Friday, May 14, 2021

Defending "Conspiracy Freak"

Author Fred Litwin has found himself embroiled in a manufactured controversy regarding his first book about the JFK assassination entitled I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. The individual who has created this bogus debate is Jim Garrison apologist James DiEugenio. The following quote from DiEugenio’s article “Litwin and the Warren Report” describes his alleged problems with Litwin’s book:

The very title of Litwin’s book, I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, strikes this reviewer as being deliberately provocative, but at least a bit ersatz. The implication of that title would be that, at one time, the author really believed that a conspiracy killed President Kennedy. Litwin says this was so, yet somehow, he does not produce any evidence to demonstrate it was in his entire book. He notes articles and talks he gave which support the Warren Commission and ridicule the critics.

In response, Litwin has prepared a blog piece that gives specific examples of his critical and skeptical attitude toward the Warren Commission. Yet, for some reason, DiEugenio still doubts Fred's claims. I am not sure why this is, but if I were the cynical type, I might say that Jim is bothered by the fact that Fred has written an excellent book debunking Garrison. Because of this, DiEugenio is striking back at Litwin by implying that he was never a conspiracy believer and his "Conspiracy Freak" book is therefore a fraud. But as I say, I can't read DiEugenio’s mind so a motive for his curious behavior is unclear.

The question is—does evidence exist to support Litwin’s statements that he once believed in a conspiracy? And has DiEugenio mischaracterized said evidence for his own purposes?

Litwin’s writings on the subject were not voluminous prior to his conversion to a “lone nut” position. However, enough examples exist to allow us to evaluate DiEugenio’s claims. In Litwin's blog piece, he mentions the first JFK article that he wrote in 1975 at age nineteen. In that article, he writes:

The assassination of JFK is perhaps the most shocking and controversial act of this [20th] century. The Warren Commission did nothing to stop the controversy.

As is obviously and immediately apparent, this statement does not “support” the WC and does nothing to “ridicule” the critics. Indeed, far from deriding the critics, Litwin’s article goes on to succinctly state their case.

The conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin is seen by most critics to be the major fault of the Warren Commission. Critics say this conclusion is contradicted by the Zapruder film: the most graphic illustration of the assassination.

Litwin then goes on to discuss the Zapruder film and the evidence against the lynchpin of the commission’s case—the single bullet theory. Litwin writes about the upcoming appearance of Rusty Rhodes, a WC critic. While Litwin makes it clear that he believes that the evidence does not support a shot from the front, he also writes: [Cyril Wecht] has found several other facts [aside from a frontal shot] which are not consistent with the Warren Commission.

Litwin then writes about the problems that Wecht and other critics have with the infamous Bullet 399 which was found on Connally’s stretcher. Additionally, Litwin mentions the then-impending HSCA investigation:

Many people argue a new investigation will do little. This is not true for there are still reams of secret evidence in the National Archives that have not yet been examined.

None of this sounds to me like someone who is trying to “ridicule the critics” or “support the Warren Commission.”

Litwin’s second JFK article discusses the appearance of Rhodes and highlights some problems that Litwin had with his presentation. He called Rhodes a “sensationalist” for emphasizing some of the more controversial aspects of the case (such as a frontal shot) while neglecting to mention evidence that contradicted his theories. The main reason that Litwin was critical of Rhodes was because he had agreed with Litwin that there was no evidence to support a frontal shot during a private discussion that preceded his presentation. Despite Litwin’s disagreement with Rhodes over the tone of his lecture, he still noted the following:

The Kennedy assassination has enough legitimate mysteries about it without a necessity to invent them.

Litwin’s next writing on the assassination happened in June of 1976. In a letter to the editor of “People and the Pursuit of Truth” Litwin argues for the theory of Robert Forman and Cyril Wecht that the shot which traversed the back/neck of JFK then exited the limousine rather than hitting Connally. In other words, Litwin argued against the single bullet theory. Which is an odd position to take if one is not a true conspiracy believer.

Litiwn’s next article came in November of 1977. The title of that piece, “Mysteries Persist in Kennedy Killing” gives away the substance of the article. For instance:

A storm of controversy arose when it became clear that the evidence in the case did not sustain the Warren Report conclusions. Critics pointed out that the physical evidence pointed to the existence of a second gunman.

Litiwn criticized the media’s handling of the HSCA investigation:

Chief among the critics of the [HSCA] investigation were the major media in the United States—notably the New York Times and CBS broadcasting. The New York Times assigned one reporter to continually attack the reputation of the chief consul Richard Sprague. These attacks almost succeeded in stopping the investigation—Sprague was fired because of them. One committee member, after seeing the massive media blitz against the investigation, commented that, “I never believed in conspiracies until now.”

Litwin’s words were echoed years later by another critic:

The first attacks on Sprague began with the Los Angeles Times. These were then picked up and amplified by the New York Times. And then the Washington Post jumped into it … [New York Times Reporter David] Burnham went to the newspaper morgue in Philadelphia and wrote a long series about Sprague’s career in the Philadelphia DA’s office. He picked five small points of controversy in Sprague’s illustrious eighteen-year career. When the series was over, the Times ran an editorial asking Sprague to resign.

These words, which could have been authored by the 1977 Fred Litwin were written by Jim DiEugenio himself and are taken from his book Destiny Betrayed. Is this symbiosis of thought between Litwin and DiEugenio proof enough of Fred’s seventies conspiracy pedigree? Most reasonable observers would say yes.

Litwin’s last article as a conspiracy theorist concludes by mentioning the conspiracy staples of witnesses dying and the fact that the HSCA would be the first “real investigation.”

One can hope that DiEugenio will stop his silly attacks on Litwin’s “Conspiracy Freak” book although I am not holding my breath. Obviously, individuals can and do change their mind regarding the JFK assassination as the conversions of Paul Hoch, Dale Myers, Gus Russo and Dave Reitzes, to name a few, prove.

Book Review: On the Trail of Delusion

Introduction

What connects Lee Harvey Oswald, George De Mohrenschildt, George Bouhe and Jack Ruby in the mind of Jim Garrison? The answer is the theory of “propinquity,” but after reading Fred Litwin’s new book, On the Trail of Delusion: Jim Garrison: The Great Accuser, it is obvious that is the wrong question. The real query is—why did anyone believe that the nutty Garrison had one scintilla of substantive evidence to connect Clay Shaw or anyone else to the JFK assassination? And a great follow-up to that would be—why does the discredited Garrison continue to retain devotes to this very day?

The question of why anyone listened to Garrison has at least a plausible answer, but the follow-up is harder to wrap your mind around. Litwin points out that Garrison, the sixties New Orleans District Attorney who was infamous for his prosecution of businessman Shaw, was a commanding 6 feet 6 inches tall and wielded an air of integrity by virtue of his charisma and booming voice. He dressed impeccably, was well read and fast on his feet, and used the maturing medium of television to his advantage. Garrison charged Shaw with conspiracy to kill Kennedy in 1967, and assured a myriad of journalists, Playboy magazine, Johnny Carson and anyone else who would listen that he had unraveled the New Orleans based plot. So, everyone assumed that Garrison “had something” to back up his audacious claims. But he did not, as Litwin shows.

Garrison’s abuse of power and shameful distortion of the judicial process would be almost comical if it were not for the lives ruined and money wasted. Litwin provides the most complete chronicle of the farce since Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 tome Reclaiming History and adds new information gleaned from his extensive research which included the use of nineteen separate document archives.

Why should anyone concern themselves with the discredited Garrison at this late date? Litwin points out that “a new wave” of individuals has appeared that thinks the “jolly green giant” was right all along. A few of these people have created a political magazine called garrison dedicated to exposing the “deep politics” of the current age. In its pages, you will find stories from 9/11 truthers and claims that FDR was murdered, that Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain, and that the CIA offed Robert Kennedy. Additionally, Garrison devotee Jim DiEugenio is currently partnering with Oliver Stone on a documentary film that will no doubt resurrect at least a few of big Jim’s canards. More on DiEugenio later.

The Mind of Jim Garrison

Litwin, a marketing professional from Canada, has now authored three books—two of those on the JFK case. Litwin makes the case that Garrison was a “dangerous” and psychologically damaged individual who was able to run wild because of his personal magnetism and because he amused his constituents in a city where entertainment is taken for granted. When Garrison was discharged from the military in the early fifties, a report noted he was suffering from, “a severe and disabling psychoneurosis of long duration” that had “interfered with his social and professional adjustment to a marked degree.” The report concluded, “He is considered totally disabled from the standpoint of military duty and moderately severely incapacitated in civilian adaptability. His illness … is of the type that will require long term psychotherapeutic approach, which is not feasible in a military hospital.”

Learning that Garrison had mental problems makes his belief in “propinquity” easier to understand if not accept. What is “propinquity” anyway? That problematic investigative method was explained by Garrison staffer Tom Bethel:

In Dallas, at the time of the assassination there lived a Russian-émigré oil geologist named George De Mohrenschildt who had befriended Lee Harvey Oswald after Lee returned from the Soviet Union in 1962 (whither he had defected in 1959). There was another member of the Dallas émigré community named George Bouhe, who knew De Mohrenschildt (who knew Oswald). And city directories showed Bouhe lived right opposite … Jack Ruby! (he shot Oswald, just in case you had forgotten.) And there you have the long-sought Oswald-Ruby link—based on propinquity.

Joining the DA’s office in 1957, Garrison rose through the ranks and was himself elected District Attorney in 1962. Litwin provides ample evidence that he was a corrupt individual who abused the power of his office. For example, Garrison used the grand jury as his personal court by packing it with his friends from the New Orleans Athletic Club. During grand jury sessions, witnesses were not allowed to have legal representation and hearsay and opinions were allowed in the atmosphere of secrecy.

One of Garrison’s favorite techniques was to subpoena a witness and then charge them with perjury thus rendering them unable to leave the jurisdiction. These individuals had a difficult time getting a mortgage or finding a job and thus people feared going before a Garrison grand jury. Garrison instituted a crackdown on “police characters, homosexuals, B-drinkers, prostitutes and narcotics violators.” Gays were a favorite target of the homophobic Garrison who was himself accused of fondling a thirteen-year-old boy in 1969. One unlucky individual was arrested for the vague crime of “Being a homosexual in an establishment with a liquor license.” Being an equal opportunity accuser, Garrison also launched campaigns against judges, the police, the Louisiana Parole Board and the legislature.

Garrison Takes on the JFK Case

By the summer of 1966, Garrison was bored with “cleaning up” the big easy. After perusing a few conspiracy books, he decided to investigate the JFK assassination. Initially conducting his inquiry in secrecy, Garrison was forced out into the open by a news story that reported the questionable use of taxpayer funds for his “work.” He told Life magazine’s Richard Billings, “I’m gonna use every legal form of power I have at my disposal. I have the power available, and I’m gonna use it.” Litwin quips, “It was an exciting time to be alive. Jim Garrison was now the most powerful politician in Louisiana, and he was going to reveal the truth. What could possibly go wrong?”

Garrison based his assassination theories on a crazy cast of characters. Jack Martin, who FBI agent Regis Kennedy called a “self-styled New Orleans private eye” with a “poor reputation” and a “psychopathic personality,” put Garrison on to former Eastern Airlines pilot David Ferrie who big Jim thought was the “transportation manager” of the plot. Garrison resurrected jive talking attorney Dean Andrews who had spun a story immediately after the assassination of receiving a call from a man named “Bertrand” asking him to represent Oswald. After Oswald was shot, Andrews embellished the story to include visits by him to his office accompanied by up to five homosexuals. As Andrews continued to mold the story, “Bertrand” morphed into the gay “Clay Bertrand” who might have accompanied Oswald on office visits. Garrison ultimately “knew” Clay Shaw had to be Bertrand since they were “both homosexuals, both spoke Spanish, and both had the same first name.”

Perry Russo

On February 22, 1967, Garrison suspect David Ferrie was found dead in his apartment. Garrison claimed he committed suicide by overdosing on his thyroid medication, but the cause of death was determined to be a berry aneurism and toxicology tests proved negative. With the death of Ferrie, aides tried to get Garrison to “drop the faltering investigation and save face,” then write a book or run for governor. But Garrison’s probe was given new life when a friend of Ferrie’s, Perry Russo, came forward. Russo originally told the media only that Ferrie had threatened JFK. When interviewed by Garrison’s office, Russo said Ferrie knew Shaw and that a bearded Oswald could resemble Ferrie’s roommate. But Russo still said nothing about a conspiracy. However, under the effects of sodium pentothal and hypnosis, Russo recalled a plot to kill Kennedy involving Shaw, Oswald and Ferrie.

Litwin describes Russo’s testimony at the preliminary hearing thusly:

In the middle of September 1963, he walked into a party at David Ferrie’s apartment. By the end of the evening, only a few people were left, including Leon Oswald (whom Russo claimed was Lee Harvey Oswald), Clem Bertrand, David Ferrie, and Perry Russo. They discussed the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a triangulation of gunshots, and flying the assassin out of the country, and they said that all participants should do something noticeable on the day of the assassination so that they could have alibis. Russo described Oswald as dirty and as having whiskers [Oswald was always clean shaven and neat]. He also identified Clay Shaw as Clem Bertrand.

But the veracity of Russo’s assertions was in question. When Lieutenant Edward O’Donnell of the New Orleans Police Department attempted to administer a polygraph, Russo’s constant movement caused erratic readings. O’Donnell removed the apparatus and questioned Russo who stated that “he was under a great deal of pressure, and that he was sorry he ever got involved in this mess.” O’Donnell continued:

So, I then asked him was Clay Shaw there at the David Ferrie apartment, and he asked me if I really wanted to know, and I said yes, of course, that’s why you are here, and he said, I don’t know. He said again, I don’t know. I said, “Well, Perry, Clay Shaw is a big man; he’s the type of person who, after you see him, you would probably remember him.” I said, was he there, or wasn’t he?” His answer was, “If you really want a yes or no answer, I would have to say no.”

O’Donnell reported the incident to Garrison who “became enraged and stated something to the effect that I had sold out to the press, or … sold out to the establishment.” O’Donnell prepared a written report, which was ignored.

Garrison’s Two Theories

Garrison portrayed his first theory of the assassination this way:

They had the same motive as Loeb and Leopold when they murdered Bobby Franks in Chicago back in the twenties. It was a homosexual thrill-killing, plus the excitement of getting away with a perfect crime. John Kennedy was everything that Dave Ferrie was not—a successful, handsome, popular, wealthy, virile man. You can just picture the charge Ferrie got out of plotting his death.

Kennedy was the “victim of a sick and vicious homosexual plot,” according to Garrison investigator Joel Palmer. Oswald was “steeped in the homosexual underworld” and had developed a “bitter hatred” for Fidel Castro. According to Palmer, the homosexual circle consisted of Oswald, Ruby, Ferrie, Shaw, Russo, and J. D. Tippit, a police officer whom Oswald killed on the afternoon of the assassination, and he was certain that they were involved in “one of the most unique and diabolical plots in the history of the world.”

But shortly after Shaw’s arrest, a series of articles in Rome’s communist newspaper Paese Sera provided Garrison with fresh material. The articles claimed that Shaw had participated in unsavory actions while serving on the board of Permindex-Centro Mondiale Commerciale, a corporation founded in the late 1950s to take advantage of the new European common market. Paese Sera alleged that this corporation was a “creature of the CIA … set up as a cover for the transfer to Italy of CIA-FBI funds for illegal political-espionage activities.” The newspaper repeated the Garrison allegation that Shaw’s International Trade Mart “had turned over varying sums of money as contributions to the so-called Cubans in exile.” Other left-leaning outlets picked up on the story. Years later, it was determined through evidence uncovered by researcher Paul Hoch in the Mitrokhin archive that the story may have been the product of the KGB propaganda machine.

Garrison gave up on the concept of a “homosexual thrill killing” since he now had “proof” of something much bigger through the Paese Sera articles. Those pieces and the influence of conspiracy buffs led him to postulate multiple conspiracy scenarios that included elements such as, “a fourteen-man band of Cuban guerrilla fighters,” “the Dallas police force,” “oil-rich psychotic millionaires,” “anti-Castro adventurers” and “ultra-militant para-military elements who were patriotic in a psychotic sense.” One such scenario that Garrison divulged to Playboy illustrates the absurdity of his logic:

We’ve uncovered additional evidence establishing absolutely that there were at least four men on the grassy knoll, at least two behind the picket fence and two or more behind a small wall to the right of the fence. As I reconstruct it from the still-incomplete evidence in our possession, one man fired at the President from each location, while the role of his companion was to snatch up the cartridges as they were ejected.

Even other conspiracy believers saw the humor in Garrison’s reasoning. Author Sylvia Meagher commented, “without intending levity on matters as grave as these, I have to admit that Garrison’s theory of men on the grassy knoll whose sole function was ‘to catch the cartridges as they were ejected from the assassins’ rifles’ strikes me as comical.”

Shaw is Acquitted and Recharged

Despite Garrison’s pre-trial rhetoric and the extremely low bar the prosecution had to clear, when the long-awaited trail arrived it quickly became clear that the evidence against Shaw was completely lacking. Dean Andrews declined to implicate Shaw and Russo disavowed most of his key allegations. There were new witnesses from Clinton and Jackson, Louisiana who said they saw Oswald, Ferrie and Shaw together. But there were numerous problems with their claims. A surprise witness named Charles Spiesel also remembered an Oswald-Ferrie-Shaw connection. But Spiesel lost credibility when it was shown (among other things) that he fingerprinted his own children in the morning to make sure the government hadn’t replaced them with doubles during the night.

Shaw was quickly found not guilty but he had little time to celebrate. The next business day after the verdict, Garrison charged him with perjury for his statements that he had never met Lee Harvey Oswald or David Ferrie. Garrison conducted an investigation to support the new charges but came up empty handed. In May 1971 Judge Christenberry ruled in favor of Clay Shaw and granted a permanent injunction against further prosecution. He noted that “to characterize these facts [of Garrison’s investigation] as unique and bizarre is no exaggeration.” Garrison, Christenberry said, had “offered no evidence to show any basis or cause for his office’s interrogation of the plaintiff concerning such a shocking crime.”

The judge concluded that Garrison acted in bad faith, resorting to the use of both hypnosis and drugs in order to fabricate his story. Garrison appealed all the way to the Supreme Court without success. Soon after his legal victories, Shaw died of cancer. He was, as Litwin notes, “ruthlessly deprived of not only the best years of his retirement but most of his savings too.” Litwin also chronicles the plight of lesser-known Garrison victims such as Louis Bloomfield and Edgar Eugene Bradley. Speaking of the latter, even DiEugenio admits, “[Garrison] did some things I wish he had not done, like the Edgar Eugene Bradley indictment.”

Oliver Stone and the Rehabilitation of Garrison

In the eighties, Garrison busied himself with writing his memoirs. McGraw-Hill, who had published Garrison’s earlier work, A Heritage of Stone, passed on his latest manuscript. Prentice Hall gave Garrison a $10,000 advance for a book, but Sylvia Meagher did a 26-page writeup noting several problems with his work which prompted the publisher to reject the manuscript and recover the hefty advance. Finally, Garrison found a friendly publisher in the form of Sheridan Square Publications. The owners of the firm were Ellen Ray and William Schaap, who along with CIA turncoat Phillip Agee, had been involved with the CovertAction Information Bulletin, which sought to “out” the identities of CIA personnel around the globe.

Garrison’s editor, Zachary Skalar, turned the manuscript into a first-person narrative that repeated the “case” against Shaw. The book, called On the Trail of the Assassins, expunged some of the more dubious aspects of the Garrison investigation and replaced them with accusations of sabotage by the CIA and infiltration of the investigation by individuals close to the probe. New Orleans States-Item reporter Rosemary James called the book, “a great piece of fiction.” Although James wasn’t impressed, Oliver Stone was. The filmmaker paid $250,000 for the movie rights and hired Skalar as his screenwriter.

Litwin notes that Stone’s 1991 film JFK maintained the fiction that Shaw was the “evil gay mastermind along with his band of conspiring homosexuals.” Many critics were also less than impressed with the homophobic bent. David Ehrenstein called Stone’s work, “the most homophobic movie ever to come out of Hollywood.” “Even supposing these men were conspirators,” the Gay & Lesbian Alliance for Defamation noted, “the lurid depiction of their gayness, to augment Stone’s portrait of evil, is purely homophobic.” The New York Times said that, “Shaw’s homosexuality is meant to signify nothing except the fact that he’s sinister and capable of murder. The inclusion of the orgy scene is gratuitous. Mr. Stone might as well have shown Jack Ruby bargaining with other Jews in the back row at temple.”

As it turns out, such an anti-Semitic portrayal could have been in the back of Stone’s mind. Stone believes 9/11 was a “revolt,” and he told the Sunday Times that Jewish control of the media was preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust and that an upcoming film of his would place Hitler and Stalin in context. Stone went on to claim that, “Israel had [expletive deleted] up American foreign policy” for years. The anti-American Stone has gone on to make fawning film projects about Castro, Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin, whom he described as a “stabilizing force” in Syria. A few months after that comment, he told Putin’s propaganda arm Russia Today, “Empires fall, let’s pray that this empire [the United States], these evil things … because we are the evil empire. What Reagan said about Russia is true about us.”

In Stone’s film, Garrison meets the mysterious Mr. X who delivers a rambling monologue on the assassination. “The organizing principle of any society is for war,” X tells Garrison adding that JFK had to be killed because of his plan to pull out of Vietnam and end the cold war. Additionally, X claimed that the 112th Military Intelligence Group at Fort Sam Houston was ordered to “stand down”, resulting in a purposeful lack of security for Kennedy. All these claims are “pure fabrication” maintains Litwin.

“Kennedy did have plans to remove a thousand troops by the end of 1963,” Litwin says. “But it was contingent on progress training the South Vietnamese Army.” Litwin goes on to note that, “National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) #273, signed by Lyndon Johnson a few days after the assassination, said that “The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U. S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963.” Indeed, respected Vietnam War historian Stanley Karnow wrote that NSAM #273, “perpetuated the Kennedy policy.”

Indeed, shortly before his death, Kennedy told Walter Cronkite, “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw,” and similarly advised NBC’s Chet Huntley that “we are not there to see a war lost.” And a speech that he was to give during the fateful Dallas trip warned that Vietnam would be, “painful, risky and costly … but we dare not weary of the task,” adding that “reducing our efforts to train, equip and assist [the allied] armies can only encourage Communist penetration and require in the time the increased overseas deployment of American combat forces.”

“It’s a left-wing myth that Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War,” Litwin says. “His planned speech for Austin, Texas, bragged about increases in the military budget. Historian Michael Beschloss agrees saying that Kennedy had initiated, “the largest peacetime defense buildup since 1945,” and had overseen more “covert action than by any president since the CIA was founded.” Litwin concludes that “Kennedy was a Cold Warrior through and through.” Stone’s “Mr. X” nonsense was based on Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, who had “a history of crackpot relationships” as Litwin shows.

Prouty was associated at one time or another with the Lyndon LaRouche organization, the Church of Scientology and the far-right Liberty Lobby whose founder, Willis Carto, believed that the Jews were “public enemy number one.” Litwin says that Prouty was an advisory board member of Liberty Lobby’s Populist Action Committee, which had been formed, “to support a variety of bigoted candidates for public office.” Additionally, the Institute for Historical Review, a Carto organization that denied the Holocaust, republished Prouty’s 1973 book, The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World.

Indeed, according to JFK researcher Edward Jay Epstein, “When the Liberty Lobby held its annual Board of Policy convention in 1991, he [Prouty] presented a special seminar, ‘Who is the Enemy?’ which blamed the high price of oil on a systematic plot of a cabal to shut down oil pipelines deliberately in the Middle East. ‘Why?’ he asked and explained to the seminar: ‘Because of the Israelis. That is their business on behalf of the oil companies. That’s why they get $3 billion a year from the U.S. taxpayer.’” In a private letter, Prouty elaborated and said that “major pipelines from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and others are dry because of Israeli threats and unrest.” According to Robert Sam Anson, when Prouty was asked about Carto’s belief that the Holocaust never happened, he replied “I’m no authority in that area.”

Prouty’s idea that the 112th Military Intelligence Group (MIG) was ordered to “stand down” was based on a phone call he supposedly made to the 316th Field Detachment of the 112th MIG. But when questioned in 1996, Prouty said he was the one who had been called and had no recollection of the caller’s name. “You know, that phone call has troubled me for a long time,” Prouty admitted. “I’m not sure that guy was even authentic.” The commander of the group in question thought that Prouty had been “smoking something” and was so incensed by his comments that he wanted to take legal action. Undeniably, the excesses and fabrications in Stone’s film have been known for years. Researcher Dave Reitzes did one of the best takedowns of the film.

Jim DiEugenio and the Neo-Garrisonites

Litwin’s previous book, I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak told the story of Clay Shaw. Litwin says that his book was well received except for, “a group of neo-Garrisonites who took great offense at his portrayal” of the conspiracy-minded DA. One of these individuals is the aforementioned DiEugenio who wrote his own book on the Garrison case called Destiny Betrayed. Litwin says that DiEugenio became “obsessed” with him for a short period of time. “He claimed that I owned a media empire and that I wrote for an alt-right website,” Litwin writes, “and he threatened to start a ‘Litwin Watch.’” DiEugenio accused Litwin of not having reviewed all the documentation on the Garrison matter, a claim which Litwin concedes is “partly right.”

“I decided to have a look,” Litwin says, adding, “I began going through the files and immediately started finding memos that were utterly crazy, and I started putting them aside. The more I read, the more it confirmed the fact that Jim Garrison had nothing. Most of his leads were little more than rumors, which naturally led nowhere.” DiEugenio is one of three authors whom Litwin devotes an entire chapter to, the other two being William Davy and Joan Mellen. Litwin accuses these writers of, “invincible ignorance” and says they “peddle ridiculous conspiracy theories.” Litwin says that all three authors, “believe that federal agencies interfered with Garrison’s investigation and that Garrison was betrayed from within by a coterie of spies and agents.” They echo the chestnut that “Kennedy had to be killed because he was going to end the Cold War, withdraw from Vietnam, and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.”

Of the three writers, Mellen is the “most credulous” says Litwin. The “centerpiece” of her work is the conman Thomas Beckham who Litwin notes, “fooled Garrison, and so it’s no surprise that he fooled Mellen.” Litwin concedes that, “It takes chutzpah to argue that Clay Shaw was involved in the JFK assassination, but all three books take a shot. This means they thus have to prove that Shaw was Clay Bertrand.” In this regard, DiEugenio and Mellen rely mostly on witnesses including a private statement that the dubious Dean Andrews allegedly made to Harold Weisberg. But Litwin cautions that “Andrews was always adamant that Shaw was not Bertrand.” Also, Weisberg said that “Andrews told me that Shaw was Bertrand without putting it that way.” Litwin concludes, “It seems to me that Weisberg read just a little too much into his words.”

A witness that DiEugenio finds, “utterly fascinating” is Leander D’avy. In 1977, D’avy was called to testify by the HSCA and told a story of entering a small apartment where he found Oswald lying across the bed. D’avy also observed David Ferrie and the three tramps, which pretty much destroys his credibility for Litwin and other reasonable people. But if that isn’t enough, D’avy also saw Jack Ruby, Garrison favorite Fred Crisman and Beckham. No wonder the HSCA said there were, “serious questions about his credibility.”

DiEugenio maintains that Clay Shaw’s maid Virginia Johnson said that “a man who stayed with Shaw on several occasions told her that Shaw had used the name of Bertrand.” However, Litwin points out that Johnson’s statement says something altogether different. Johnson said that she had heard the name Bertrand, but she was not sure of the details. Litwin writes:

Lots of people were talking to her; she had conversations at a fabric class about the case, but “When asked if Mr. Formadol [sic] [she was clearly talking about Shaw’s friend William Formyduval] referred to Mr. Shaw as Bertrand, she stated no.” Garrison’s investigators went back several months later for another interview, and this time she said that “she had never heard the name, Bertrand.” Litwin provides many other examples of the poor scholarship of DiEugenio, Davy and Mellen.

Conclusion

Fred Litwin has written a book that will be warmly welcomed by anyone who enjoys cold war era history and even long-time students of the Garrison saga will find fresh material here. Novices to the case will no doubt be shocked by the homophobia in both Garrison’s original investigation and Stone’s film and by Prouty and Stone’s anti-Semitic remarks. Undeniably, all but the most credulous Garrison acolytes will be appalled by the demonstrable miscarriage of justice against Clay Shaw and others documented by Litwin in this fine book.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

My Final Word on Wynne Johnson

There have been several examples through the years of individuals inserting themselves into the JFK story including James Files, Beverly Oliver and Gordon Arnold. The most egregious of these may be Judyth Vary Baker whose claim that she was the girlfriend of Lee Harvey Oswald and worked with him, David Ferrie, Guy Banister and Clay Shaw on a top-secret bio-weapons project has earned her a position as the head of a JFK conference. The only confirmation for any aspect of her story comes from a pay stub from the Reily Coffee Company which shows she was employed there shortly after Oswald was. In his article, “The Making of a Fantasist,” author and researcher Greg Parker refers to the works penned by Baker and those like her as “creative non-fiction.”

A recent entrant into this group related to Veciana and the Bishop story may be one Wynne Murphey Johnson who says he was a witness to the alleged meeting of Veciana, Bishop (who Johnson predictably believes is David Phillips) and Oswald. Johnson admits that he did not “remember” the meeting of the three men until he read Fonzi’s book in 2014. In April of 2017, I published a blog article that was critical of Johnson’s story and included some questions for him. Since Johnson and I were both members of the Education Forum, I had some expectation that he would respond. More than two years later, Johnson finally replied to the original questions as well as some follow-up concerns for a total of 33 responses. My interaction with Johnson is documented here. The following account of Johnson’s story is based on a series of videos he posted at Vimeo.com and his responses to my questions.

Johnson insists that he is a “witness, not a researcher” and that he “made a deliberate decision” to forget his story at the end of 1963. Johnson says that in 1963, he was a 15-year-old student at Jesuit High School in Dallas, an all-boys Catholic Prep School. Johnson had a girlfriend named Vicki who was a student at another Dallas school and the same age. Johnson now says that he “stupidly” believed Vicki was the “love of his life.” Johnson states that he and Vicki had been to the Southland building at least twice before the fateful day of September 7, 1963. Their routine was to visit the Dallas Library before venturing to Southland. The attraction for the two youngsters was apparently the 360-degree view afforded by its observation deck.

In his very first video, Johnson says that he used several “facts” to determine the date of the alleged meeting. But comparing these facts with statements made by Veciana in his earliest interviews and testimonies reveals some problems. The first of Johnson’s facts is that “it had to be a Saturday or Sunday because school had started” and the youngsters “could not get downtown during the week.” But in his 1978 HSCA testimony, Veciana was specifically asked what part of the week the meeting occurred, and he stated that it was a weekday.

Another of Johnson’s facts is that Veciana described the incident as “happening toward the end of the first week in September.” But as I have previously documented, in his interviews with Fonzi, Veciana (after first saying the meeting occurred “around ‘62”) indicated through his interpreter that “his memory isn’t certain, but he thinks it was in the summer of ’63 in August. But he can’t give [a] specific date.” In a subsequent interview with Fonzi, Veciana said the date was “July or August.” In a June 1976 interview with Dick Russell, Veciana again said the meeting happened in August.

It was only after being influenced by Fonzi’s theories that Veciana “said” the date was specifically at the end of the first week of September. Not coincidentally, this was a time frame that Fonzi incorrectly believed that Oswald had a window of opportunity to travel to Dallas from New Orleans. But evidence places Oswald in New Orleans during that time and there is no indication that he traveled anywhere either by car, bus or air as would be necessary. When confronted with these inconsistencies, Johnson told me that “what you wrote does not change my mind.”

Johnson says that the Southland Building was normally referred to as the “Southland Life” building because “big white letters on two sides of its top said, “SOUTHLAND LIFE.” Johnson told me that except for the name, “Fonzi was right” in his identification of the building. But Johnson is apparently unaware that Veciana told Fonzi in their March 2nd interview that the meeting between Veciana, Bishop and Oswald took place in a building with a “big bank or insurance company” that could have been “blue or white.” Veciana’s description apparently made Fonzi think of Southland and during a follow-up interview on March 11th, he specifically asked Veciana if the meeting took place there. Veciana replied through his interpreter “he doesn’t remember.” Veciana only recently (2017 as near as I can determine) began saying that the building where the meeting with Phillips and Oswald took place was the Southland building. Evidently, Veciana was unable to recall the large and obvious white letters that Johnson describes (and photographs confirm) or the building’s unusual height. Southland, at 550 feet, was the tallest building west of the Mississippi river from 1959-1964 according to Wikipedia.

Johnson says that he heard a rebroadcast of Oswald’s interview by a New Orleans radio station in August of 1963 although he was “not fascinated” by it. Johnson states that he reveals this “relevant” fact to the viewers of his video because it proves that Oswald was known to the public at large before the assassination although he was not yet “extremely famous.” Johnson adds that he did not commit Oswald’s name to memory, nor does he recall seeing a photograph of him before the assassination.

On September 6th, Johnson’s sisters told him that he had missed a phone call from an unidentified male. Johnson says ominously that he has “never known for sure who the caller was.” Johnson’s video then shows a frame of a 1963 calendar with Saturday, September 7th highlighted as a prelude to his story of the meeting. Vicky called that morning and wanted to know if Johnson had received a call from “some people.” Johnson, somehow forgetting the previous day’s missed call despite having what he refers to as a “gift” for memory, replied in the negative. In his video reply to me, Johnson says, “Vicki knew something beforehand, and I cannot deny the indications for this. But exactly what she knew, and how much, and especially from whom, I do not know to this day.” The fact that Vicki was aware of the call is the first example among several of what Johnson considers to be Vicki’s foreknowledge of the events that were to occur.

Vicki asked if Johnson would take her to the Southland building and he readily agreed although he was surprised since the two had been there so often. Vicki also asked Johnson to bring a camera. Although he is not sure on this point, Johnson guesses that the “source” who provided her with foreknowledge asked her to do this. Johnson’s video goes on to show several maps and photographs to try to add legitimacy to his story including a picture of the “old Statler Hilton Hotel” where he says portentously that “Richard Nixon stayed … the night before the assassination.”

Johnson goes on to describe the journey from the library where the two met to Southland in excruciating detail saying that they met and briefly talked to a classmate of his. He says that a taxi revved its engine behind them on Live Oak Street and “careened left onto Olive Street” and this is “an important detail.” When the taxi passed them, Vicki said, “Did you see that?” After Johnson said that he had, Vicki said, “There is something I need to tell you. There will be some people in the building.” Vicki did not elaborate, and Johnson did not ask what she meant by the remark. Johnson says he “cannot now rule out Vicki’s having been told that [Oswald] might be among the aforementioned “some people.” Johnson does not say who could have told Vicki this or how this instance of foreknowledge on her part could have occurred.

As they continued walking, Johnson remembers the “distinct sound of a car door slamming shut” and observed the taxi discharge a young man at the corner of Live Oak and Olive. This young man, according to Johnson, was Oswald. The “fact” that Oswald took a taxi to Southland is one of several realities that only “lately” occurred to Johnson, but he does not regard this as detrimental to his credibility.

Interestingly, Johnson has developed a new theory about the taxi. He now believes that the encounter was planned and that the taxi had been waiting for the teenagers and had followed them for a short distance. Johnson believes that the taxi was rented by the plotters and the driver was none other than perennial conspiracy favorite David Ferrie. Johnson is sure of this because Judyth Baker has reported that Oswald and Ferrie were friends by this time and since both men were CIA operatives, they would have known how to rent a taxi without a driver. Additionally, Ferrie would have wanted to help Oswald during his meeting with Phillips in any way possible according to Johnson.

Johnson believes that the reason for all of this was to have “friendly witnesses” in place at Southland who could be identified and found later. Johnson has no idea why two 15-year-old kids were picked as “witnesses” nor does he explain why the conspirators never called on the duo to confirm the meeting. According to his video reply to me, Johnson does not see his late occurring memory of the taxi or his theory about David Ferrie being the driver as significant factors when evaluating his believability.

After entering the building, Vicki asked Johnson if he would walk more slowly at first and then, at some point, she told Johnson to resume his normal pace. Johnson apparently did not find this behavior strange enough to ask about and still does not know why Vicki did this. He does admit that the effect of her action was to give Oswald, Veciana and Phillips enough time to encounter them in the lobby, again suggesting foreknowledge on the part of 15-year-old Vicki. Johnson observed the three men near the wall to their right. The youngest of the men, who Johnson believes was Oswald, was the same man he had observed getting out of the taxi. “Somehow,” Johnson claims, “I was surprised to see him again so soon and my surprise must have shown involuntarily on my face as I was soon to find out.” Johnson does not say why he should be surprised to see an admitted total stranger or why he would pay any attention to him at all for that matter.

The oldest man “turns out” according to Johnson, to be David Atlee Phillips of the CIA. Again, Johnson does not explain how after forcing himself to forget for years and years he was able to remember the details of a chance encounter such as where each man was standing, where other passersby were located and what they all did. Inevitably, Johnson says the third man was Antonio Veciana, but he admits that he knew none of these “facts” before reading Fonzi’s book in 2014. Johnson claims that Phillips asked the youngsters where he could find a coffee shop and Vicki gave him directions.

Johnson’s claims here disregard several commonsense facts. Harold Weisberg, a researcher and former OSS operative who Johnson quotes in his videos and seems to respect, said that Phillips would never bring together two of his clandestine contacts. Johnson answers this criticism by saying that Weisberg was noting what “would have been normal.” But since the JFK assassination “was unique in human history” that “nobody should be surprised that unusual events were a part of it.” But Johnson’s logic asks us to ignore the fact that if Phillips were to inexplicably try such an ill-advised maneuver it seems logical that he would know the layout of the building rather than calling attention to himself and his assets by asking directions in public.

It was at this point, according to Johnson that Oswald spoke up and said, “he recognized me.” Johnson speculates that Oswald said this because before the two youngsters arrived Phillips might have asked him if he had been seen entering the building. Oswald would have told Phillips, Johnson speculates, that two teenagers had indeed seen him. When Vicki replied, “We saw you outside” Phillips’ demeanor “suddenly changed” from “friendly” to “the opposite” and he intoned, “does he [Johnson] have a camera?” After Vicki assured Phillips that Johnson did not, the clueless Phillips asked, “Is this the way out?” as he gestured to a door behind Vicki. Oswald interjected, “There is another way out here.” The three men left, but Johnson was “sufficiently distracted by what he had just witnessed” to the point that he started toward the wrong door to the observation deck elevator even though there was a sign for it. Why Johnson was “distracted” at all by an innocuous conversation with three strangers he does not say.

A brief digression is needed before continuing the evaluation of this part of Johnson’s story. In 2014, Johnson began contacting prominent researchers and other relevant individuals to alert them to his story. One of these people was Gaeton Fonzi’s widow, Marie. According to Mrs. Fonzi, Johnson sent her “an abstract of about a hundred pages.” Mrs. Fonzi instructed Johnson to prepare a two-page summary of his story, and she gave out copies of this at the 2014 AARC conference. This action by Mrs. Fonzi was probably responsible for Johnson’s story becoming more widely known among researchers. During her 2014 AARC presentation, Mrs. Fonzi said that Johnson was “very valid” and was surprised that others, such as Jefferson Morley, did not feel the same way. Mrs. Fonzi also expressed “regret” that her husband “had not lived long enough to know” about Johnson and Vicki. For more detail about Mrs. Fonzi and Johnson from her perspective in 2014, see the AARC video “Dr. Marie Fonzi-On the Home Front” starting at the 22:00 minute mark.

Ultimately however, Mrs. Fonzi began to sour on Johnson and later told him that she had reservations about “late-occurring” memories. Additionally, Johnson admitted to me that one of the last things Mrs. Fonzi told him was to “leave me out of it.” The trouble between the two may have started when Johnson was forced to admit that some of the dialog that he reported to Mrs. Fonzi did not appear in his very first video. Evidently, some astute researcher (or Mrs. Fonzi herself) caught on to this fact and confronted Johnson. While admitting that his omission of these lines is “puzzling” Johnson goes on to relate them as an integral part of his story anyway.

In his latest version of events, Johnson says that the dialog between Vicki and Phillips was slightly longer with Vicki repeating the directions to the coffee shop twice. Johnson also now remembers thinking that he should suggest to Phillips that the men follow them up to the observation deck restaurant but ended up saying nothing while Vicki did the talking. Finally, in this new version Oswald has an additional line. After Phillips became unfriendly, he said “I thought he [Johnson] was on our side” to which Oswald replied, “That’s what you’re going to find out.” The rest of the conversation was as Johnson previously described.

Johnson evidently was caught in another sticky situation during his conversations with Marie Fonzi. Johnson firmly denies this, but it is possible that he may have tried to further embellish his story for Mrs. Fonzi’s benefit. In this questioned conversation, Phillips asked Veciana in Spanish, “Is it him?” (referring to Johnson). Veciana then replied, “yes younger.” Johnson acknowledges that this exchange implies that Phillips and Veciana already had knowledge of him, a very unlikely situation to say the least. Johnson now says that this had to be a “vaticinal” dream that occurred in the late 1963 to 1965 time period rather than a real event and attributes it to “some kind of deep sleep time warp.” Johnson seems to understand that this incident adds to his diminished credibility and may cause some to think that he dreamed the entire Southland incident.

After the encounter, Johnson showed Vicki that he did have his camera and he believes this fact somehow proves his claims about the conversation with the three men. After pushing the button for the elevator, Vicki told Johnson she would be “right back.” When she returned, Vicki, who acted like she had seen a celebrity, told Johnson, “I think I just saw …” and then repeated a three-part name with “Lee” included. Inevitably, Johnson is sure that she said, “Lee Harvey Oswald” rather than “Jerry Lee Lewis” or any of a hundred other names. How or why a fifteen-year-old girl would be interested enough in Lee Harvey Oswald, a name unknown to likely 99 percent of Americans at that point in time, to recognize him on sight is not satisfactorily explained by Johnson. It is obvious that Johnson has received a great deal of flak from researchers about this claim since he devotes much time in a later video talking about it. But ultimately, Johnson stands by this assertion and insists that it was “possible” for Vicki to know the name. After a brief time on the observation deck, the youngsters took their time returning to ground level to give the “peculiar” and “suspicious” men time to leave the area.

The pair walked past the Library to where Johnson’s car was located so that he could drive Vicki home but sat in the car and talked for a time before leaving. Vicki told Johnson that the men they had seen in the lobby “wanted to kill Castro and Kennedy,” the first of two times before the assassination that she would divulge this startling information. Vicki suggested that they call the police, but Johnson did not want to do anything since he did not think that she “had any real information” and believed she was reacting to the fact that they were “right-wingers.” How Vicki was able to ascertain this in such a short time is not explained, but perhaps Johnson again chalks this up to Vicki’s foreknowledge of the situation. Johnson, in one of the more sensible claims he makes, was “already forgetting” about the men and considered them a “forgettable interruption” in their day and would remain so for 51 years.

Before leaving the area, Vicki told Johnson that she wanted to see a woman at Titche’s Department Store, and he waited in the car while she went in. When Vicki finally emerged, she told Johnson “You may need to know this name. Ruth Ann.” Evidently, Johnson had no curiosity then about “Ruth Ann” and asked no questions. However, Johnson now believes that “Ruth Ann” ties into the Loy Factor conspiracy theory, a fact that seems to again indicate Vicki’s foreknowledge of assassination related matters. "It is not unthinkable," Johnson maintains, that Malcolm Wallace was there at Southland to meet with David Phillips, although he concedes “that does not make it so.” Under this unlikely scenario, Phillips would be at Southland to meet with, not one, but three assets in the same day.

After arriving at Vicki’s house, she invited Johnson inside. Vicki then told an unseen person in an adjacent room that the woman she went to see at Tiche’s was not there. Johnson now assumes this hidden individual was probably Vicki’s brother who may have been made aware of other relevant events. In any case, Johnson departed shortly thereafter. Sometime later, Johnson and Vicki went on a date to the Texas State Fair and Vicki again brought up the mysterious men in the lobby. Johnson, understandably, had to be reminded about the unextraordinary incident with the men that he now recalls in excruciating detail. Vicki again wanted to go to the police, but Johnson once more saw no reason for such action. Johnson now blames himself for not taking Vicki seriously.

After the assassination, Johnson visited Vicki’s home and she informed him that her mother needed to speak to him. Vicki also said in a somewhat worried tone of voice that she believed she had, “run into Lee Harvey Oswald” who by now was known to Johnson and the rest of the world. Johnson says he still did not associate Vicki’s revelation with the meeting of the mysterious men at Southland although Oswald “seemed familiar” to him. Presently, Vicki’s mother came into the room and confirmed her desire to talk to Johnson but not just then. Johnson says that “importantly” Vicki’s mother did not seem upset.

On November 24th, Johnson attended mass and upon returning home was informed by his sister that Oswald had been shot and killed. Johnson admits that he still did not recall having seen Oswald at this point. On the 26th, Johnson decided to see Vicki’s mother after school as she had asked. Again, Johnson’s remarkable memory for detail is on display as he recalls specifics such as where the members of Vicki’s family were positioned in the home as the meeting began. Vicki’s mother exclaimed, “Vicki tells me that you and she ran into Lee Harvey Oswald downtown.” Johnson still did not remember seeing Oswald but when Vicki told him it was at Southland he finally remembered. Vicki’s mother, who was now clearly worried, instructed Johnson not to talk to anyone about the incident since “they could kill Vicki.”

Johnson and Vicki pacified her mother somewhat by assuring her that the incident with the men had taken place in September and not recently. Vicki’s mother told Johnson that her admonition to not speak did, of course, not include the police. Johnson understood that he was primarily not to speak to their “stupid friends” and agreed with Vicki’s mother “in the short term.” It should be noted that Johnson’s father did not believe the story and suspected that one or both teens had “made it up.” Johnson does not find his father’s skepticism significant and says that he “thought that the authorities would get to the bottom of the matter.”

Johnson feels that the only other member of Vicki’s family that was aware of the situation would have been her brother. The following day, Johnson’s mother told him that she had spoken with Vicki’s mother and agreed with her assessment of the situation. “Let the authorities handle it” she advised her son, although Johnson is now doubtful that his mother could have “had an adequate idea of what happened” during their observation of the men at Southland. Nevertheless, after this conversation, Johnson decided to forget “the men in the lobby” unless he was contacted by authorities, which he never was.

At a subsequent visit to Vicki’s house, she spoke to Johnson privately regarding rumors of an “atrocity apparently committed by people suspicious of the official story” or unhappy with Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. Johnson says that this “dark rumor” kept him from talking freely about the JFK assassination until 2014. Johnson also claims that this rumor was a “factor in my forgetting the relatively trivial encounter at the Southland building.” Johnson, who often mentions race in his videos, speaks of past lynchings as an example of a “general breakdown of order” that could occur in the wake of certain revelations regarding an event such as the assassination. Johnson has consistently refused to talk about the “dark rumor” and declined again when I specifically asked him about it.

One morning not long after the assassination, Vicki called and asked Johnson to meet her at the library. Johnson was waiting when Vicki arrived, and she greeted him but then immediately excused herself to speak to a stern-looking middle-aged man in a business suit nearby. Johnson has since determined, through undisclosed means, that this individual was “a G-man” probably from “the FBI” and working for the Warren Commission. Like before, Johnson remembers minute details such as where the principals were situated and provides a diagram to prove his point. Evidently oblivious to Johnson’s presence, the pair spoke for “a long time.” Finally, the “G-man” left the library and Johnson understandably questioned Vicki about the man and their conversation. But she told him that she regrettably could not tell him the nature of their conversation. Undaunted by this revelation, Johnson proceeded to escort Vicki to the classical music section of the library. Johnson now believes that diligent researchers might be able to unearth an FBI report of the incident, although they will have to endure the “badly programmed websites” where such documents reside to do so.

Two and a half years later, Johnson learned more about the meeting between Vicki and the “G-man” in a private conversation with her. She told him that the conversation had been about one word- “Oswald.” Johnson immediately “realized” that their discussion had been about the Southland meeting. Johnson later surmised, although Vicki did not say this, that her family responded to public calls by authorities for information on the assassination. That is why Johnson believes that the “G-man” wanted both him and Vicki present at the library, although he chose not to speak to Johnson. Why Vicki could not tell Johnson about the meeting right away is never explained. Nor is it explained why the “G-man” would not want to speak with Johnson as it is a standard practice in law enforcement to compare witness statements. If the story of the meeting with the man is true and he was from the FBI, Johnson has apparently never considered the possibility that he listened to Vicki and did not believe her information was relevant.

Johnson next discusses an alleged incident from 1965 that occurred at a party that a friend invited him to. His friend said that Vicki, who Johnson was not permitted to see at this time, would be at the party and Johnson was keen to attend for this reason. His friend also mentioned that “an important government man” would be there. At the party, Johnson did speak to Vicki outside, but their conversation was “disappointing” which seems to mean that she refused his advances. After going back inside, Johnson observed the “government man” arriving through the front door. This man looked like David Phillips and Johnson is now “convinced” that he was. This man was immediately surrounded by young people who told him that an individual they had discussed was at the party. “I want to meet him” Phillips told the youngsters. Although Johnson was sure that he was the man Phillips wanted to meet, he had “a bad feeling” and left through a side door before Phillips spotted him.

Johnson defends his dubious recollections regarding this incident by saying that the people at the party were either finishing high school or already in college. And since most were into the humanities and especially drama, it is not “unthinkable” that Phillips would be at the party recruiting for the government. Johnson says that Phillips, who was stationed overseas in a high-level CIA post at the time, “just happened to be in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.” Johnson argues that a spy is an actor at heart and Phillips’ background as an actor is not in dispute. Johnson apparently believes that Phillips wanted to speak with him and that his intentions could have been “benevolent.”

Eventually, Johnson attended college and served in the military. He married a woman named Beverly who filled him in on the details of the “dark rumor” Johnson had first heard from Vicki although he refuses to say what those specifics were. In 1973, Vicki’s husband told Johnson that he was concerned that she might be subpoenaed during any new investigation about the assassination. By 1990, Johnson learned that Vicki “seemed to be under stress” but could not pursue the matter. Johnson followed news reports about the HSCA investigation in the late seventies and learned of Veciana’s Bishop story but did not connect it with his experiences. Johnson admits that this lack of recognition might “be hard to believe” but says that he “put the topic out of his mind” in 1963 and “developed a further aversion to it” after his wife’s 1971 revelation about the “dark rumor.”

By the year 2000, Johnson was working as an English teacher. In his leisure time, he began what was obviously an intense study of the conspiracy literature of the JFK assassination. As Johnson learned more, it became “clearer and clearer what a fraud the Warren Commission had been.” By 2014, Johnson had read Fonzi’s book and learned of two key points of information; that the meeting was at the Southland building and that Phillips and Veciana went to a coffee shop. That was enough to “start bringing back the memory to me” Johnson says. What followed was his attempt to get “corroboration from Vicki and Veciana.”

The fact is Johnson has gone to considerable lengths to make his story known in the conspiracy community. In addition to his interaction with Mrs. Fonzi, Johnson contacted well-known researcher James DiEugenio sometime after the 2014 AARC conference. In 2015, DiEugenio told members of the Deep Politics forum that Johnson “deserves a fair hearing” (DPF, “The Southland Center Revisited”). Additionally, Johnson contacted Judyth Baker, who, as mentioned, spins her own dubious tale of an experience with Oswald. However, Baker told Johnson that Oswald never said anything about two teenagers at Southland.

In 2015 Johnson traveled to Miami to see Veciana himself. Veciana gladly used Johnson’s story in his book as “confirmation” of his own tale and claimed to remember him and Vicki. This is surprising since in his initial interviews with Fonzi, Veciana could not remember simple details such as exactly where and when the meeting took place-a fact that Johnson seems unaware of or chooses to ignore. Johnson believes that although Veciana never told Fonzi or anyone else about seeing him and Vicki, that Veciana may have simply forgotten this aspect of the story. But speaking to Johnson possibly triggered Veciana’s memory in the same remarkable way that Johnson’s own memory was rekindled by reading Fonzi’s book. Johnson notes that Veciana made several “mistakes” in his book when recounting his tale. Johnson feels that he remembered some of Veciana’s story “better than he did” and seeks to correct these blunders in a recent video. The biggest disagreement seems to be that Veciana remembered that Oswald never said a word while Johnson says that Oswald uttered, “he recognized me.”

At some point, Johnson became aware that many in the conspiracy research community did not believe his claims and therefore he made a few videos to answer questions from skeptics. Johnson says that he “cannot help” the fact that his story is hard to believe but he is obliged to tell it. Johnson says it is “hard to know what to say” about negative reactions to his videos but adds that he has “no motive” to lie. Johnson adds that he can “hardly keep track of waves of skepticism” and says that money is not a motive since he has received little renumeration for his efforts, which is undoubtedly true.

Johnson counters those who think his reason for coming forward with his story is to insert himself into history by saying that his motive is instead “patriotic” and “religious and moral.” For those who say he is seeking attention, Johnson says that is “rubbish” and a “dismissive insult and smear used on many witnesses in this case starting with Lee Oswald himself.” Johnson adds that “a truthful witness CANNOT AVOID (emphasis in original video subtitles) that attention except through silence.” However, Johnson admits that discussions with conspiracy researchers caused him to “remember more” of his story.

Johnson hopes that Vicki, which he insists is her real first name, will see his videos and come forward to confirm his story. However, Vicki’s husband wrote to Johnson saying that she does not remember anything regarding the incident, which would be hard to believe if Johnson’s story is true. Johnson is doubtful that Vicki, “really does not remember beyond recall,” but adds that if she doesn’t, he would “not hesitate to call it an innocent case of amnesia.” Johnson believes that such an instance of amnesia might be “commonplace” in the case of an individual who was acting out of a need to “safeguard the lives of loved ones or their own life.” Vicki’s husband also told Johnson that he hoped he would not write again and that they do not want to be contacted by him or anyone regarding his videos. Since Vicki’s husband is a career military man, Johnson suspects that his refusal to speak with him is because of the military’s “conformity of political opinion” regarding the “coup of 1963.”

Editor's Note

Researcher Tom Scully advised me that Johnson himself revealed Vicki's full name on the Internet. Her identity will not be revealed by this blog out of respect for her privacy.

What to make of Johnson’s claims? First, it is significant when evaluating Johnson’s allegations to note that he believes several of the popular JFK and 9/11 conspiracy theories. Johnson says that “evidence uncovered by private citizens” shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was “not guilty of the charges” of killing JFK and JD Tippit. Johnson adds that Oswald “was not on the sixth floor of [the book depository] when the motorcade passed by and never shot at Kennedy.” Johnson cites the “Prayer Man” conspiracy theory as proof of Oswald’s innocence in this regard. According to the video he made in response to my questions, he also believes that Robert Kennedy was assassinated because of a conspiracy and that “World Trade Center 7 was not brought down by office fires” and this fact is made “perfectly obvious from the video evidence, including from a nearby camera showing detonations within the building as they happened.”

Although he denies it, a possible motive for Johnson is a desire to insert himself and his story into the JFK case, a subject that he cares deeply about and has studied extensively. Despite his protestations, Johnson has gone to considerable trouble to contact researchers and make his story known and has spoken at two JFK assassination conferences. It is entirely possible that Johnson had some of the experiences he has described. Perhaps he and the girl did visit the Southland building and did see a group of men together. Perhaps Vicki did later convince him that they had seen Lee Harvey Oswald and they told her parents about it contemporaneously. Conceivably her family did take the extra step of reporting what they knew to the authorities and an investigator went to the library to interview Vicki. But even if all of this is true, it would not be unusual. Dozens and dozens of other people thought they had seen Oswald or had other information that they believed was relevant to the assassination. The FBI, who had no choice, spent hundreds of wasted hours chasing down these leads and found that most of them were without foundation.

In my opinion, Johnson has projected a series of events he believes he witnessed onto the historical record. Johnson does not seem to realize that most of the skepticism regarding his claims comes from the fact that he only “remembered” these events after reading and falling under the sway of conspiracy books. He also seems to be unaware that much of the information in these books, specifically about Veciana, is demonstrably false. Johnson admits that he “easily forgot” about the alleged incident at Southland by the time of the assassination. Indeed, that is what would have happened in any normal situation-the mind forgets what it has no need to retain. Johnson believes that he “made a conscious decision to forget” the incident and it “receded far into his subconscious memory.” Later, the memory came back to him “naturally” and, according to his own analysis, “reliably.” But it just would not work that way in real life. After all, Johnson is not claiming that he recalled the incident through therapy or hypnosis. You do not experience an incident and then just happen to remember more and more detail after reading conspiracy books and talking to conspiracy-oriented researchers.

Johnson, who is obviously intelligent and probably a sincere and well-meaning man, has exactly one relevant individual who is willing to support his claims. Vicky, wherever she may be, will not support him. Evidently, neither will anyone in her family. Marie Fonzi was polite to Johnson but firmly skeptical. Even Judyth Baker would not help him. Only Antonio Veciana, whose story is now being exposed by myself and others as a gross distortion, “confirms” his tale.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Tribute to John McAdams

Dr. John C. McAdams, one of the world’s foremost experts on the JFK assassination, has died unexpectedly at the age of 75. A friend and champion of this blog, Dr. McAdams was considered by me and others to be the “Dean” of lone assassin researchers. As such, he was known to help researchers on both sides of the JFK debate. Fred Litwin, author of two books on the JFK case, expressed the feelings of many by noting, “He patiently went through articles, and manuscripts, and always had ideas for improvements. His book, JFK Assassination Logic, is a manual on how to think about evidence and conspiracy.”

Dr. McAdams’ website, which is hosted by Marquette University where he was an Associate Professor of Political Science for nearly 45 years, was his pride and joy and contained his work as well as the efforts of other experts in the JFK field. His site was recommended by no less than PBS as an authoritative source of information. Dr. McAdams founded his website in 1995, which was about the time that he began to appear in debates on Internet forums. He ran his own Usenet forum for many years called alt.assassination.jfk which could be accessed through Google Groups. Additionally, he actively participated in a private email group managed by noted researcher Paul Hoch.

Dr. McAdams was a frequent guest on radio and television programs and was sought out by print journalists for his opinion on JFK matters. In 2011, he participated in an oral history for the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. In 2013, he appeared in the PBS Nova presentation of Cold Case JFK. Dr. McAdams ran a personal blog called Marquette Warrior and was active politically in several capacities including as a writer for the conservative Heartland Institute. Dr. McAdams was the author of two books-the aforementioned JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think About Claims of Conspiracy and the non-JFK title The New Class in Post-Industrial Society which was published in 2015.

Dr. McAdams was born in Kennedy, Alabama. In the late sixties, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Alabama. In 1970-71, he received a master’s degree in Social Studies Education at Columbia University. He completed his Ph. D in Political Science at Harvard University in 1981. He taught at both Harvard and Boston University before moving to Marquette. Simply put, his death is an incaluable loss for all JFK researchers.

Resources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Obituary

John McAdams Cirriculum Vitae

Article on McAdams and the Cheryl Abbate Matter

John McAdams: The Kennedy Assassination

John McAdams' Review of Faustian Bargains

John McAdams' Review of JFK and the Unspeakable

John McAdams' Review of The Road to Dallas

David Von Pien-Radio Debates Featuring John McAdams

David Von Pien-Interviews Featuring John McAdams

John McAdams-Wikipedia Page

Fred Litwin Article on McAdams

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Newman Says Phillips Was Not Bishop

“But it’s no doubt in my mind what happened and there was a classic, you know, ambush. He was never gonna get out of [Dealey Plaza] alive.”

This statement by author John Newman during the question-and-answer session after his November 2020 presentation titled, “The CIA, the Army and the Pentagon: The Veciana Misdirection 3.0” was no doubt warmly received by the virtual attendees. But the real headline was his answer to another query. That response will be troubling to JFK research community members who endorse the prevailing theory that the CIA killed Kennedy.

“Was Bishop really Phillips?”

“No, I don’t think so …” Newman answered. “at best [Bishop] would be a composite of several people that played roles in the saga.”

One of the pillars of the CIA-did-it believers has been the story of Antonio Veciana who told Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi that he saw Lee Harvey Oswald meet with his mentor, a shadowy figure named Maurice Bishop, shortly before the JFK killing. Newman has been slowly but surely working to dismantle specific aspects of Veciana’s tale since about 2017. Regrettably, he is seeking to replace that false history with another one-the Pentagon and certain members of the Joint Chiefs of staff (working with obligatory CIA elements) were really behind the November 22, 1963 murder.

Before looking at the gist of his presentation, I need to clear up a minor mistake Newman made. At slide number three, he states, “That afternoon [the March 2, 1976 initial interview] in the living room with Fonzi, Veciana did not say that his Bishop character’s first name was Maurice. Veciana did not mention a first name at all” (emphasis added). Shortly thereafter Newman says, “… In 1976 Veciana did not know the first name of Bishop. Over the next 12 months, Veciana added the first name as Morris and then later he finally changed it to Maurice.”

But Veciana did mention the first name of Bishop as “Morris” in that initial interview (see Fonzi, 200; RIF 157-10007-10311, p. 4). Moreover, Newman understates Bishop’s first name problem. Veciana’s Church Committee deposition (which is now missing) resulted in the generation of documents that referred to “Jim” or “John” as other possibilities for the unseen mentor’s first name.

At the virtual conference, Newman described his current theory regarding Veciana, which he now characterizes as “highly probable,” in the following manner:

“In exchange for his immediate release from prison [where he was serving time on a drug charge], Veciana had to fabricate a complete makeover of his past life as a CIA agent who witnessed Oswald with his CIA handler in the fall of 1963. Veciana agreed.”

According to Newman, the “crucial moment in Veciana’s life” was the “secret deal” he made to get out of prison in February 1976. Newman maintains that Veciana dropped a “big shining lie” on Gaeton Fonzi during the initial interview. “That event was no accident. Those who offered Veciana the secret deal knew that Fonzi was a staff investigator for the Senate Select Committee and knew that Fonzi was going to interview Veciana,” Newman asserted, “And I have the evidence for that.” Newman concluded, “… they weaponized Veciana to control the narrative of the Congressional investigation of the Kennedy assassination.”

To prove his theory, Newman says that he is working to have information released to the public. “Now, we want all the documents of anything the parole board did,” Newman said, “and if they’ve been destroyed we want all the documentation of when and why they were destroyed.”

In the meantime, Newman offered several pieces of evidence to support his hypothesis. He says that three of Veciana’s friends believed in the “secret deal” and believes that their statements confirm the arrangement. The first of these friends is Felix Zabala, a sports promoter who worked on various projects with Veciana in Puerto Rico. The second was Roger Redondo who was a member of SNFE. The final friend remains unidentified but goes by the FBI pseudonym of “Wild Stallion.” Newman says that “Wild Stallion” was a “senior Alpha 66 member.”

Each of these men indeed expressed the opinion that Veciana had hatched a “secret deal” (perhaps using false statements) to achieve an early prison release. But the men’s beliefs were just that with no confirmation offered. For example, in the case of “Wild Stallion,” the FBI report called his assertions, “pure speculation” and added that he “has no tangible evidence to support this theory.” And although Zabala believed in the “secret deal” theory, he also stated that in all the years he had known Veciana, he “never indicated he had anything to do with or had information concerning the assassination of Kennedy” that would justify such a deal.

Newman offers additional evidence for the “secret deal” theory in the form of a statement made by Veciana during his 1978 HSCA testimony:

“Nevertheless, I feel compelled to answer because going to [j]ail at this point in time for a person who is on parole would mean to paralyze certain very important investigations that I am now controlling within the courts of my country” (emphasis by Newman in his presentation slide).

Newman calls this a “remarkable confession” that “gave away an important clue to the hazardous mission [the secret deal] that Veciana had to undertake to win his freedom from prison”. But Veciana launched into more than one rambling and self-serving monologue during his HSCA testimony. The speech that Newman draws the quote from started out as a response to a question about the 1971 plot to kill Castro in South America that Veciana says he was a part of. However, the country Veciana was referring to was likely his homeland of Cuba and the (probably imaginary) investigations he referenced were doubtless related to two of his pet peeves-his drug conviction “setup” (which he blamed “the Cuban government” for in this same testimony) and his fear that Castro was trying to kill him. Although the evidence shows that Veciana was guilty of the drug charge, his latter concern was a real one since he was indeed slightly wounded during an assassination attempt in 1979.

As a researcher who believes that Bishop did not exist, if Newman were to prove that Veciana procured an early release to tell his story, it would be a stroke of luck for me. Veciana’s motive for the Bishop story would then become obvious-he wanted to give the investigators their “money’s worth.” But I doubt the “secret deal” theory for several reasons.

First, Newman says that the conspirators “knew” that Fonzi was going to interview Veciana. I take this to mean that Fonzi was unaware of the scheme and was an unwitting dupe which simplifies things. The conspirators contacted Veciana and got him to agree to this “secret deal.” In exchange for his freedom, Veciana was to represent himself-to use Newman’s words, “as a CIA agent who witnessed Oswald with his CIA handler in the fall of 1963.” The problem is he did no such thing.

As I wrote in a previous blog post:

[during the first interview with Fonzi] Veciana inexplicably uttered, “a few times [I] asked [Bishop] if he worked for the CIA. And the answer he would give … was that there isn’t only one agency, the CIA, there are a lot of agencies working for this” [the anti-Castro cause]. Veciana went on to say that he believed Bishop was “working for a private organization, not the government.” As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Despite the perfect opportunity to tie his mysterious mentor to the CIA, Veciana somehow completely forgot about the mission his Pentagon masters had ordered him to undertake. In fact, he seemed to be going out of his way to not implicate the agency. Worse, his reference to other “agencies” had opened the door to the possibility that Fonzi, or another investigator reviewing his notes, would consider Army Intelligence as a source of Bishop’s authority. And given Veciana’s provable ties to that group, that was a distinct possibility.

Indeed, as Newman notes in his presentation, Senator Schweiker did his own legwork which led to the Church Committee deposition of Veciana’s true Intelligence handler, Milford Hubbard of the US Army. Both Schweiker and Fonzi became aware of Veciana’s link to the Army and the lack of evidence that tied him to the CIA. Others in the US government also learned of Veciana’s Army ties. We now know that the CIA’s Scott Breckinridge was referring to the Army when he told Robert Blakey, “you know Veciana was an asset of another US government agency and not of CIA.” Because there was no Bishop, Schweiker hit a dead end in his pursuit of the ethereal mentor as an Army Intelligence asset and dropped the matter. Fonzi simply ignored the evidence that that Veciana’s more tangible association was with the Army and blindly pursued the CIA angle.

Veciana again had a chance to put everyone on the right track in June of 1976 when he spoke to Dick Russell. Granted, Russell was not a government investigator, but Veciana’s statements to him show that he was not pushing the CIA angle to anyone. Veciana told Russell that Bishop was, “part of an American intelligence service, but instructed him not to ask which one.” Once again, Veciana not only refused to implicate the CIA through Bishop, but again opened the door to the possibility that he was working with another intelligence service such as the Army’s.

In August of 1977, well over a year after those first interviews with Fonzi, Veciana had yet another chance to identify Bishop as CIA. Once again, he failed miserably to do the plotters’ bidding and made a point of forcefully denying that Bishop was with the agency. Veciana told Fonzi’s assistant Al Gonzales that he “never said that Bishop was CIA” but believed that he was with “some sort of [other] intelligence agency or with a powerful interest group.” And Veciana’s reference of another intelligence agency again opened the door to potential scrutiny of the very agency he was supposed to protect-the Army. By the way, it was during this interview with Gonzales that Veciana initally said that Bishop’s first name was “Maurice.”

Veciana’s final opportunity to implicate the CIA under Fonzi’s tenure came during his 1978 HSCA testimony. Predictably, Veciana once again stated, "I always had the opinion that Maurice Bishop was working for a private firm and not the government." Veciana also refused to name David Phillips, Fonzi’s perennial Bishop suspect, as the unseen mentor. So much for directing the attention of investigators away from the Pentagon and toward the CIA. A simpler and more likely motive for Veciana to initially speak to Fonzi was his two pet peeves previously mentioned-his drug conviction and his fear of Castro. Veciana probably believed that having government investigators in his corner would lend credibility to his assertion that he was “setup” for the drug charge (and Fonzi indeed promoted that canard) and make it harder for Castro to kill him.

In addition to the “secret deal” theory, there are a few other points that I disagree with Newman about. I will offer more detail about these in my forthcoming book.

To show that Veciana disliked the CIA and would not have worked with them, Newman says the MRP endured a “CIA nightmare” in Cuba before the Bay of Pigs. The MRP asked the agency for “weapons of war” but the CIA distrusted them and provided only sabotage weapons and equipment. According to Newman, a schism in the MRP developed in June 1961 and Veciana became “military coordinator.” Veciana was very bitter toward the CIA when Cuban Intelligence crushed Operation Liborio in 1961. I assume Newman means that Veciana was bitter regarding the fact that the CIA did not provide more substantial weapons to the MRP. But why? Did Veciana really believe that having a few weapons would allow the MRP to crush Castro’s substantial security forces? Besides, Veciana had a bazooka-the problem (depending on who is telling the story) was evidently finding anyone who was willing to risk their own life by firing it at Castro.

Newman says a “secret merger” between Alpha 66 and SNFE during the Cuban Missile Crisis helped to hide the Army’s work with Alpha 66 and transfer blame for pushing JFK into war with Cuba (which, of course, never happened) from the Pentagon to the CIA. My contention is that such a merger never occurred, at least not the way Newman indicates.

Newman doubts the story that Hubbard told to Schweiker about visiting the frogmen at the Alpha 66/SNFE base. Hubbard said that SNFE leader Eloy Menoyo was the one who accompanied him to the base but Newman believes it was Veciana. Newman bases this on a report that says Veciana was scheduled to take the trip. Of course, this does not prove that he did. As further proof that Menoyo could not have made the trip Newman maintains (slide 113) that Menoyo left the US on October 10, 1962 and never returned “for years.” But a quick check of my records shows Menoyo made a speech in Chicago in May of 1963.

In conclusion, John Newman should be congratulated for recognizing that David Phillips was not Bishop and stating that publicly. Similarly, he should be commended for some of his work on the Veciana-Maurice Bishop matter. For example, Newman was the first one to show that both the 1959 and 1960 scenarios regarding Veciana meeting Bishop/Phillips in Cuba are false when checked against the known actions of Phillips. But it is regrettable that he is trying to replace Veciana’s conspiracy canard with his pet theory of Pentagon involvement in the death of JFK.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Dale Myers Debunks Armstrong's Tippit Fantasy

Dale Myers, whose fantastic book With Malice is the gold standard on Lee Harvey Oswald's murder of officer JD Tippit, has put together an excellent debunking of John Armstrong's Harvey and Lee theory as it relates to that crime.

Myers uses his encyclopedic knowledge of the Tippit case to destroy Armstrong's assertions and provides extensive examples of Armstrong "cherry picking" facts and misrepresenting evidence to the point of changing quotations to suit his needs. Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Last Laugh

Antonio Veciana has the last laugh, at least for the time being. The former anti-Castro activist died last Thursday at the age of 91 and his hometown paper, the Miami Herald, provided him with exactly the sort of obituary he would have wanted.

Herald reporter Sarah Moreno wrote that Veciana was “trained by the CIA” to carry out military actions. “Veciana worked for the CIA in Bolivia” Moreno’s article continues, “until he fell out with the agent who was running him, David Atlee Phillips.” According to Moreno, at a meeting with Phillips, whose code-name was Maurice Bishop, Veciana observed his handler talking with Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President Kennedy. Fearing for his life and the safety of his family, Veciana did not mention the incident during congressional hearings on the assassination, according to Moreno who was quoting Veciana’s daughter Ana Veciana-Suarez.

It is unfortunate that a respected publication such as the Herald did not take more care in the preparation of the obituary. It is apparent that only two sources the Herald used were Veciana-Suarez and Veciana’s virtually fictionalized autobiography Trained to Kill. The claims against Phillips, a highly decorated CIA officer who rose to the number three position in the agency, are particularly regrettable and should have been presented as allegations instead of facts. The purpose of this article is to attempt to untangle the mess the Herald has created.

The myriad problems with Veciana’s changing story of his life have been discussed at this site in detail and will therefore only be summarized here. There is no evidence, save for Veciana’s word, that he was trained by the CIA to do anything or that he “worked” for the agency. He was an asset of sorts for a brief time and in December of 1961, the agency requested a Provisional Operational Approval to use him as a “sabotage man.” But shortly thereafter, Veciana began his work with Alpha 66 as an organizer and fundraiser and there is no evidence that he did any sort of sabotage work for the agency. And his case officer during this abortive sojourn was not David Phillips but Cal Hicks. The POA was canceled in October of 1962 because of a lack of “further interest” by the agency.

There is no evidence that Veciana ever received a dime from the CIA. A one-time payment of $500 often mentioned by theorists came from CIA asset Luis A. Ferre. But this was a private donation by Ferre to the Alpha 66 cause rather than any sort of payoff for Veciana’s services. In 1962, Veciana provided information to Army Intelligence that he hoped would secure money and arms for Alpha 66. This relationship lasted for four years although Veciana always attempted to minimize the association.

Despite the quote attributed by Moreno to his daughter, Veciana most certainly did mention his Maurice Bishop story during “congressional hearings.” He first told his story in a series of interviews with government investigator Gaeton Fonzi in March of 1976. Later that year, Veciana testified before both the Church Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In 1978, he testified on consecutive days before the House Select Committee on Assassinations and repeated his Bishop tale. Fonzi championed Veciana’s cause until his own death in 2012 and authored a scandalous article in 1980 that resulted in a lawsuit by Phillips, who always denied that he was Bishop. Fonzi was forced to admit in his HSCA report that “No corroboration was found for Veciana's alleged meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald.” Fonzi later wrote a book that popularized Veciana’s story in the conspiracy culture and promoted the notion of CIA complicity in the death of JFK utilizing the Bishop story.

Veciana initially never claimed that Phillips, or anyone else, was Bishop and he supposedly was looking for his former case officer so he could rejoin him in the anti-Castro effort. In various interviews with Fonzi and others, Veciana stated that Bishop was not necessarily CIA but could have been an agent for another intelligence service or acting on behalf of a powerful interest group. After a face-to-face meeting with Phillips, Veciana told Fonzi that the CIA man was not Bishop and Fonzi admitted in his book that Phillips showed no recognition of Veciana. Testifying under oath in 1978, Veciana swore that Phillips was not Bishop and repeated this claim for most of his life.

However, in 2013 at the urging of Fonzi’s widow Marie, Veciana reversed course and declared that Phillips was Bishop after all. But JFK conspiracy researcher and author John Newman discovered that both of Veciana’s stories about meeting Phillips as Bishop in Cuba were demonstrably false. In Veciana’s first version of the story, he met Bishop in mid-1960 but Phillips had left the island permanently no later than March of that year and perhaps earlier. By the time of his Assassinations Archives and Research Center conference appearance in 2014, Veciana, perhaps aware of the 1960 timing problem, was floating a new scenario that placed his meeting with Phillips in 1959. But Newman found that, during the time Veciana claims he met Phillips that year, the latter was involved in a potentially life-threatening security problem that precluded any recruitment of new agents.

Veciana’s 2017 autobiography repeated the Bishop canard and added new details that he had unaccountably neglected to mention to investigator Fonzi or anyone else. Veciana expanded his tale to include suicide pills, disappearing ink, lie detector tests, truth serum and other unverified specifics apparently designed to move books. Similarly, Veciana’s AARC appearance inexplicably added new “facts” to the Bishop lexicon. As one astonished conference attendee put it, Veciana claimed among other things that, “David Atlee Phillips imagined and organized the entire Mexico City scenario [Oswald traveled there in 1963 just before the assassination].” It should be noted that when Veciana made the new claims in his book and at the conference, he was well into his eighties.

It is likely that there was no Maurice Bishop. Veciana almost certainly made up an imaginary case officer to have someone to blame for his 1974 drug conviction. In the early interviews with Fonzi, Veciana mentioned his drug conviction repeatedly and stated that Bishop may have had something to do with it. Later, he was just as likely to say that Castro had “set him up” although a review of the trial transcripts shows that the evidence against Veciana was compelling. In the final analysis, the Miami Herald should have at least qualified the information they provided in the obituary and their failure to do so is lamentable. Veciana has the last laugh for now but increasing scrutiny of his life story by researchers may ultimately deliver him a different place in history.

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