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Did the CIA Effect Regime Change in November 1963?

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In my blog yesterday, I noted that contrary to a popular refrain in the controversy over the John Kennedy assassination, government officials can, indeed, keep secrets. I pointed out that if three district attorneys in Dallas could keep the existence of a vault containing a trove of information in the Kennedy investigation secret for some 45 years, it is entirely conceivable that federal officials could just as easily keep a conspiracy to kill Kennedy secret as well — and would obviously have a much greater interest in keeping it secret.

That’s not to say that such is evidence of a conspiracy in the Kennedy killing. It’s simply to say that those who claim that if a conspiracy did exist, one of the conspirators would have leaked the secret by now is silly and meritless. The fact is that government officials, especially those in the CIA, can and do keep secrets very well.

Consider Mafia kingpin John Roselli, who was murdered in 1976. It’s highly probable that Roselli was the victim of a conspiracy because his body was found in a 55-gallon drum floating in Miami Harbor after he had been strangled and stabbed and had his legs sawed off.

Why was Roselli killed? No one knows for sure, but one possibility is that some people were not very pleased that he had revealed too much information to Congress about the partnership that had been entered into between the CIA and the Mafia to murder the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, prior to the Kennedy assassination.

Have any of the conspirators who killed Roselli come forward and leaked information about the murder during the past 30 years? No. The conspirators (who may well have been members of the CIA-Mafia partnership, given that they were the ones whose secrets Roselli revealed) have remained silent. They have kept their secret secret for three decades.

Should President Johnson and the CIA have appointed an independent prosecutor in the Kennedy assassination rather than a political body such as the Warren Commission? As I pointed out yesterday, if the CIA did, in fact, participate in the Kennedy assassination, as a practical matter the only way that was ever going to be ferreted out was through an honest, independent special prosecutor (such as Patrick Fitzgerald in the Scooter Libby case) backed up by a fearless, independent-minded federal judge (such as Judge Sirica in the Watergate case). There was never any chance that a political body like the Warren Commission could have broken through the stone walls that obviously would have been erected to protect The Secret.

The problem, however, is that President Johnson couldn’t have appointed such a prosecutor. Why? Because in 1963 it wasn’t against federal law to assassinate a president. Thus, if CIA officials were in fact involved in the assassination, they would not have had to fear the possibility of an independent federal prosecutor investigating the case. Instead, they would have faced the possibility of a criminal investigation performed by a county prosecutor, to wit: the district attorney of Dallas County, who shut down his investigation into Kennedy’s murder soon after Oswald was killed and then, as it turns out, locked away the evidence he had compiled in a secret vault.

Of course, there will always be those who claim, “Not my CIA! There is no possibility that my CIA would ever do such a horrible thing. That’s what intelligence services do in other countries, such as Pakistan, but not my government’s intelligence service.”

Yet, it’s not clear what they mean when they make such a claim. Surely, they’re not saying that the CIA is incapable of murder and regime change. After all, everyone knows that that’s what the CIA is all about — murder and regime change, along with kidnapping, torture, and other nefarious things. There’s nothing new about that. Everyone agrees that the CIA has been doing such things for decades and is still doing them.

Ten years before Kennedy was assassinated, the CIA conducted regime-change operations in Guatemala and Iran, under the rubric of “national security.” There was also the CIA’s involvement in a regime-change operation in Vietnam, which included the murder of the man who was ousted from power, under the rubric of “national security.” The CIA also assassinated Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, under the rubric of “national security.” The list goes on.

We also shouldn’t forget the partnership between the CIA and the Mafia, in which CIA officials and Mafia hoodlums conspired and worked together to kill Cuba’s president, Fidel Castro, and effect regime change in Cuba, again under the rubric of “national security.”

Those who categorically hold that that there is no possibility that the CIA would ever assassinate a U.S. official, including a president, must mean that CIA officials, as patriots, would never have used their talents to effect a regime change within the United States.

Yet, what if CIA officials had concluded that Kennedy himself was a threat to “national security” and that a regime change here would save the country from being taken over by the communists? Don’t forget, after all, that the fear and paranoia that infects the nation today with respect to a conquest by the Muslims is miniscule compared to the fear and paranoia over communism that gripped the nation in the 1950s and 60s. In fact, it was that fear and paranoia that led the CIA to effect those regime changes in Guatemala, Iran, and Vietnam and that ultimately led Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Pentagon to send 58,000 American men to their deaths in Vietnam.

We shouldn’t forget also that in the minds of many CIA officials, Kennedy had betrayed the CIA at the Bay of Pigs, resulting in the deaths of CIA agents and their anti-Castro allies, and had betrayed the nation by promising the communists that they would never again have to fear a CIA regime-change operation in Cuba, 90 miles away from American shores. Moreover, there is strong circumstantial evidence that Kennedy was ready to “surrender” to the communists by withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam and engaging in dialogue with Soviet leaders. With Lyndon Johnson at the helm, those “national-security” concerns diminished.

None of this, of course, is direct evidence that the CIA effected a regime change in the United States in November 1963. It’s just to say that if it had been a federal criminal offense to assassinate a president in 1963, people could have made a good case for the appointment of an independent federal prosecutor with a mandate that included a close examination into the CIA as a “target of interest” in the investigation. It’s a shame that no such law existed and that no such appointment and investigation were made because they would have gone a long way in settling longstanding doubts among many people over whether the CIA used its considerable talents of murder and assassination of foreign leaders to effect a regime change here at home.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.