates. We've continued to look for evidence that goes beyond the mob bosses and their associates, but no credible evidence has surfaced.
BuzzFlash interview by Mark Karlin.
Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination, by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, available from the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.
BuzzFlash Review: Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination
Ultimate Sacrifice: Yes, There Was a Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy (Paperback), by Lamar Waldron with Thom Hartmann, available from the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW