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The assassination of JFK (part II)

22 November 1991

THE PLOTS UNCOVERED BY Jim Garrison and Mark Lane are compatible enough: both lead straight to the CIA. Indeed as time goes on - and the "Mob", "Castro", "KGB", "Big Oil" and other theories fall away - a perhaps surprising degree of consensus has arisen among those investigating the subject: namely that the assassination was orchestrated by high officials within the Agency (but not as high as its Kennedy-appointed Director) for the benefit of the 'War Party' in Washington, and to preserve the Agency's own precarious existence, as well as that of its junior partner in the crime, the FBI. 


As the assassination's serious analysts all owe an enormous debt to the work of Jim Garrison and Mark Lane, it is perhaps a little incongruous that there are few immediate links between their conspiracies, in terms of the personnel involved.


Garrison gives us Shaw, Ferrie and (in some context) Oswald - all working under the direction of New Orleans CIA chief Guy Banister (the Ed Asner figure in JFK). Lane, on the other hand, doesn't even mention Banister. Principally, he gives us the roll of names first uttered in court by counter-revolutionary and CIA agent Marita Lorenz: those in the Miami-Dallas convoy the afternoon before the assassination - including Sturgis, several Cubans, and Jerry Patrick Hemming.


The lack of overlap of the two stories nagged me a little, so I rang Mark Lane in Kansas City - where he was attending a trial - to confront him with my concerns. But before I could even pose a question he said:


"Let me tell you what has happened since Plausible Denial came out... I have recently found Jerry Patrick Hemming. I phoned him up, and the [taped] conversation went like this: 'Is this Jerry Hemming? This is Mark Lane.'"


Hemming replied, "Hi Mark! How ya doing?"


Lane: "I guess you haven't read my book."


Hemming: "Plausible Denial? I've read it. I love it. It's terrific."


Lane: "Can I call you Jerry?"


Hemming: "Yeah Mark - call me Jerry."


"Okay Jerry - did you like the part where Marita Lorenz says there was a two-car caravan: you were in it, with others; you went to Dallas - and then you killed the President?"


Hemming: "Mark, the thing is, in time people's memories fade about details. It was not a two-car caravan, it was a three-car caravan. Marita probably doesn't remember the third car."


Lane was flabbergasted. Accused of complicity in the crime of the century, Hemming had done no more than amicably dispute a detail.


For obvious reasons, Hemming did not state that he had committed murder. However he did go on to corroborate Lorenz's story in most particulars, and added considerable detail of his own.


Lane went to visit Hemming - who still lives in the Miami area - and video-taped a one-and-a-half-hour interview with him. In the course of this interview Hemming stated that he knew about the assassination plans before the caravan had left Miami. If, as Lane has been urging, a Special Prosecutor were appointed to re-investigate the crime - one with power to grant immunity to participants in return for testimony - he would tell the whole truth of the conspiracy.


Hemming told Lane that he had run counter-terrorist and assassination teams in Latin America and Africa. Indeed he was known, he said, as the man who ran the most efficient teams with the best "mechanics" (shooters). This presumably explains why he was chosen for the most important job in the Agency's history.


Returning to the central subject, Lane asked Hemming what more he could tell him about the Kennedy assassination. Hemming replied, "Do you know who Guy Banister was?"


Suddenly decades of work by two dedicated researchers began to converge in a material way. And suddenly the conspiracy "theories" for which both men have been so consistently vilified were theories no more.


"Guy Banister, on behalf of the CIA, offered me a contract in September 1962 to kill Kennedy," Hemming said.


This quotation, which would not have been out of place in bold type on the front page of every US newspaper, has yet to be sighted by the American public. Indeed nothing of Hemming's story has been published till today, though Lane has made it known to all who ask, including the Washington Press Corps.


Had he not already confirmed that the JFK assassination was a CIA conspiracy, Hemming's next revelation - that he knew Lee Harvey Oswald as a CIA man - would have been explosive.


"I met Oswald when he came in with some plans to infiltrate the Cuban Consulate in Los Angeles," Hemming said. "It was pretty clear then that Oswald was CIA... Also, I had gone to North Beckley [Avenue, Dallas], where Oswald lived, and it has all the characteristics of a CIA safe house." How many houses do? Lane asked. "Maybe one out of a hundred."


It was a question, Hemming said, of being near a park, of being able to see from all four corners... "He went through all the characteristics that a CIA safe house must have," Lane said.


Hemming then asked Lane, "Do you know the significance of shoe stores in intelligence work?"


Lane confessed he didn't. Hemming explained that a shoe store is a place where information - primarily documents - are passed, in the Western Hemisphere, by the Mossad, the KGB, the CIA and other agencies. The Russians, for example, customarily slip a false passport into a shoe a "customer" is trying on, whereupon he puts it on and leaves - nobody having observed the transaction. "The Russian slang for false passport," Hemming told him, "is the Russian word for shoe."


Hemming then continued: "The key place to make a contact with your handlers - in the movies they say 'control', but in the business we say 'handler' - is in a movie theatre. A movie theatre has everything you need. You can go in one entrance; someone else can come in another entrance. It's a dark place. You can agree to sit fourth row from the back, two seats from the aisle...or whatever. Everyone else in the theatre is looking forward at that white screen. And [after you have done your business] you can leave separately from the other person. You don't enter together; you don't leave together; and no-one sees you together."


This intelligence community arcana was all very interesting, but where was it leading?


Hemming explained: "Knowing that, just think what Oswald did after the President was killed. He went to a shoe store. He went from the shoe store directly to a movie theatre, where he was waiting when the...police came in and arrested him. It's so classic intelligence: he did what those of us in the CIA are trained to do if you have to make a 'meet', and an emergency has come up."


Lane moved on from his dialogue with Hemming - to tie up a few loose ends to do with George De Mohrenschildt, George Bush's colleague and fellow Texas oil millionaire. (Inexplicably, the patrician De Mohrenschildt had taken under his wing a "lone drifter and Marxist" named Lee Oswald. De Mohrenschildt's now-revealed employment by the CIA, and his many actions as Oswald's guide and benefactor, have made it reasonably certain that he was Oswald's CIA handler.)


"George De Mohrenschildt was at a party at the American Embassy in Haiti on the day of the assassination," Lane said. "Of course he was glued to the radio. When they heard at the party that Oswald had been arrested, he screamed, 'They told me that no harm would come to him! They told me it was totally innocent as far as he was concerned!'"


"People at the party have said that he said that," Lane explained. He went on: "When I first met Oswald's mother, which was January 1, 1964 - down in Dallas when she asked to meet with me [to ask Lane to represent her late son's interests, and herself, before the Warren Commission] - she said to me the first day, 'My son worked for the CIA.'" Mrs Oswald had not been able to back her statement with any evidence. "But now as I look back on it," Lane said, "she was the only one who was right."


Lane went on to the case of Orlando Letelier, the former (Allende-appointed) Chilean Ambassador to the USA, who was eliminated by car bomb in Washington, DC, in 1976. Several of those involved in the 1963 convoy from Miami to Dallas - including the brothers Guillermo and Ignatio Novo - were eventually convicted of the Letelier murder. Guillermo Novo stated in his defence that he was only following the orders of his Government: the assassination was a CIA hit. In 1976 the Director of the CIA had been George Bush.


Upon Letelier's murder, Bush had contacted his friends in the news media - including William F Buckley, Jnr - and "informed" them that the diplomat had been murdered by his own people "because they needed a martyr". The story was widely picked up - by The New York Times  among others - and became the conventional wisdom on the murder for a time. Bush himself must have known it was not true.


The FBI agent who handled the Bureau's role in the Letelier murder was a man named Wack. On behalf of the FBI Wack had - resonantly enough - authorised Marita Lorenz and her colleagues in the early sixties to travel across state lines in stolen cars, bearing large quantities of weapons, and to kill - all without police interference. Wack testified at the Guillermo Novo trial that the plan to kill Letelier had been hatched, by Novo and others, in the New York office of an unnamed Senator. By tracing the address given, Lane discovered that the Senator was James Buckley, at whose office Novo's cousin worked. James Buckley is the brother of William F Buckley. He has recently been appointed to the United States Court of Appeals by George Bush. One can only speculate as to the effect these discoveries would have, were they raised by the media in the 1992 US election campaign.


The FBI recently requested that the Chilean Government extradite another man it thinks to be implicated in the Letelier murder. The Chilean Government replied that it believes that the CIA was responsible for Letelier's murder, and that it will comply with the extradition request if the man who was CIA Director in 1976, George Herbert Walker Bush, would care to give a deposition stating what he knows about the event. This will presumably never happen.


"It's quite remarkable," says Lane. "how all of these things come back to just a few people. And George Bush is right in the middle of all of it." Remarkably, perhaps, the head of the Washington press corps, Sarah McLendon, read Plausible Denial.  She then used her influence to obtain FBI documents of the assassination period. One of them, dated November 22, 1963, stated that "George Herbert Walker Bush, a Houston businessman", had turned in a man he suspected to have been involved in JFK's murder. The man turned out to have had no connection with the assassination. The action is suggestive of a move to establish a "false sponsor" - effectively a false trail. The CIA in the post-assasination period attempted to set up many of these, and Bush's action would have been typical of such attempts.


McLendon has written a couple of columns about the matter, but overall the American media has not taken it up. Although it has been on its own best-seller list for three months, including some time at the top, Plausible Denial  has not been reviewed by The New York Times.


After a single advertisment in the Times, and some local radio and TV work by Lane, the book - which is published by a tiny private publishing company - has now doubled the sales of Rush to Judgment, a multi-million seller which was the country's best-selling book in 1966 and 1967. For all this, Lane has not been invited on a single network TV program in the United States.


Lane's final piece of information on the ever-evolving JFK assassination epic related to his lunch, only two weeks ago, with Richard Sprague, the HSCA head who had been fired as a result of the CIA's efforts in the late 1970s. Sprague informed Lane, for the first time, of the events which were transpiring within the HSCA leading up to his dismissal. Firstly Sprague had subpoenaed the CIA photographs which allegedly proved that Oswald had visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City - evidence crucial to the Government's "lone Marxist assassin" story. (The photos were supposedly taken from a CIA spy plane.) After the subpoena, the Agency apologised and said it had made a mistake: the camera on the plane was broken that day. There were no photos. Sprague had promptly subpoenaed all repair records for cameras in spy planes over Mexico during the period. He then unearthed the secretary who had supposedly prepared the transcript of Oswald's CIA-tapped conversation with the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. The secretary stated that she had never heard the tape or prepared the transcript - in other words that the CIA document, which identified her as the typist, was a forgery.


One begins, here, to see how Sprague earned his reputation as an indefatiguable crime-fighter. He finally subpoenaed the typewriter which the secretary habitually used, so the HSCA could compare its typeface with that on the transcript. It was at this point, Sprague told Lane, that the attacks on him in the American press reached their crescendo, Congress went to water, and he was sacked.


He still didn't fully understand why, until Lane explained to him, only a fortnight ago, that the Mexico City story - which was central to the Government's case - had been a CIA fabrication.


Lane believes that proof the conspiracy came from high in the CIA lies in documents deriving from the office of the Director of Central Intelligence. The documents are memos, dated prior to the assassination, which inculpate the sender - who must have been a senior CIA official with access to the Director's office - as being involved in the Mexico City coverup.


Lane now believes the only way the full truth will be known about the Kennedy assassination - who else was involved at the "mechanical" level, and who authorised it from on high - is for a Special Prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the crime. "Iran-Contra was broken this way. Watergate was broken this way. There had been books and lectures and discussions - but until there was a prosecuting attorney who said to Mr Hunt, 'You're going to go to jail for the rest of your life unless you tell the truth,' he was silent. And then he told them everything. He turned in everybody."


The new version of Rush To Judgment  contains a form, which thousands of Americans are currently filling in and mailing to the White House, requesting the release of all the assassination files, and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor for the crime.

WHAT WRITER CARL OGLESBY has called "the secret murder at the heart of the contemporary American dilemma" has never been officially solved. Indeed the major law enforcement agencies of the Republic have for twenty-eight years engaged in a vigorous collective effort to ensure that it is not solved.


Moreover, those who have independently sought to bring the murderers of John F Kennedy to justice have been obstructed, threatened, relieved of employment and humiliated - and their witnesses withheld from them, or simply "eliminated". Doubly remarkable is that - like the more infamous events within the former Eastern Bloc - this extraordinary saga has not been part of the daily literature of our time.


The United States - whose federal deficit now grows by one billion US dollars a day - will by the end of the decade become the world's number two economy. Voter turnout in the recent Presidential primaries was lower even than the record lows established four years ago. Ten thousand businesses were burned to the ground in Los Angeles.


The American media seems not to understand that the recent breakdown of the American people's trust in their institutions did not take place in a vacuum. It was preceded by the removal of the trust those institutions once had in the people.


President Bush's campaign team has studied the white electoral backlash to the black riots of 1968, and concluded that a similar backlash may help the Bush campaign in the wake of Los Angeles. The White House is not known to be studying the catalyst for the 1968 riots, which was the assassination of Martin Luther King by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
President Bush told us last week that the United States is "the free-est, fairest, most just and most decent nation on the face of the Earth." Like the Los Angeles riots, the Kennedy assassination and its ongoing cover-up suggest otherwise.
Will the parasite within American democracy end its dream run by destroying the host?


We may or may not read about it.

* Mark Lane's "Plausible Denial" is published by Thunder's Mouth Press. The Australian paperback edition ($19.95) is published by Bookman Press in Melbourne. Jim Garrison's "On The Trail of the Assassins" is a Penguin paperback. ($11.95) I have drawn heavily on both books in this article.


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