Among the reasons the CIA should have been made a specific target of a criminal investigation in the John Kennedy assassination were: (1) the CIA was the world’s premier expert in assassination and coups; and (2) the CIA was in a partnership with one of the most crooked and murderous private organizations in history, the Mafia, a partnership whose express purpose was the assassination of a public official, Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
In 1953 — 10 years before the Kennedy assassination — the CIA pulled off a coup in Iran. The operation was conducted secretly and surreptitiously and successfully. It ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and replaced him with the unelected shah of Iran, a man who would be loyal to the U.S. government for the next 26 years but who also would brutalize his own people in the process.
It is no surprise, then, that the CIA celebrated this regime-change operation in Iran as a great victory for the United States. Never mind that the CIA’s coup installed a cruel dictator who would terrorize and brutalize his own citizenry until the Iranian people ousted him from power in 1979.
One year later — 1954 — the CIA pulled off a similar coup in Guatemala. Successfully employing deceptive tactics, including radio broadcasts reporting a fake military invasion of the country, the CIA induced the democratically elected president of Guatemala to abdicate in favor of an unelected military strongman who was loyal to the U.S. government. The CIA, once again, celebrated its interference with Guatemala’s internal affairs as another great victory for the United States. Of course, it could not know that its coup would precipitate a three-decade civil war in which more than a million Guatemalans would be killed.
Nine years later — 1963 — the CIA pulled off another successful coup, this time in Vietnam. That regime-change operation occurred in October, one month before Kennedy was murdered. Dissatisfied with South Vietnam’s corrupt, autocratic president Ngo Dinh Diem, Kennedy authorized the CIA to oust him from power. With the support of the CIA, the operation was successfully carried out by South Vietnamese generals, who then proceeded to assassinate Diem, albeit apparently without Kennedy’s foreknowledge or approval.
Now, let’s spring forward 10 years — 1973 — to the Chilean coup that ousted communist President Salvador Allende and replaced him with right-wing military strongman Augusto Pinochet. Granted, that coup took place a decade after the Kennedy assassination, but I think it nonetheless holds valuable lessons about how the CIA operates and its attitude toward assassination.
It is commonly claimed that the CIA had nothing to do with the Chilean coup or, at least, that no smoking-gun has ever been uncovered evidencing CIA involvement. However, that claim rings hollow for two reasons. One, it is undisputed that ever since Allende’s election, the U.S. government had been actively trying to figure out how to get rid of him. Second, and much more important, the circumstantial evidence conclusively establishes that the CIA did participate in the Chilean coup, for how else to explain the fact that the CIA played a role in the murder of an American journalist during the coup? In other words, if the CIA really wasn’t playing a role in the coup, why would it have been helping to murder an American during the coup?
The case of Charles Horman
The murder of the 31-year old American, a man named Charles Horman, reveals quite a lot, not only about the CIA but also about how U.S. public officials respond to a CIA murder of an American citizen.
For one thing, the Horman murder shows that 10 years after the Kennedy assassination, the CIA was not above murdering Americans. Sure, the coups in Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam produced some deaths, but they were foreigners’ deaths. In Chile, among the dead was an American — well, actually, two Americans, for another American journalist named Frank Terrugi also was killed, but it’s not clear yet whether the CIA was involved in his murder too.
But there’s no question about whether the CIA played a role in Horman’s murder. According to an entry on Horman on Wikipedia, “Horman was in the resort town of Vina del Mar, near the port of Valparaiso, which was a key base for both the Chilean coup plotters and U.S. military and intelligence personnel who were supporting them. While there, he spoke with several U.S. operatives and took notes documenting the role of the United States in overthrowing the Allende government.”
For years, the CIA denied any role in Horman’s murder, just as it denied playing any role in the Chilean coup. But at the very least, the first denial turned out to be false, intentionally false. In 1999 — more than 25 years after Horman’s death — the State Department released a document stating that the CIA had, in fact, played an “unfortunate role” in Horman’s murder.
What role exactly? We don’t know. After the release of that document, the CIA did not come forward and explain why it had lied about its participation in Horman’s murder, what its operatives had done to kill Horman, or whether CIA higher-ups had approved the assassination. Even more telling, neither Congress nor the Justice Department pursued the matter with a congressional investigation or with grand-jury subpoenas and indictments.
Think about that. Here was evidence, some 25 years after the fact, that U.S. government officials had helped to murder an American citizen. Yet not one congressional subpoena was issued to any CIA official demanding to know what the CIA’s role in the murder had been, why the CIA had lied and covered up the matter for so long, or whether there were murderers still alive and on the loose. Moreover, no federal grand jury was requested to issue subpoenas to the CIA demanding the production of a single relevant witness to the murder and its cover-up or documents regarding them.
In other words, the CIA got away with obstruction of justice and murder, the murder of an American citizen, because for some reason U.S. officials decided that it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie, at least with respect to the CIA assassination of American Charles Horman.
Now, none of this, of course, establishes that the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination. In fact, it’s not even circumstantial evidence that it was. But it is to say that the CIA’s successful coups in Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam should have made the CIA a suspect in the Kennedy assassination and, consequently, a specific target of a criminal investigation. Moreover, the CIA’s post-Kennedy involvement in the murder of American Charles Horman should have caused people after 1973 to reflect upon the fact that the CIA was fully capable of assassinating an American citizen and lying about it and covering it up.
The CIA-Mafia partnership
The CIA’s expertise in regime-change operations wasn’t the only the thing that should have justified a particular and specific investigatory focus on the CIA. There was also the CIA’s partnership with the Mafia, one of the most crooked, corrupt, and murderous organizations in history.
The whole idea simply boggles the mind. Imagine: A primary agency of the U.S. government, the CIA, actually enters into a partnership with a private organization whose methods involve violence, illegality, murder, narcotics, bribery, perjury, and, well, probably just about every crime on the books.
What was the purpose of the CIA-Mafia partnership? Murder! The partnership was formed for the specific purpose of assassinating Fidel Castro, the president of a sovereign and independent country. The CIA and the Mafia, two organizations whose expertise involved murder, got together to pull off the murder of a foreign public official.
But that’s not all. What is also noteworthy here, at least with respect to the Kennedy assassination, is the fact that U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the brother of the president, was actually waging a federal war against the Mafia during the time that the CIA-Mafia partnership was operating. He was securing federal grand-jury indictments against Mafia leaders, prosecuting them, and doing everything he could to get them incarcerated. In effect, his goal was actually to destroy the Mafia, the very organization that the CIA had chosen to be its assassination partner.
Again, that’s not to say that such facts warrant a conclusion that the CIA assassinated Kennedy out of loyalty to its partner, the Mafia, which the Kennedys were trying to destroy. But it is to say that, once it was known, that relationship — and the specific purpose of the relationship — i.e., murder of a country’s president — should have been more than enough to warrant a specific and targeted investigation of the CIA, to determine whether the CIA-Mafia partnership had turned its sights away from Castro and toward Kennedy.
There’s another interesting aspect to the Mafia-CIA partnership that is worth mentioning here. One of the common things that one hears about the Kennedy assassination is that if the CIA were, in fact, involved in the assassination, someone would have leaked the information by now. That’s not necessarily true. Both the CIA and the Mafia are experts at keeping secrets, especially when it comes to murder.
After all, how much do you know about the Horman murder? Don’t forget that the CIA successfully kept its role in that murder secret for more than 25 years, and that involved just the murder of an ordinary American citizen. Do you know the identities of the CIA agents who were involved in Horman’s murder? Do you know the actual extent of their involvement?
No. And the reason you don’t know these things is that the CIA has successfully kept them secret.
But there is a much more relevant example of silence when it comes to murder, the murder of Mafia kingpin Johnny Roselli. He was the Mafia mobster who served as liaison to the CIA as part of the CIA-Mafia partnership to assassinate Fidel Castro. In 1976, Roselli testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the Kennedy assassination and was recalled for further testimony. Before he could respond, however, he was murdered. On August 9, 1976, his body was found in a 55-gallon steel drum floating in the waters off Miami. He had been strangled and shot and his legs had been sawed off. According to an entry on Roselli on Wikipedia, “Some believed that boss [Santo] Trafficante ordered Roselli’s death [because he felt] Roselli had revealed too much about the Kennedy assassination and Castro murder plots during his Senate testimony, violating the strict Mafia code of omerta (silence).”
The Roselli murder shows that the Mafia can keep secrets, especially when it comes to murder, for as of this date it is still undetermined who killed Roselli. As we know from the Horman case, the Mafia’s assassination partner, the CIA, can keep secrets too.
Moreover, one who decides to leak information about Mafia operations, especially those involving murder, know that they probably won’t be long for this world. One can wonder whether the Mafia’s partner, the CIA, wouldn’t feel the same way. After all, who can say with certainty that Roselli’s murderers were from the Mafia and not part of the Mafia-CIA partnership?
Did the CIA employ its expertise pulling off coups here in the United States in November 1963? Did the CIA-Mafia partnership to murder Fidel Castro switch its sights from Fidel Castro to John Kennedy? At the very least, that expertise and that partnership warranted making the CIA a specific target in a criminal investigation.
Let’s now examine, in the context of motive, the animosity that existed between John Kennedy and the CIA after the Bay of Pigs debacle and the Cuban missile crisis.