Prophecy of Noah

THE DEVIL’S CHESSBOARD: ALLEN DULLES, THE CIA, AND THE RISE OF THE AMERICAN SECRET GOVERNMENT

Harry Truman

President Harry S. Truman at his desk aboard USS Augusta, September 14, 1945. Photo credit: National Museum of the U.S. Navy / Flickr
Exactly 70 years ago today, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act, creating the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff — and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).Sixteen years later — just one month after the Kennedy assassination — Truman published a bombshell in The Washington Post: “I have never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations… It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of Government… so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue.”

When it comes to behind-the-scenes intrigue, no one could out-sinister Allen Dulles, director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Dulles’s job, simply put, was to hijack the US government — for the benefit of the wealthy.

What he did, and how he did it, has never been more relevant, given the state of the nation in 2017. That’s why we are excerpting some revelatory chapters from David Talbot’s recent Dulles biography, “The Devil’s Chessboard.”

The focus here is on Dulles’s deeply troubling behavior around the time that John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Although Kennedy had fired him in 1961, Dulles basically kept, de facto, running the CIA anyway. And, even more ominously, after Kennedy was killed in Dallas on Friday, November 22, 1963, Dulles moved into The Farm, a secret CIA facility in Virginia, where he remained for the weekend — during which time the “suspect,” Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot to death in a Dallas police station, and a vast machinery was set in motion to create the “lone gunman” myth that has dominated our history books to the present.

By no coincidence, that same machinery worked to bury evidence that Oswald himself had deep connections into US intelligence.

Throughout all this, one thing is clear: Dulles was no rogue operative. He was serving the interests of America’s corporate and war-making elites. And he went all out.

The “former” CIA director was so determined to control the JFK death-story spin, as Talbot chronicles below, that he even tried to strong-arm former president Truman, when the plain-spoken Missourian dropped hints that an out-of-control CIA might have been involved in Kennedy’s murder.

WhoWhatWhy Introduction by Russ Baker.

First part of a compressed Excerpt of Chapter 20, “For the Good of the Country” fromThe Devil’s Chessboard. Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of the American Secret Government. HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.

Allen Dulles

Bas-relief of Allen Dulles. Main lobby of Original Headquarters Building. Photo credit:  Central Intelligence Agency  / Flickr

For the Good of the Country

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Over the final months of JFK’s presidency, a clear consensus took shape within America’s deep state: Kennedy was a national security threat. For the good of the country, he must be removed. And Dulles was the only man with the stature, connections, and decisive will to make something of this enormity happen.

He had already assembled a killing machine to operate overseas. Now he prepared to bring it home to Dallas. All that his establishment colleagues had to do was to look the other way — as they always did when Dulles took executive action.

In the case of Doug Dillon — who oversaw Kennedy’s Secret Service apparatus — it simply meant making sure that he was out of town … If he was later asked to account for himself, Dillon would have a ready explanation. The tragic events in Dallas had not occurred on his watch; he was airborne over the Pacific at the time.

There is no evidence that reigning corporate figures like David Rockefeller were part of the plot against President Kennedy or had foreknowledge of the crime. But there is ample evidence of the overwhelming hostility to Kennedy in these corporate circles — a surging antagonism that certainly emboldened Dulles and other national security enemies of the president. And if the assassination of President Kennedy was indeed an “establishment crime,” as University of Pittsburgh sociology professor Donald Gibson has suggested, there is even more reason to see the official investigation as an establishment cover-up.

Dallas DA: Oswald Seemed “Programmed”

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Oswald was still alive, and that was a problem. He was supposed to be killed as he left the Texas School Book Depository. That’s what G. Robert Blakey, the former Kennedy Justice Department attorney who served as chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, later concluded about the man authorities rushed to designate the lone assassin. But Oswald escaped, and after being taken alive by Dallas police in a movie theater, he became a major conundrum for those trying to pin the crime on him.

“It was almost as if he had been rehearsed or programmed to meet the situation he found himself in.”

To begin with, Oswald did not act like most assassins. Those who decapitated heads of state generally crowed about their history-making deeds (Sic semper tyrannis!). In contrast, Oswald repeatedly denied his guilt while in custody, emphatically telling reporters as he was hustled from one room to the next in the Dallas police station, “I don’t know what this is all about … I’m just a patsy!”

And the accused assassin seemed strangely cool and collected, according to the police detectives who questioned him. “He was real calm,” recalled one detective. “He was extra calm. He wasn’t a bit excited or nervous or anything.” In fact, Dallas police chief Jesse Curry and district attorney William Alexander thought Oswald was so composed that he seemed trained to handle a stressful interrogation. “I was amazed that a person so young would have had the self-control he had,” Alexander later told Irish investigative journalist Anthony Summers. “It was almost as if he had been rehearsed or programmed to meet the situation he found himself in.”

Oswald further signaled that he was part of an intelligence operation by trying to make an intriguing phone call shortly before midnight East Coast time on Saturday, November 23. The police switchboard operator, who was being closely monitored by two unidentified officials, told Oswald there was no answer, though she actually did not put through the call. It was not until years later that independent researchers traced the phone number that Oswald tried to call to a former US Army intelligence officer in Raleigh, North Carolina.

CIA veteran Victor Marchetti, who analyzed the Raleigh call in his book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, surmised that Oswald was likely following his training guidelines and reaching out to his intelligence handler. “[He] was probably calling his cut-out. He was calling somebody who could put him in touch with his case officer.”

The Raleigh call probably sealed Oswald’s fate, according to Marchetti. By refusing to play the role of the “patsy” and instead following his intelligence protocol, Oswald made clear that he was trouble.

What would be the CIA procedure at this point, Marchetti was asked by North Carolina historian Grover Proctor, who has closely studied this episode near the end of Oswald’s life? “I’d kill him,” Marchetti replied. “Was this his death warrant?” Proctor continued. “You betcha,” Marchetti said. “This time, [Oswald] went over the dam, whether he knew it or not…. He was over the dam. At this point it was executive action.”

Oswald was not just alive on the afternoon of November 22, 1963; he was likely innocent. This was another major problem for the organizers of the assassination. Even close legal observers of the case who continue to believe in Oswald’s guilt — such as Bob Blakey who, after serving on the House Assassinations Committee, became a law professor at Notre Dame University — acknowledge that a “credible” case could have been made for Oswald’s innocence based on the evidence. (The 1979 congressional report found that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy involving Oswald and other unknown parties.) Other legal experts, like San Francisco attorney and Kennedy researcher Bill Simpich, have gone further, arguing that the case against Oswald was riddled with such glaring inconsistencies that it would have quickly unraveled in court.

Fortunately for the conspirators, the deeply flawed case against Lee Harvey Oswald never made it to court….Oswald’s shocking murder — broadcast live into America’s homes — solved one dilemma for Dulles, as he monitored the Dallas events that weekend from the Farm, his secure CIA facility in Virginia. But it soon became apparent that Oswald’s murder created another problem — a wave of public suspicion that swept over the nation and beyond…. To many people who watched the horrifying spectacle on TV, the shooting smacked of a gangland hit aimed at silencing Oswald before he could talk.

In fact, this is precisely what Attorney General Robert Kennedy concluded after his investigators began digging into Ruby’s background. Bobby, who had made his political reputation as a Senate investigator of organized crime, pored over Ruby’s phone records from the days leading up to the Dallas violence.

“The list [of names] was almost a duplicate of the people I called before the Rackets Committee,” RFK later remarked. The attorney general’s suspicions about the death of his brother immediately fell not just on the Mafia, but on the CIA — the agency that, as Bobby knew, had been using the mob to do some of its dirtiest work….

Truman: CIA “Sinister and Mysterious”

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Meanwhile, down in Independence, Missouri, another retired president, Harry Truman, was fuming about the CIA. On December 22, 1963, while the country was still reeling from the gunfire in Dallas, Truman published a highly provocative op-ed article in The Washington Post, charging that the CIA had grown alarmingly out of control since he established it.

His original purpose, wrote Truman, was to create an agency that simply coordinated the various streams of sensitive information flowing into the White House. “I have never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations,” he continued. But “for some time, I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of Government.” The CIA had grown “so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue.”

But the increasingly powerful agency did not just menace foreign governments, Truman warned — it now threatened democracy at home. “There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position [as a] free and open society,” he concluded ominously, “and I feel that we need to correct it.”

The timing of Truman’s opinion piece was striking. Appearing in the capital’s leading newspaper exactly one month after the assassination, the article caused shock waves in political circles. There was a disturbing undertone to the straight-talking midwesterner’s warning about the CIA. Was Truman implying that there was “sinister and mysterious intrigue” behind Kennedy’s death? Could that have been what he meant when he suggested that the agency represented a growing danger to our own democracy?

Dulles Lies to Discredit Truman

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Allen Dulles knew the danger of words, the wrong kind of words. As CIA director, he had spent an untold fortune each year on countering the Soviet propaganda machine and controlling the world’s conversation, including the political and media dialogue in his own country. Within minutes of the Kennedy assassination, the CIA tried to steer news reporting and commentary about Dallas, planting stories that suggested — falsely — that Oswald was a Soviet agent or that Castro was behind JFK’s murder.

Still, Dulles would not accept defeat. Unable to alter reality, he simply altered the record, like any good spy.

In actuality, both Khrushchev — who broke down weeping in the Kremlin when he heard the news — and Castro were deeply distressed by Kennedy’s death. Both men had been greatly encouraged by Kennedy’s peace initiatives in the final year of his presidency, and they feared that his assassination meant that military hard-liners would take control in Washington …

But despite the CIA’s strenuous efforts, press coverage of the Kennedy assassination began spinning out of its control. Dulles knew that immediate steps must be taken to contain the conversation…. If Harry Truman — the man who created the CIA — was worried that it had become a Frankenstein, it might be only a matter of time before prominent European figures, and even some stray voices in America, began to question whether the agency was behind JFK’s murder.

It was Dulles himself who jumped in to put out the Truman fire. Soon after the Postpublished Truman’s diatribe, Dulles began a campaign to get the retired president to disavow his opinion piece. The spymaster began by enlisting the help of Washington power attorney Clark Clifford, the former Truman counselor who chaired President Johnson’s intelligence advisory board. The CIA “was really HST’s baby or at least his adopted child,” Dulles pointed out in a letter to Clifford. Perhaps the attorney could talk some sense into the tough old bird and get him to retract his harsh criticisms of the agency.

Dulles also appealed directly to Truman in a strongly worded letter, telling the former president that he was “deeply disturbed” by his article. In the eight-page letter that he mailed on January 7, 1964, Dulles tried to implicate Truman himself. Calling Truman the “father of our modern intelligence system,” Dulles reminded him that it was “you, through National Security Council action, [who] approved the organization in CIA of a new office to carry out covert operations.” So, Dulles continued, Truman’s ill-advised rant in the Post amounted to “a repudiation of a policy” that the former president himself “had the great courage and wisdom to initiate.”

To an extent, Dulles had a point. As the spymaster pointed out, the Truman Doctrine had indeed authorized an aggressive strategy aimed at thwarting Communist advances in Western Europe, including CIA intervention in the 1948 Italian elections. But Truman was correct in charging that, under Eisenhower, Dulles had led the CIA much deeper into skulduggery than he ever envisioned.

Unmoved by Dulles’s letter, Truman stood by his article. Realizing the threat that Truman posed, Dulles continued his crusade to discredit the Post essay well into the following year. Confident of his powers of persuasion, the spymaster made a personal trek to Independence, Missouri, in April, arranging to meet face-to-face with Truman at his presidential library. After exchanging a few minutes of small talk about the old days, Dulles mounted his assault on Truman, employing his usual mix of sweet talk and arm-twisting. But Truman — even on the brink of turning eighty — was no pushover, and Dulles’s efforts proved fruitless.

Still, Dulles would not accept defeat. Unable to alter reality, he simply altered the record, like any good spy. On April 21, 1964, upon returning to Washington, Dulles wrote a letter about his half-hour meeting with Truman to CIA general counsel Lawrence Houston. During their conversation at the Truman Library, Dulles claimed in his letter, the elderly ex-president seemed “quite astounded” by his own attack on the CIA when the spymaster showed him a copy of the Post article. As he looked it over, Truman reacted as if he were reading it for the first time, according to Dulles. “He said that [the article] was all wrong. He then said that he felt it had made a very unfortunate impression.”

The Truman portrayed in Dulles’s letter seemed to be suffering from senility and either could not remember what he had written or had been taken advantage of by an aide, who perhaps wrote the piece under the former president’s name. In fact, CIA officials later did try to blame a Truman assistant for writing the provocative opinion piece. Truman “obviously was highly disturbed at the Washington Post article,” concluded Dulles in his letter, “… and several times said he would see what he could do about it.”

The Dulles letter to Houston — which was clearly intended for the CIA files, to be retrieved whenever expedient — was an outrageous piece of disinformation. Truman, who would live for eight more years, was still of sound mind in April 1964. And he could not have been shocked by the contents of his own article, since he had been expressing the same views about the CIA — even more strongly — to friends and journalists for some time.

After the Bay of Pigs, Truman had confided in writer Merle Miller that he regretted ever establishing the CIA. “I think it was a mistake,” he said. “And if I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have done it…. [Eisenhower] never paid any attention to it, and it got out of hand…. It’s become a government all of its own and all secret…. That’s a very dangerous thing in a democratic society.” Likewise, after the Washington Post essay ran, Truman’s original CIA director, Admiral Sidney Souers — who shared his former boss’s limited concept of the agency — congratulated him for writing the piece. “I am happy as I can be that my article on the Central Intelligence Agency rang a bell with you because you know why the organization was set up,” Truman wrote back to Souers.

In a letter that Truman wrote to Look magazine managing editor William Arthur in June 1964 — two months after his meeting with Dulles — the ex-president again articulated his concerns about the direction taken by the CIA after he left the White House. “The CIA was set up by me for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the President,” wrote Truman. “It was not intended to operate as an international agency engaged in strange activities.”

Dulles’s relentless effort to manipulate Truman — and failing that, the Truman record — is yet one more example of the spymaster’s “strange activities.” But Dulles’s greatest success at reconstructing reality was still to come. With the Warren Report, Dulles would literally rewrite history. The inquest into the death of John F. Kennedy was another astounding sleight of hand on Dulles’s part. The man who should have been in the witness chair wound up instead in control of the inquiry.

NEW BOOK ON CIA MASTER-PLOTTER DULLES, SNEAK PEEK: PART 2

Prime Suspect in JFK Hit Leads Investigation

Members of the Warren Commission present their report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to President Lyndon Johnson. Cabinet Room, White House, Washington DC. L-R: John McCloy, J. Lee Rankin (General Counsel), Senator Richard Russell, Congressman Gerald Ford, Chief Justice Earl Warren, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Allen Dulles, Senator John Sherman Cooper, and Congressman Hale Boggs Photo credit:  Cecil Stoughton / White House / Wikimedia
No one can possibly understand the precarious state of American democracy today without scrutinizing the often secret path the country was taken on by those in power from the 1950s to the present.Among the elemental figures in forging that path was Allen Dulles.

He was the most powerful, and, it appears — the most sinister — director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given that outfit’s history, that’s some accomplishment.

Dulles’s job, simply put, was to hijack the US government to benefit the wealthy.

Studying how this worked is a worthwhile pursuit. That’s why we decided to excerpt a few parts of David Talbot’s new Dulles biography, The Devil’s Chessboard.

In part one of our excerpts, we looked at indications that Lee Harvey Oswald was no rogue “lone nut” but in fact a man with strong connections to the American national security apparatus. We also looked at Allen Dulles’s highly suspicious behavior around the time of the assassination — a time when he was ostensibly in retirement, having been fired two years earlier by President Kennedy. And we saw how determined Dulles was in advancing the notion that Oswald had been Kennedy’s killer, and had acted alone.

In the excerpt below, we focus on the Warren Commission, the body “above suspicion” that was supposed to investigate Kennedy’s death and report its findings to the public. We see the irrepressible Allen Dulles, who should by almost any standard have been considered a possible suspect for a role in the assassination, instead appointed to the Commission. And we see how he became the leading figure in guiding the “probe,” along with a network of individuals whose loyalties were clearly to him and to the American establishment, but certainly not to the truth — or to the late president.

–WhoWhatWhy Introduction by Russ Baker.

Second part of compressed Excerpt of Chapter 20, “For the Good of the Country” fromThe Devil’s Chessboard. Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of the American Secret Government. HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.

“Allen Dulles had a lot to hide.”

How did Allen Dulles — a man fired by President Kennedy under bitter circumstances — come to oversee the investigation into his murder?

This crucial historical question has been the subject of misguided speculation for many years. The story apparently began with Lyndon Johnson, a man not known for his devotion to the truth. It has been repeated over time by various historians, including Johnson biographer Robert Caro, who one would think would be more skeptical, considering the exhaustive detail with which he documented LBJ’s habitual deceit in his multivolume work.

In his 1971 memoir, Johnson wrote that he appointed Dulles and John McCloy to the Warren Commission because they were “the two men Bobby Kennedy asked me to put on it.” With Bobby safely dead by 1971, LBJ clearly felt that he could get away with this one. But the idea that LBJ would huddle with the man he considered his rival and tormentor, in order to discuss the politically sensitive composition of the commission, is ludicrous.

The Warren Commission’s inquiry had the ability to shake the new Johnson presidency — and the US government itself — to their very core. In making his choices for the commission, Johnson later wrote, he sought “men who were known to be beyond pressure and above suspicion.”

What LBJ really wanted was men who could be trusted to close the case and put the public’s suspicions to rest. The Warren Commission was not established to find the truth but to “lay the dust” that had been stirred up in Dallas, as McCloy stated — “dust not only in the United States, but all over the world.”

Equally preposterous is the notion that Bobby Kennedy would nominate Dulles and McCloy — two men who had fallen out with President Kennedy while serving on his national security team — to investigate his brother’s murder. Like Dulles, whose former agency Bobby immediately suspected of a role in the assassination, McCloy was a Cold War hard-liner…

McCloy, who had served as chairman of Chase Manhattan before David Rockefeller moved into the bank’s  leadership role, was closely aligned with Rockefeller interests. After leaving the Kennedy administration, McCloy joined a Wall Street law firm where he represented anti-Kennedy oilmen Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson, with whom he had done business since his days at Chase Manhattan.

It was the national security establishment, not Bobby Kennedy, that advised the new president to put Dulles and McCloy on the Warren Commission. And Johnson — finely tuned to the desires of the men who had put him in the Oval Office — wisely obliged them.

The Dulles camp itself made no bones about the fact that the Old Man aggressively lobbied to get appointed to the commission. Dick Helms later told historian Michael Kurtz that he “personally persuaded” Johnson to appoint Dulles. According to Kurtz, Dulles and Helms “wanted to make sure no agency secrets came out during the investigation…. And, of course, if Dulles was on the commission, that would ensure the agency would be safe. Johnson felt the same way—he didn’t want the investigation to dig up anything strange.”

Dulles tried to establish the framework for the inquiry early on by handing the other commission members copies of a book titled The Assassins by Robert J. Donovan, a Washington journalist. Donovan’s history of presidential assassins argued that these dramatic acts of violence were the work of solitary fanatics, not “organized attempts to shift political power from one group to another.”

William Corson, a former Marine Corps officer and Navy intelligence agent who was close to Dulles, confirmed that the spymaster pulled strings to get on the Warren Commission. He “lobbied hard for the job,” recalled Corson, who had commanded young Allen Jr. in the Korean War. After he took his place on the commission, Dulles recruited Corson to explore the Jack Ruby angle. After spending months pursuing various leads, Corson eventually concluded that he had been sent on a wild-goose chase. “It is entirely possible I was sent on an assignment which would go nowhere…. Allen Dulles had a lot to hide.”

Among those urging Johnson to give Dulles the Warren Commission job were establishment allies like Secretary of State Dean Rusk, former president of the Rockefeller Foundation. These same voices were raised on behalf of McCloy. In fact, the commission was, from the very beginning, an establishment creation. It was sold to an initially reluctant LBJ by the most influential voices of the Washington power structure, including Joe Alsop — the CIA’s ever-dependable mouthpiece — and the editorial czars of TheWashington Post and The New York Times.

Johnson wanted the investigation handled by officials in Texas, where he felt more in control, instead of by a “bunch of carpetbaggers.” But in a phone call to the White House on the morning of November 25, Alsop deftly maneuvered Johnson into accepting the idea of a presidential commission made up of nationally renowned figures “beyond any possible suspicion.”

When Johnson clung to his idea of a Texas investigation, the sophisticated Alsop set him straight, as if lecturing a country simpleton. “My lawyers, though, Joe, tell me that the White House — the president — must not inject himself into local killings,” LBJ said, almost pleadingly. “I agree with that,” Alsop said as he smoothly cut him off, “but in this case it does happen to be the killing of the president.”

Dulles immediately accepted Johnson’s request to join the commission when the president phoned him on the evening of November 29. “I would like to be of any help,” Dulles told Johnson, though he did feel compelled to at least raise the propriety of appointing a former CIA director who was known to have a troubled relationship with the deceased president:

“And you’ve considered the work of my previous work and my previous job?” Dulles asked inelegantly. “I sure have,” LBJ replied, “and we want you to do it. That’s that…. You always do what is best for your country. I found that out about you a long time ago.”

The Warren Commission was named after Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren, the distinguished jurist President Johnson strong-armed into chairing the JFK inquest. But as attorney Mark Lane — one of the first critics of the lone-gunman theory — later observed, it should have been called the “Dulles Commission,” considering the spymaster’s dominant role in the investigation. In fact, Dulles was Johnson’s first choice to chair the commission, but LBJ decided that he needed Warren at the helm to deflect liberal criticism of the official inquiry…

Dulles tried to establish the framework for the inquiry early on by handing the other commission members copies of a book titled The Assassins by Robert J. Donovan, a Washington journalist. Donovan’s history of presidential assassins argued that these dramatic acts of violence were the work of solitary fanatics, not “organized attempts to shift political power from one group to another.” It was quickly pointed out to Dulles that John Wilkes Booth, who shot Lincoln as part of a broader Confederate plot to decapitate the federal government, rather famously contradicted Donovan’s theory. But, undeterred, Dulles continued to push the commission to keep a tight frame on Oswald.

Dulles offered that he would like to get these aspects of the inquiry “into the hands of the CIA as soon as possible to explain the Russian parts.” Senator Russell, long used to dealing with the intelligence community, reacted skeptically. “I think you’ve got more faith in them than I have. I think they’ll doctor anything they hand to us.”

Dulles was a whirlwind of activity, especially outside the hearing room, where he deftly maneuvered to keep the investigation on what he considered the proper track…. There was no detail too small for Dulles to bring to the chief counsel’s attention. “A great deal of the description of the motorcade and the shooting will be unclear unless we have a street map and, if possible, a photo taken from the sixth floor window,” Dulles wrote Rankin in a July 1964 memo. “Is this possible?” Dulles was particularly eager to explore any leads suggesting Oswald might be a Soviet spy — a soon discredited idea that Angleton would nonetheless keep promoting for the rest of his life.

Peculiar Behavior of Security Agencies

Despite Dulles’s efforts to keep the commission away from any hints of a domestic conspiracy, from time to time uncomfortable questions along these lines cropped up. During an executive session convened by the panel on December 16, 1963, Warren raised an especially sensitive matter — the mysterious failure of the country’s security agencies to keep close watch on someone with Oswald’s background. [Note fromWhoWhatWhy editor: For an eerie parallel in Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the purported mastermind of the Boston Marathon bombing, see this.]

How, for instance, did a defector simply stroll into the US immigration office in New Orleans — as he did the previous summer — and obtain a passport to return to Russia? “That seems strange to me,” Warren remarked.

Actually, passports were rather easy to obtain, Dulles observed. When the discussion turned to the puzzling ease with which Oswald got permission to return to the United States with his Russian wife, Dulles offered that he would like to get these aspects of the inquiry “into the hands of the CIA as soon as possible to explain the Russian parts.”

Senator Russell, long used to dealing with the intelligence community, reacted skeptically. “I think you’ve got more faith in them than I have. I think they’ll doctor anything they hand to us.”

Russell was edging painfully close to the fundamental problem at the core of the Warren panel’s impossible mission. How could the board run a credible inquest when it had limited investigative capability of its own and was largely dependent on the FBI and the other security agencies for its evidence — agencies that were clearly implicated in the failure to protect the president?

The Warren Commission was, in fact, so thoroughly infiltrated and guided by the security services that there was no possibility of the panel pursuing an independent course. Dulles was at the center of this subversion. During the commission’s ten-month-long investigation, he acted as a double agent, huddling regularly with his former CIA associates to discuss the panel’s internal operations.

NEW BOOK ON CIA MASTER-PLOTTER DULLES, SNEAK PEEK: PART 3

Dealing with Inconvenient Facts, CIA Style

CIA floor seal Photo credit: CIA.GOV
No one can possibly understand the precarious state of American democracy today without scrutinizing the often secret path the country was taken on by those in power from the 1950s to the present.Among the elemental figures in forging that path was Allen Dulles.

He was the most powerful, and, it appears — the most sinister — director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given that outfit’s history, that’s some accomplishment.

Dulles’s job, simply put, was to hijack the US government to benefit the wealthy.

Studying how this worked is a worthwhile pursuit. That’s why we decided to excerpt a few parts of David Talbot’s new Dulles biography, The Devil’s Chessboard.

In part one of our excerpts, we looked at indications that Lee Harvey Oswald was no rogue “lone nut” but in fact a man with strong connections to the American national security apparatus. We also looked at Allen Dulles’s highly suspicious behavior around the time of the assassination — a time when he was ostensibly in retirement, having been fired two years earlier by President Kennedy. And we saw how determined Dulles was in advancing the notion that Oswald had been Kennedy’s killer, and had acted alone.

In part two, we focused on the Warren Commission, the body “above suspicion” that was supposed to investigate Kennedy’s death and report its findings to the public. We see the irrepressible Allen Dulles, who should by almost any standard have been considered a possible suspect for a role in the assassination, instead appointed to the Commission. And we see how he became the leading figure in guiding the “probe,” along with a network of individuals whose loyalties were clearly to him and to the American establishment, but certainly not to the truth — or to the late President.

Below, in part three, we are treated to a detailed account of the Warren Commission’s “investigation” as the fraud that it was. Complete with leaks to influence public opinion, cooperative news organizations and journalists, cover-up artists and the odd person of conscience, this charade deserves much more attention because it shows the extent to which we are manipulated — and others forced to go along to get along. There’s one commission staffer with a conscience, but he gets a pretty clear warning to back off.

— WhoWhatWhy Introduction by Russ Baker.

Third part of a compressed Excerpt of Chapter 20, “For the Good of the Country” fromThe Devil’s Chessboard. Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of the American Secret Government. HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.

Weaving Two Separate Webs of Deceit

Despite the chronic tensions between the CIA and FBI, Hoover proved a useful partner of the spy agency during the JFK inquiry. The FBI chief knew that his organization had its own secrets to hide related to the assassination, including its contacts with Oswald.

Furthermore, taking its cues from the CIA, the bureau had dropped Oswald from its watch list just weeks before the assassination. An angry Hoover would later mete out punishment for errors such as this, quietly disciplining seventeen of his agents. But the FBI director was desperate to avoid public censure, and he fully supported the commission’s lone-gunman story line.

Angleton, who had a good back-channel relationship with the FBI, made sure that the two agencies stayed on the same page throughout the Warren inquest, meeting regularly with bureau contacts such as William Sullivan and Sam Papich.

Angleton and his team also provided ongoing support and advice to Dulles. On a Saturday afternoon in March 1964, Ray Rocca — Angleton’s right-hand man ever since their days together in Rome — met with Dulles at his home to mull over a particularly dicey issue with which the commission was grappling.

David Phillips — a man whose career was nurtured by Helms — had been spotted meeting with Oswald in Dallas. But when Helms was sworn in, he simply lied. There was no evidence of agency contact with Oswald, he testified.

How could the panel dispel persistent rumors that the CIA was somehow a “sponsor” of Oswald’s actions? The story had broken in the press the previous month, when Marguerite Oswald declared that her son was a secret agent for the CIA who was “set up to take the blame” for the Kennedy assassination.

Rankin had obligingly suggested that Dulles be given the job of clearing the CIA by reviewing all of the relevant agency documents that were provided to the commission. But even Dulles thought this smacked too much of an inside job. Instead, after conferring with Rocca, Dulles proposed that he simply provide a statement to the commission swearing — as Rocca put it in his report back to Dick Helms — “that as far as he could remember he had never had any knowledge of Oswald at any time prior to the date of the assassination.”

But Senator Cooper thought the allegations that Oswald was some kind of government agent were too serious to simply be dispelled by written statements. During a Warren Commission executive session in April, he proposed that the heads of the CIA and FBI be put under oath and questioned by the panel. It was a highly awkward suggestion, as Dulles pointed out.

“I might have a little problem on that — having been [CIA] director until November 1961.” There was a simple solution, however: put his successor, John McCone, on the witness stand. That was fine with Dulles, because — as he knew — McCone remained an agency outsider, despite his title, and was not privy to its deepest secrets.

When McCone appeared before the Warren Commission, he brought along Helms, his chief of clandestine operations. As McCone was well aware, Helms was the man who knew where all the bodies were buried, and he deferred to his number two man more than once during his testimony. Conveniently ignorant of the CIA’s involvement with Oswald, McCone was able to emphatically deny any agency connection to the accused assassin. “The agency never contacted him, interviewed him, talked with him, or received or solicited any reports or information from him,” McCone assured the commission.

Ask Helms? “The Man Who Kept the Secrets”?

It was trickier when Helms was asked the same questions. He knew about the extensive documentary record that Angleton’s department had amassed on Oswald. He was aware of how the agency had monitored the defector during his exploits in Dallas, New Orleans, and Mexico City.

David Phillips — a man whose career was nurtured by Helms — had been spotted meeting with Oswald in Dallas. But when Helms was sworn in, he simply lied. There was no evidence of agency contact with Oswald, he testified. Had the agency provided the commission with all the information it had on Oswald, Rankin asked him. “We have — all,” Helms replied, though he knew the files that he had handed over were thoroughly purged.

Helms was “the man who kept the secrets,” in the words of his biographer, Thomas Powers. Commission staff attorney Howard Willens politely called him “one of the most fluent and self-confident government officials I ever met.” Helms was the sort of man who could tell lies with consummate ease. It would eventually win him a felony conviction, and he wore it like a badge of courage. When one was defending the nation, Helms would lecture the senators who pestered him late in his career, one must be granted a certain latitude.

Disturbing Phone Call from a Spook

It was David Slawson, a thirty-two-year-old attorney on leave from a Denver corporate law firm, who was given the unenviable job of dealing with the CIA as part of the Warren Commission’s conspiracy research team. Rankin had told Slawson to rule out no one — “not even the CIA.”

If he did discover evidence of agency involvement, the young lawyer nervously joked, he would be found dead of a premature heart attack. But Rocca, the veteran counterintelligence agent assigned to babysit the commission, made sure nothing turned up. “I came to like and trust [Rocca],” said the young staff attorney, who found himself dazzled by his first exposure to a spy world he had only seen in movies. “He was very intelligent and tried in every way to be honest and helpful.” Slawson was equally gullible when evaluating Dulles, whom he dismissed as old and feeble — precisely the aging schoolmaster act that the spymaster liked to put over on people.

“I wish sometime you would sit down and write me a line as to why you think Lee Oswald did the dastardly deed,” Dulles wrote the novelist in March, as if discussing the plot of a whodunit. “All I can tell you is that there is not one iota of evidence that he had any personal vindictiveness against the man Kennedy.”

Years later, as the Church Committee began to reveal the darker side of the CIA, Slawson came to suspect that Rocca had not been so “honest” with him after all. In a frank interview with The New York Times in February 1975, Slawson suggested that the CIA had withheld important information from the Warren Commission, and he endorsed the growing campaign to reopen the Kennedy investigation.

Slawson was the first Warren Commission attorney to publicly question whether the panel had been misled by the CIA and FBI (he would later be joined by Rankin himself) — and the news story caused a stir in Washington.

Several days after the article ran, Slawson — who by then was teaching law at the University of Southern California — got a disturbing phone call from James Angleton. After some initial pleasantries, the spook got around to business. He wanted Slawson to know that he was friendly with the president of USC, and he wanted to make sure that Slawson was going to “remain a friend” of the CIA.

Manufacturing a Motive for Oswald

His new job on the commission gave Dulles an opportunity to connect with old friends, such as … British novelist Rebecca West. In March, Dulles wrote West, beseeching her to draw on her fertile imagination to come up with possible motives for Oswald’s crime. The commission was so baffled by the question that Warren even suggested leaving that part of the report blank.

“I wish sometime you would sit down and write me a line as to why you think Lee Oswald did the dastardly deed,” Dulles wrote the novelist in March, as if discussing the plot of a whodunit. “All I can tell you is that there is not one iota of evidence that he had any personal vindictiveness against the man Kennedy.”

Meanwhile, the following month, Mary relayed a news report about Mark Lane to Dulles, informing her old lover in high dudgeon that Lane had apparently told a conference of lawyers in Budapest “that the killers — plural — of JFK were still at large… even I am amazed that Lane has the temerity to go to Budapest and shoot off his mouth in that fashion. I regard him as insane — but nevertheless I do hope the FBI has its eye on him.”

Dulles and McCloy, in fact, were very concerned about European public opinion regarding the Kennedy assassination, and they urged the commission to closely monitor both Lane and Thomas G. Buchanan, a Paris-based American journalist who had written the first JFK conspiracy book, Who Killed Kennedy? — an advance copy of which was airmailed to Dulles from the CIA station in London, where it was published….

Earl Warren was obsessed with press coverage of the inquiry and agonized over press leaks, including a May report by Anthony Lewis in The New York Times — midway through the panel’s work — that the inquiry was set to “unequivocally reject theories that the assassination was the work of some kind of conspiracy.”

Warren was very upset by the premature news report, which suggested that the commission had rushed to judgment before hearing all the evidence. The leak was clearly intended to counter the publicity being generated by authors like Lane and Buchanan.

While the commission frantically attempted to determine the source of such leaks, the answer was sitting in their midst. The two most active leakers were Ford and Dulles. It was Ford who kept the FBI constantly informed, enabling Hoover to feed the press with bureau-friendly stories about the inquest. And Dulles used the CIA’s own network of media assets to spin Warren Commission coverage.

A Likely Story about Robert Oswald

The New York Times was a favorite Dulles receptacle. In February, the Times had run another leaked story — also bylined by Lewis — that clearly led back to Dulles. Lewis reported that Robert Oswald, the accused assassin’s brother, had testified that he suspected Lee was a Soviet agent. As the commission hunted the source of the leak, a staff attorney suggested that the Times reporter might have overheard a dinner table conversation that he and Dulles had with Robert Oswald at a Washington restaurant — a highly unlikely scenario that nonetheless provided Dulles with the fig leaf of a cover story…

Blame the Victim

There was a smug coziness to the entire Warren investigation. It was a clubby affair. When Treasury Secretary Dillon finally appeared before the commission in early September — less than three weeks before its final report was delivered to the president — he was warmly greeted by Dulles as “Doug.” Dillon was treated to a kid-gloves examination by the commission, even though there were troubling questions left unanswered about the Secret Service’s behavior in Dallas, where Kennedy’s protection had mysteriously melted away.

Led by Willens, the commission staff had tried for months before Dillon’s appearance to obtain Secret Service records related to the assassination. Willens believed that “the Secret Service appeared to be neither alert nor careful in protecting the president.”

This was a delicate way of characterizing what was a criminally negligent performance by the service entrusted with the president’s safety. The buildings surrounding Dealey Plaza and its shadowy corners were not swept and secured by the Secret Service in advance of Kennedy’s motorcade.

There were no agents riding on the flanks of his limousine. And when sniper fire erupted, only one agent — Clint Hill — performed his duty by sprinting toward the president’s vehicle and leaping onto the rear. It was an outrageous display of professional incompetence, one that made Robert Kennedy immediately suspect that the presidential guard was involved in the plot against his brother.

But Dillon stonewalled Willens’s efforts to pry loose Secret Service records, and when the commission staff persisted, the Treasury secretary huddled with his old friend, Jack McCloy, and then appealed to President Johnson himself. “Dillon was a very shrewd guy,” Willens marveled late in his life. “I still can’t believe he involved President Johnson in this.”

Instead of being grilled by the commission about why he had withheld records and why his agency was missing in action in Dallas, Dillon was allowed to make a case for why his budget should be beefed up. If the Secret Service was given more money, staff, and authority, Senator Cooper helpfully asked, would it be possible to offer the president better protection in the future? “Yes, I think [we] could,” Dillon replied brightly.

If any blame was assigned in the death of the president during Dillon’s gentle interrogation, it was placed on the victim himself. Soon after the assassination, Dillon and others began circulating the false story that Kennedy preferred his Secret Service guards to ride behind him in motorcades, instead of on the side rails of his limousine, and that Kennedy had also requested the Dallas police motorcycle squadron to hang back — so the crowds in Dallas could enjoy an unobstructed view of the glamorous first couple. This clever piece of disinformation had the insidious effect of absolving the Secret Service and indicting Kennedy, implying that his vanity was his downfall…

Related front page panorama photo credit: President Kennedy presenting the National Security Medal to Allen Dulles in 1961 (CIA  / Wikimedia), Allen Dulles at desk (CIA.GOV), Mohammad Mosaddegh – former prime minister of Iran (Unknown / Wikimedia) – Jacobo Árbenz 25th President of Guatemala (Gobierno de Guatemala; Escuela Politécnica de Guatemala / Wikimedia), Fidel Castro (Library of Congress / Wikimedia), CIA floor seal (CIA GOV)

Source: https://whowhatwhy.org/2017/07/26/devils-chessboard-allen-dulles-cia-rise-american-secret-government/