John F. Kennedy’s assassination launched a frantic search to find his killers. It also launched a flurry of covert actions by Lyndon Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, and other top officials to hide the fact that in November 1963, the United States was on the brink of invading Cuba as part of a JFK–authorized coup. The coup plan’s exposure could have led to a nuclear confrontation with Russia, but the cover–up prevented a full investigation into Kennedy’s assassination, a legacy of secrecy that would impact American politics and foreign policy for the next forty–five years. It also allowed two men who confessed their roles in JFK’s murder to be involved in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. Exclusive interviews and newly declassified files from the National Archives document in chilling detail how three mob bosses were able to prevent the truth from coming to light until now.
The trade paperback is updated with dramatic new revelations, has three new chapters, an expanded photo-document section, and updated text throughout, including the completed story of how three powerful Mafia bosses used John and Robert Kennedy's top–secret plan of staging a coup against Fidel Castro to murder JFK.
”Explosive . . . based mainly on government documents from the National Archives.” —Vanity Fair
“They’ve done a service by digging up the deepest, darkest, most disturbing archival evidence to support their Mob hit theory.” —Ron Rosenbaum, New York Times bestselling author of Explaining Hitler
Related collections and offers
|Edition description:||First Trade Paper Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.00(d)|
About the Author
Waldron's work was praised by Ronald Goldfarb, a top Mafia prosecutor for Robert Kennedy in 1963, marking the first time in over twenty years a book about JFK's assassination has been recommended by someone who worked closely with John or Robert Kennedy. Waldron's research has also been endorsed by veteran FBI agent William Turner and noted Kennedy biographer John H. Davis. Waldron's discoveries have also been featured on the History Channel and in Vanity Fair. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Georgia State University, and worked in the criminal justice field for seven years before beginning his writing career.
THOM HARTMANN (co–author)
Thom Hartmann is a best–selling author and national radio host for Air America. Heard by millions of radio listeners daily, Hartmann is the author of 17 books, including The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, which helped to inspire Leonardo DiCaprio's recent documentary The 11th Hour, which features Hartmann. His other books include: We the People; Unequal Protection; What Would Jefferson Do, and Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class–And What We Can Do About It. Hartmann was prominently featured in countless media outlets, including NPR and BBC radio, CNN television, the front page of The Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine.
Read an Excerpt
The rifle fire in Dallas that killed John F. Kennedy changed America forever, casting a long shadow on the history of the years that followed. JFK's murder didn't just start a frantic effort to find his assassins — it also triggered a series of covert actions to hide the fact that the United States was on the brink of invading Cuba. The exposure of this top-secret plan, part of a JFK-authorized coup to topple Fidel Castro, could have led to a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets only a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Revealing the coup, which was only ten days away, would have also cost the life of JFK's ally high in the Cuban government, Commander of the Army Juan Almeida, ending any chance the US had of toppling Fidel from the inside. The cover-ups by key US officials, including Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, and the CIA's Richard Helms, kept the JFK-Almeida coup plan secret from the public, not just at the time, but for decades to come. However, it also had the tragic effect of preventing a full investigation of JFK's assassination, spawning a legacy of secrecy that would lead to more deaths and impact presidents, Congress, and US foreign policy for the next forty-five years.
Important files that have been declassified in recent years, coupled with new disclosures from two dozen Kennedy associates, allow the story to be detailed for the first time. They allow us to chronicle the secret investigations into JFK's death undertaken by Robert Kennedy and others, which had to be conducted covertly to avoid exposing the JFK-Almeida coup plan and other intelligence operations. CIA officials, such as Richard Helms, had to protect not only legitimate covert operations, but also unauthorized schemes withheld from the Kennedys and Helms's own CIA Director, like the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Fidel Castro.
New revelations about John and Robert Kennedy, the CIA, the Mafia, and Cuba cast the aftermath of JFK's death in a whole new light. This new information shows who was actively involved in JFK's murder, who was covering up to protect their reputation, who was protecting national security, and who was really trying to solve the assassination. The information that Robert Kennedy and other officials decided to reveal, or not to reveal, would generate much of the controversy surrounding the JFK assassination that persists even today. The decisions they made on November 22, 1963, are why "well over a million CIA records" remain classified today, sixteen years after Congress unanimously passed a law requiring their release.
To understand their actions, it's important to look first at what the key players had been doing in the weeks and months leading up to JFK's assassination. Much of the following is from the thousands of pages of formerly secret government files that were not available to the Warren Commission or the Congressional investigations of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s.
In 1963, the second most powerful man in America was the President's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Bobby, as he liked to be called by friends and associates, was far more than the nation's top law enforcement official. As the President's closest confidant and protector, Bobby advised JFK on most important official, political, and personal issues. Not yet the almost saintly idealist some would say he became before his own assassination, the Bobby of 1963 could be brash and cocky, a tough adversary. Acutely aware of the way government, the media, and big business really worked, he constantly tried — often with success — to get what he and JFK wanted. Yet he also inspired fierce loyalty from those who worked for him, who saw in him a determination to make America and the world a better place.
Bobby's path to becoming Attorney General was part of JFK's path to the presidency. In 1958, Senator John F. Kennedy started laying the groundwork for his presidential run by becoming the most publicized member of a Senate committee investigating the Teamsters and organized crime. Bobby, the committee's chief counsel, did much of the actual grilling of Mafia bosses and their associates, such as Jimmy Hoffa. Rumors about Mafia ties and Prohibition-era bootlegging had long dogged their father, Joseph Kennedy, one of America's wealthiest men, and going after mob bosses so aggressively was one way for JFK and Bobby to neutralize that issue. The crime hearings had become a matter of national urgency because the Mafia's power had grown tremendously during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon's early ties to the Mafia have been extensively documented, most recently by author Anthony Summers. His best-selling book about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Official and Confidential, makes a persuasive case that Hoover's soft treatment of the Mafia (Hoover denied the very existence of the Mafia for years) resulted from the Director's efforts to hide his own closeted life.
While Senator John F. Kennedy and Bobby couldn't prosecute Mafia bosses in 1958 and 1959, they could at least expose their criminal organizations to public scrutiny. This was true even when a mob boss repeatedly refused to answer questions by using his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as did Louisiana/Texas godfather Carlos Marcello. In a public session on March 24, 1959, Bobby posed dozens of incisive questions to Marcello, and when the crime boss declined to answer, Bobby's interrogation clearly outlined Marcello's criminal empire. This included Marcello's extensive involvement in the heroin trade, something he shared with his close associate Santo Trafficante, the godfather of Tampa, who controlled much of Florida.
The Kennedys had less success in getting Trafficante to appear, since he spent so much time visiting his Havana casinos. When Bobby Kennedy had the director of the Miami Crime Commission testify about Trafficante, Bobby noted in the hearing that there had been a mob hit in Tampa the previous day. Trafficante finally fled to Cuba in 1959, to avoid testifying about his role in the notorious barbershop murder of New York mob boss Albert Anastasia.
Much to Bobby's frustration, still another Mafia boss was able to evade testifying in 1959 because of his secret work for the CIA against new Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Unknown to Bobby Kennedy, this plot to assassinate Castro had been brokered for the CIA by Jimmy Hoffa, who used his arms sales to Castro and Mafia ties to his own advantage, as later documented by Congressional investigators. This 1959 plot wasn't successful, and the following year the CIA took a fresh approach by avoiding Hoffa and working directly with a new set of mob bosses, including Trafficante and Johnny Rosselli (and eventually, Marcello). However, involved in both Hoffa's Cuban arms sales and the original 1959 Castro assassination plot was a small-time Dallas gangster and gunrunner named Jack Ruby.
During the 1959 Senate crime hearings, Bobby was never able to find a man using the alias of "Jack La Rue," who was on the fringe of the first CIA-Mafia Castro assassination plots while smuggling armaments to Cuba. Much evidence and testimony shows that Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby was involved in the same operations as "Jack La Rue." Unbeknownst to Bobby in 1959 while he was fruitlessly looking for the mysterious "Jack La Rue," Jack Ruby was running guns to Cuba with La Rue's associates while also being used by Marcello as a messenger to Trafficante. Despite their setbacks in tracking down "La Rue" and Trafficante, JFK and Bobby were more successful in getting testimony from Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana and Teamster chief Jimmy Hoffa: Newsreel footage shows Bobby verbally sparring with each, with mutual contempt.
JFK officially launched his presidential campaign in that same Senate hearing room, before eventually winning the extremely close 1960 election. While the media often focuses on possible mob support in West Virginia arranged by Joseph Kennedy, and the Chicago Mafia's role in swinging that city to JFK (as if powerful Mayor Daley's help didn't matter), more Mafia support went to JFK's opponent, Vice President Richard Nixon. According to a trusted Justice Department informant, in September 1960, "Marcello had a suitcase filled with $500,000 cash which was going to Nixon" with the aid of Jimmy Hoffa. Marcello's half million was to be matched by other Mafia bosses, including "the mob boys in ... Florida," like Trafficante, who were no doubt fearful of what a Kennedy presidency might mean for them.
Once JFK took office in 1961, he appointed his brother Bobby as Attorney General of the United States, and, with a prosecutor's zeal, Bobby immediately made Carlos Marcello, Jimmy Hoffa, and Tampa's Santo Trafficante prime targets for investigation. Bobby eventually pressured J. Edgar Hoover, now officially Bobby's subordinate, into making some efforts against the Mafia, but in the meantime Bobby developed his own staff of special prosecutors in the Justice Department. In addition to his staff of Mafia prosecutors, Bobby organized a separate Justice Department group, informally called the "Get Hoffa Squad," to target the Teamster leader. Bobby Kennedy used compartmentalization for security and administrative reasons, keeping the Get Hoffa Squad and his Mafia prosecutors almost completely separate. This tactic would have grave repercussions around the time of JFK's assassination, when both groups were kept separate not only from each other, but also from Bobby's covert Cuban operations, and each group had crucial information the other needed.
In addition to Bobby's focus on the Mafia and Hoffa, the early 1960s were a turbulent and transitional time in the area of civil rights. This was the era of segregated schools in many parts of the country, though racial discrimination was worst in the South, where even public drinking fountains and movie theaters were often still segregated. Most state legislatures had no blacks or Hispanics, and all-white juries were the norm. Bobby and his Justice Department played a leading role in the growing civil rights movement, enforcing the law when local or state officials refused, or even broke the law themselves.
In June 1963, Governor George Wallace had stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to block admittance to a black student, only weeks after Birmingham Police Chief Bull Connor had turned attack dogs and fire hoses on peacefully protesting children. A few days after that attack, the motel where Martin Luther King was staying was bombed, and JFK had to call out troops to maintain order in Birmingham. Though King was able to marshal two hundred thousand people to Washington in August 1963 to hear his "I Have a Dream" speech, civil rights crusaders faced a constant threat of violence. Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers had been assassinated by a sniper in June 1963, and in September four little girls died when Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed.
Prosecutions for such crimes were largely local matters in 1963, since the comprehensive federal civil rights legislation sought by JFK and Bobby was proving problematic. Even with the help of Vice President Johnson, a consummate dealmaker when he had led the Senate in the late 1950s, passing such legislation would be difficult because of resistance from powerful conservatives in Congress, mostly from the South. Building Southern political support for JFK and his policies would be one reason for the President's open motorcades in Florida (on November 18, 1963) and Texas (on November 21 and 22).
Bobby would have had his hands full if he'd done nothing but focus on civil rights, the Mafia, and Hoffa, as well as his extensive advice to JFK about political and personal affairs, but there was still more on his plate. Bobby also had a hand in foreign policy, which included being one of several advisors to JFK about the growing problem of Vietnam. The country's dictator had been killed on November 2, 1963, following a coup by military officers. JFK had approved the coup to remove the corrupt dictator and his family from power, but hadn't expected them to be killed; a famous photo captured JFK's anguish when he first heard the news of their death. It's important to remember that in November 1963, there were officially no US combat troops in Vietnam (only several thousand "advisors"), and US casualties under JFK totaled less than a hundred. Even with that relatively low level of commitment, most scholars and former officials agree that JFK had decided to reduce US forces in Vietnam in 1964.
Of more immediate concern to Bobby Kennedy was Cuba, a problem in which he had taken a leading role that went far beyond just giving advice to JFK. In fact, Bobby's involvement surpassed anything that could remotely be considered the role of an Attorney General. JFK had delegated to Bobby the primary responsibility for defining and implementing Cuban operations, because the CIA had so badly bungled the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961 that JFK wanted someone he trusted to be in charge. JFK felt uncomfortable leaving Cuban operations entirely to the US military, since some of his Joint Chiefs had indicated an eagerness to attack Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Of the military brass, JFK fully trusted only his new Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Maxwell Taylor; Defense Intelligence Agency head General Joseph Carroll; and Secretary of the Army Cyrus Vance.
The complex, covert operations that made up the secret war against Cuba couldn't be delegated to cabinet officials like Defense Secretary Robert McNamara or Secretary of State Dean Rusk for several reasons. First, Defense and State had their own large bureaucracies, subject to Congressional oversight, a situation that wasn't conducive to their making quick decisions about complicated, top-secret operations where the hand of the US had to remain hidden. They also had their hands full with Vietnam, and the rest of the Cold War with Russia and China, whose fronts ranged from Eastern Europe to Asia to the Middle East. Finally, Rusk and McNamara were the administration's highest-profile officials to the press and public, which was hardly compatible with overseeing the Kennedys' highly secret operations against Cuba.
While the Joint Chiefs, Defense, State, and the CIA all had input into Cuba policy and operations, declassified files and former administration officials make it clear that JFK delegated control to his trusted brother, Bobby. Selected officials in those agencies participated in three subcommittees of the National Security Council (the Standing Group, the Special Group, and the Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee of Cuban Affairs), whose organization and responsibility were so confusing that detailed charts had to be prepared just to sort things out. Though Bobby Kennedy appeared on none of the charts, decades later Alexander Haig said that when it came to Cuban operations in 1963, "Bobby Kennedy was running it — hour by hour." Haig stated emphatically that as far as Cuba was concerned, "Bobby Kennedy was the President. He was the President! Let me repeat, as a reasonably close observer, HE WAS THE PRESIDENT!" (Emphasis in original.) In 1963, Haig was the aide to Joseph Califano, the assistant to Army Secretary Cyrus Vance. Haig's comments were confirmed in Califano's autobiography, as well as by a confidential source we interviewed who served on two of the three Cuba committees, and by other Kennedy associates. CIA official Richard Helms told Newsweek editor Evan Thomas that "you haven't lived until you've had Bobby Kennedy rampant on your back [about Cuba]."
For his secret Cuba operations, Bobby worked directly with officials like Helms and Vance, often bypassing their superiors, such as CIA Director John McCone and Defense Secretary McNamara. Bobby also dealt directly with several Cuban exile leaders he trusted, much to the resentment and frustration of CIA officials who had previously been in charge of controlling US-backed exile leaders.
Bobby sought out people he had confidence in, or felt he could control, because the Cold War was at its height and the stakes were high: It was just a year after the tense nuclear standoff of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, and thousands of Russian personnel were still in Cuba. A recently declassified "Top Secret ... briefing for Mr. Robert Kennedy," makes it clear that one wrong move would result in "World War III."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Legacy of Secrecy"
Copyright © 2009 Lamar Waldron.
Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Explosive new material, based mainly on government documents from the National Archives.” Vanity Fair
“Waldron and Hartmann offer convincing evidence . . . A riveting take on the assassination itself and the devastating results of government secrets, this account proves the continuing relevancy and importance of seeking the truth behind one of the US’s most personal tragedies.” Publishers Weekly
“I believe Waldron's heavy-to-lift book is actually all but the last word on these troubling assassinations which have been so wildly speculated about since 1963 . . . Lamar Waldron, indefatigable public servant and author deserves his own Pulitzer Prize for his great work.” Liz Smith, New York Post
“They’ve done a service by digging up the deepest, darkest, most disturbing archival evidence to support their Mob hit theory.” Ron Rosenbaum
“Staggering!” Mark Crispin Miller
“Exhaustively researched” New York Observer
“[Legacy of Secrecy contains] over 800 pages of intricately documented data. Their findings add pieces to one of our most perplexing puzzles, and suggest where the key missing pieces may be found.” Ronald Goldfarb, Daily Beast