President John Kennedy was killed 50 years ago. There is still considerable controversy about who did it. The release of 4 million pages of long-secret documents since Oliver Stone’s movie JFK clarified some disputes but raised new questions. Many thousands of pages are still secret.
The Kennedy years were a turbulent time inside and outside of the government. The civil rights movement was shaking things up. The year before the assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the planet to the threshold of a nuclear catastrophe. Afterwards, Kennedy responded in a leftward direction with a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets and an order — weeks before he died — to withdraw all U.S. troops from Vietnam.
Kennedy’s brother Robert, as attorney general, conducted an unparalleled war on organized crime. Yet, at the same time, the CIA was attempting to kill Fidel Castro by using mobsters who were prime targets of federal prosecution.
In 1963, the president had ordered the FBI to raid anti-Castro terrorist camps in Florida and Louisiana. Mercenaries with far-right and mob affiliations were arrested. Militants claimed Kennedy now favored “peaceful co-existence” with Cuba.
There was talk of killing JFK. According to an FBI document in the Warren Report, Boulderite Robert K. Brown — who would go on to become publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine — told agents “he has been active in Cuban matters for several years and during the spring of 1963, in connection with anti-Castro activity, he was in contact with the National States Rights Party (NSRP) in Los Angeles, California.”
While a guest in NSRP leader Stanley Drennan’s home, Brown said Drennan talked about organizing a group to murder Kennedy, his cabinet and thousands of liberal activists. Brown told the FBI he considered the remark to be “crackpot,” but as Drennan continued the conversation, he got the impression that Drennan was trying to recruit him to carry out this plan.
NSRP was an often-violent white supremacist and quasi-Nazi outfit attacking the civil rights movement. The national leader served three years in prison for bombing a black church. Other NSRPers were tried for bombing a synagogue.
Thirteen days before Kennedy was assassinated, an independently wealthy NSRP leader named Joseph Milteer was tape-recorded telling a Miami police informant that the murder of Kennedy was “in the working,” that the best means of killing Kennedy was “from an office building with a high-powered rifle,” and that “they will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen just to throw the public off.”
Gary Hart, former senator from Colorado, speculates Kennedy might have been killed by an alliance between rogue CIA agents, mobsters and Cuban exiles. He concluded this in the 1970s after investigating the assassination as a member of the Church committee that probed intelligence agency abuses. When he ran for president, he publicly said he would open the JFK files if elected.
Journalist Jefferson Morley filed a lawsuit to compel the CIA to release its files on George Joannides, who was the chief of CIA covert operations in Miami during the secret war against Cuba. Joannides specialized in “psychological warfare” and funded a Cuban exile student group whose leaders publicized the pro-Castro activities of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the summer of 1963. Very quickly after JFK was dead, Joannides’ agents used CIA funds to link Oswald to Castro.
Here’s the background: In May 1963, Oswald wrote to the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) and formed a one-man chapter in New Orleans (he did send honorary membership cards to two national leaders of the Communist Party who lived in New York). In August, Oswald handed out FPCC leaflets and was punched by a supposedly irate Cuban exile who had called a TV station beforehand and happened to be an agent of Joannides. Oswald had hand-stamped the address “544 Camp Street” on many of his leaflets. This was the address of private detective/ex- FBI agent Guy Banister, who was involved with anti-Castro activities, organized crime and spying on leftists for the Lousiana legislature’s witchhunting committee. Banister’s secretary would later claim Oswald was infiltrating leftist groups for Banister.
What really happened? As a democracy, we need a history that is truthful.
Open the files.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.