Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Deep State and JFK

Since former Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote his essay on the ‘deep state’ and talked about it on PBS’ Moyers and Co., I have been thinking about the notion more and more. Then I read Mary’s Mosaic, Peter Janney’s riveting book about the death of JFK’s lover, the brilliant socialite Mary Pinchot Meyer. The sickening truth began to sink in once again, 50 years after the Dallas assassination that everyone in my generation remembers, and remembers thinking was an inside job when, right on our television screens, the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot to death smack in the middle of the Dallas police station by the allegedly grief-stricken Jack Ruby. Everyone, that is, immediately thought conspiracy: an assassin doesn’t just get gunned down in police custody by some fat, floozy of a strip-joint owner who, because he does favors for a lot of cops and can walk into the most heavily-guarded police station in the world, can kill the prime suspect of the crime of the century with less trouble than a teenager killing rats at the dump. No. If there ever was an inside job meant to silence a suspect, this had to be it. Until, that is, the Warren Commission deliberated and handed down its verdict: Oswald was a lone, very lucky gunman with some sort of grudge against the President, and Ruby also acted on his own to exact vengeance on the man who killed the President he loved. All other conclusion and speculations were the ravings of lunatic conspiracy theorists. End of story.
            Over the years, however, intrepid researchers and reporters such as Peter Dale Scott and Oliver Stone and Robert Parry have contested the received standard version of this and other stories. And in doing so, they have broached the subject of a secret government operating outside (or perhaps one should say ‘inside’) the boundaries of legitimate political contestation or government oversight. The idea that would not die was that the operation to kill the president was the work of so-called “rogue” elements in the CIA and other government agencies like the ones that nearly brought the world to nuclear Armageddon in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. They were the same or similar elements that have brought down countless foreign governments—as in Iran when they overthrew the democratically-elected Mohammad Mossadegh and brought back the Shah—and have really dictated the policies of one president after another to such an extent that even the tepid Dwight Eisenhower raised the alarm about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” And they were not “rogue” at all, but fully ensconced in all agencies of government as well as the major corporate and Wall Street power centers which ultimately call the shots. This is exactly what Mike Lofgren now has formally termed “the Deep State.” Here is how he defines it:
The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street….
Lofgren then expands on that government-corporate connection by pointing out how mutually reinforcing are the connections between corporate America and the federal agencies in question, and the huge percentage of the national security apparatus that is contracted out to private companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton (Edward Snowden’s employer):
There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. While they work throughout the country and the world, their heavy concentration in and around the Washington suburbs is unmistakable: Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts.
Is it any wonder that the federal government has been at such pains to track Snowden down, to silence Julian Assange and Bradley Manning and William Binney, to mount the most savage attack on government whistleblowers and leakers in U.S. history? There’s a lot of money at stake here, not to mention some very unsavory skeletons in America’s closet.
            But to return to JFK and Mary Meyer. Peter Janney, the writer, is a psychologist by profession and a CIA brat by birth: his father was Wistar Janney, a career CIA official. This gives Peter Janney some added credibility when he writes about CIA powers like James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counterintelligence, and Cord Meyer (Mary Meyer’s husband before their divorce), head of the Directorate of Plans. The story Janney tells is both poignant and harrowing. Having known each other when they were young collegians (JFK at Harvard and Mary at Vassar), Meyer and JFK had flirted but never really consummated anything until the early 60s when she was divorced and he, as usual, was hopping from one bed to another. Contrary to his usual pattern of “love ‘em and leave ‘em,” however, JFK is said by Janney and others to have fallen heavily for Mary Meyer. More than that, he is said to have come under her influence, first by taking LSD with her at least once, and second by agreeing that the world, on the brink of annihilation from nuclear weapons, needed peacemakers more than anything else. Mary Meyer had long been an advocate for world peace: she and her husband, Cord Meyer, had been leaders of the United World Federalists (UWF) before Cord, needing money for his new family, succumbed to an offer from the CIA (talk about flipflops!). Now, with JFK and perhaps some emotional insights from LSD, she was allegedly steering him more and more towards détente with the Soviet Union. As evidence, Janney cites JFK’s stunning American University Commencement Speech of June 10, 1963, well worth reading in full ( In that speech, JFK talked about peace as more than necessary, especially given the weapons of mass destruction now in the hands of the two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. But he spoke not the threatening language favored by the deep staters, nor a language of blame for a “godless” adversary, but the language of rational and sane men who know that only by examining one’s own attitudes could real peace ever have a chance:
Some say that it is useless to speak of peace or world law or world disarmament, and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward, by examining his own attitude towards the possibilities of peace, towards the Soviet Union, towards the course of the cold war and towards freedom and peace here at home.
Then the President went even farther. He announced that far from just indulging in rhetoric, he intended to back up his words with action, action to pursue the talks already started in Geneva in pursuit of a real nuclear test-ban treaty:
I'm taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two important decisions in this regard. First, Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister Macmillan, and I have agreed that high-level discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking towards early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our hopes must be tempered with the caution of history; but with our hopes go the hopes of all mankind. Second, to make clear our good faith and solemn convictions on this matter, I now declare that the United States does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so. We will not -- We will not be the first to resume. Such a declaration is no substitute for a formal binding treaty, but I hope it will help us achieve one. Nor would such a treaty be a substitute for disarmament, but I hope it will help us achieve it.
In short, President Kennedy announced that day that he was serious about proposing an end to the arms race, an end to the “strategy of annihilation,” and a beginning towards an era of full disarmament and peace. And that announcement may have been the final signal to those in the “deep state” that the President of the United States, already considered unreliable because of his refusal to “nuke” Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis and risk nuclear Armageddon, because of his indications of rapprochement with not just Russia but with China and Cuba too, with his reckless (in their eyes) moves toward a test-ban treaty (his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, refused to sign the treaty Kennedy had negotiated), could no longer be trusted or tolerated.
            Janney cites an entry Mary Meyer made in her diary just before she died to confirm this notion: “They couldn’t control him any more. He was changing too fast.” Whether or not this was true, it is quite clear that some ‘deep staters’—very powerful people within government who were able to bring about the assassination of a sitting president and then create a commission, the Warren Commission, to confirm the preposterous lone gunman theory that has stood till this very day—wanted the President out of the way. Janney cites the cases building against Lyndon Johnson (the scandals of Bobby Baker and Billie Sol Estes, about to appear on the cover of Life Magazine until they were replaced by the assassination photos from the Zapruder film, never to be heard from again) and the clear evidence that he would be dropped as Vice President in the 1964 election, as indications that LBJ at the least knew about the plot.
            One way or the other, though, Janney’s main story concerns Mary Meyer. She apparently had told friends and acquaintances, especially after the Warren Commission Report was made public, that it was all fiction, a cover story to hide the truth. Given her well-known intimacy with the assassinated President, and her equally well-known penchant for confronting people about uncomfortable truths, Mary Meyer was not about to be intimidated. Janney quotes liberally from lawyer Jimmy Smith’s notes with his client, writer Leo Damore, who claimed, before he committed suicide in 1995, that he (Damore) had put together the details of both Mary’s death and JFK’s assassination. And his research showed that
…it wasn’t Mary’s affair with Jack that had put her in jeopardy; it was what she had been able to put together…about the “murder of JFK.” Her indignation at the cover-up in the Warren Report pushed her to confront her ex-husband, Cord, and possibly Jim Angleton as well. Smith’s notes, however, indicated that it had to have been Cord who conveyed to Jim Angleton how infuriated Mary had become. Whether Mary subsequently had a separate confrontation with Jim Angleton alone, or with Cord present, wasn’t clear. But it was almost certain both men realized—knowing Mary as well as they did—that she wasn’t the kind of person who was going to keep quiet. (329)
In short, Mary Meyer had to be silenced. Given her habit of walking each day around noon on a towpath along an abandoned Chesapeake and Ohio canal, she was accosted there on October 12, 1964, and shot twice—once in the temple, and once from behind in the right chest above the wing bone. Both were up-close professional shots, the second one fatal. A witness called to tow a Nash automobile nearby heard shots, then moved to a wall from which he could see a Black man bending over a body, wearing a tan jacket and a plaid hat. The witness, Henry Wiggins Jr., identified the suspect as 5’8” tall, weighing somewhere around 180 lbs. Shortly thereafter, police arrested Ray Crump, Jr. (according to Damore, another fall guy like Lee Harvey Oswald), a Black man about 5’3” and weighing no more than 130 lbs. Having just had extra-marital sex with a girlfriend, he refused to explain why he was at the scene, and was charged with the murder. Fortunately for him, Crump was brilliantly defended by renowned attorney Dovey Johnson, who got him acquitted of all charges. The murder remains unsolved to this day.
            According to Janney, however, Leo Damore found that one of the witnesses that day, William L. Mitchell, who claimed he was running along the path, was the real assassin. A known CIA asset, and once part of an Army Special forces kill team, Mitchell, according to another researcher, Hank Albarelli, killed Mary Meyer “at the request of the Agency’s Domestic K [contracts] Office in D.C.” But not so strangely, all records about Mitchell seem to have disappeared. He originally gave his address to police as 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington VA, said to be a known “CIA safe house.” He also claimed to be a math instructor at Georgetown University, but no such person was listed on the math faculty. Damore also asserted that Mitchell had actually admitted that he was the killer of Mary Meyer, but of course, Damore himself ‘committed suicide,’ so that evidence no longer exists.
            All that exists is Janney’s book putting together the assassinations of two lovers, one of whom was the president of the United States, the other a beautiful and powerful woman who had once been married to a high CIA official. And one more piece of evidence that a constantly changing core of powerful insiders in and out of government (today, many are known as neocons) manipulates government policy and our elected leaders to an extent that is frightening to contemplate. The latest instance of this known to me is Robert Parry’s exposure of the inside game with regard to Ukraine. Parry asserts that what’s really at play in Ukraine is the neocon attempt to control Barack Obama, to poison what had been a growing diplomatic partnership between the American President and Prime Minister Putin of Russia—first in solving the crisis over Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and then in helping to arrange a tentative deal with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program. By using the National Endowment for Democracy, among other agitprop organizations of the Right, to foment and bring to a violent boil the demonstrations in Kiev, the “deep state” has once again driven a stake into the heart of peace politics when a President appeared to be moving too close to accommodation rather than belligerence. What is involved for the deep state, of course, are billions in weapons contracts for arms manufacturers, endless jobs for high-tech warriors and propagandists and hit-men, and a zealous commitment to keeping the world terrified in order to shape policy towards the manufacture of fear and the weapons associated with it.
            Whether or not the fresh air of publicity can put a stop to such insider tactics remains an open question. But in a certain sense, it is all the rest of us have. The power seems to gravitate, as always, towards fear, and the insiders who stoke that fear. Until, of course, some brave naïf reveals that the emperor, the whole exceptionalist empire, is a mirage.

Lawrence DiStasi