Q&A with Howard Willens, Warren Commission defender

Howard Willens, former staff attorney on the Warren Commission, remains one of its most vigorous public defenders 50 years later. As I reported yesterday, he agreed to answer questions from JFK Facts via email. Because all of the questions were submitted at once, there were no follow up questions. In any case, my intent was not to conduct a hostile interrogation but to elicit his thoughts and hopefully start a dialogue. (I found his journal from 1964, which he has posted on his website, to be a valuable document for understanding the limitations of the Commission’s approach to its investigation.)

Now let’s hear from him.

David Belin and Howard Willens

Howard Willens, right, and fellow Warren Commissioner investigator David Belin at the Texas School Book Depository in March 1964.

JFKFacts: As you have gone around the country, promoting “History Will Prove Us  Right” what, if anything, have you learned about public understanding of JFK’s assassination?

HW: My public presentations have, for the most part, been well attended – usually with 100-200 participants. There does seem to be a genuine interest in hearing a reasoned presentation of what the Warren Commission did and how it reached its conclusions that Oswald was the person who fired the two shots and that there was no credible evidence that he was part of some conspiracy. These audiences – to speak in general terms – appeared not to be well informed about the several investigations over the past decades that have reexamined – and confirmed – the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

JFKFacts: You said that Mark Lane’s appearance before the Commission was “dramatic but empty.” Fifty years later, you guys are still going at it. What two adjectives would you use to describe Mark Lane in 2013?

HW: I am not engaged in any debate with Mark Lane. As I described in the last chapter of my book, two of my former colleagues debated with Lane in either 1966 or 1967. One of them, Professor Liebeler of the UCLA Law School, accused Lane of traveling around the country “telling lies for money” or something to that effect. When Lane threatened a lawsuit, Professor Liebeler said, in effect, “bring it on.”  Lane never served any papers or was prepared to defend his allegations in court. I concurred then, and now, with the assessment of my deceased former colleague.

JFKFacts: You wrote on in your journal on March 12, 1964, “I consider the CIA representatives to be among the more competent people in government who I have ever dealt with. They articulate, they are specialists and they seem to have a broad view of government. This may be, of course, because they do not have a special axes to grind in the Commission’s investigation.”

With the benefit of hindsight, is it accurate to say that the CIA did not have an axe to grind in the Commission’s investigation?

Richard Helms,

Richard Helms: ‘not truthful.’

HW:  I agree that my journal comments about the CIA were naïve, to say the least. As you probably know, the CIA officials who were designated to work closely with the Warren Commission later testified that they personally did not know about the assassination plots being considered by the agency during the 1960-63 period. Deputy Director for Plans Richard Helms, of course, did know about the plots and did not tell the truth to the Warren Commission when he testified. It is clear that the CIA “did have an axe to grind” during our investigation.

JFKFacts: For example, the Commission did not know that in the month before JFK was killed deputy CIA director Richard Helms had dispatched officers Desmond Fitzgerald and Nestor Sanchez to meet with Rolando Cubela, a former Castro ally who indicated a willingness to assassinate Castro.

In retrospect, how would you describe Dick Helms’s testimony to the Commission? 

HW: Helms’s testimony before the Commission was not truthful and did not comply with President Johnson’s mandate in the executive order creating the Warren Commission that all federal agencies should cooperate fully with the Commission.

JFKFacts: Former CIA analyst Brian Latell argues that Cubela was a double agent reporting back to Castro and that Oswald made his intention to kill JFK known to Cuban intelligence officers. Lattell ratifies the Commission’s findings about the crime scene but is a revisionist on Oswald’s motivation raising the possibility of Cuban material support.

 If you know of Latell’s argument, what’s your assessment of it?

HW: I do not know whether Cubela or any other Cuban official was a double agent, although I think the evidence does indicate that Castro was aware generally of the CIA’s interest in ending his regime and, indeed, his life. I do not think there is any credible evidence that Oswald, after being turned down at the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City, threatened that he would kill President Kennedy. Neither the consulate officer in charge at the time nor Sylvia Duran so stated to the Mexican officials who interviewed them or in later investigations of Oswald’s visit to Mexico City.

Castro made this allegation in a speech shortly after the assassination, during which among other things he offered his theory that Oswald could not have fired the three shots and that US officials should be looking for his associates who were involved in the assassination.

I do not think that Castro was involved in providing any kind of support to Oswald’s plan to kill President Kennedy. Such a course of action by Castro, if known, would have certainly resulted in his downfall. In addition to the implausibility of anyone engaging Oswald to engage in such an effort, there are the important facts that (a) he was not employed at the Depository at the time of his visit to Mexico City; (b) the route for the motorcade was not publicized until November 19, and (c) Oswald wrote a threatening note to the FBI Office in Dallas about two weeks [Editor's note: actually it was one week] before the assassination – an unlikely move by a committed assassin.

JFKFacts: The CIA’s Office of Security opened a file on Oswald in December 1959. In December 1960, the Special Investigations Group (SIG) of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff opened a 201 file on Oswald in December 1960, which incorporated the OS file. By November 1963, SIG had received 5 FBI reports, a half dozen  State Department cables, and a CIA cable on Oswald.

Did you know of the SIG’s interest in Oswald during your investigation? 

James Angleton

James Angleton: ‘not responsive.’

HW: Yes, we were aware of this CIA interest. Actually, it seems perfectly appropriate for the CIA to open a file on a defector to the Soviet Union in 1959 and then seek to follow Oswald’s activities upon his return to the US in 1962. A member of the Commission staff reviewed the CIA files on Oswald during our investigation. The House Select Committee on Assassinations, which had information about the CIA (including its assassination plots) that we did not have, conducted a thorough investigation of the agency’s relationship with Oswald and concluded there was no evidence that the CIA was involved in any conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.

JFKFacts: Do you think that the Commission should have taken the testimony of James Angleton, the chief of the Counterintelligence Staff ?

HW: I see no reason why the Commission should have asked Angleton to testify before it.  Deputy Director Helms was the responsible official at the CIA and there is little doubt that Angleton, if called, would have been as non-responsive as Helms.

JFKFacts: True or False or matter of opinion? Kennedy’s assassination was the culmination of a counterintelligence failure for which Angleton and Helms should have lost their jobs.

HW: False. As indicated above, I do not believe that Castro or his government was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

JFKFacts: Edward Butler, the executive director of the Information Council of the Americas, was not called as a witness by the Warren Commission. It was Butler who made a tape of Oswald’s August 1963 radio appearance, and it was Butler who gave the tape to news reporters on the afternoon of November 22 enabling radio and television to disseminate indisputable proof that the suspected assassin was a Marxist and a supporter of Castro. 

Do you recall why the Commission didn’t call Butler?

HW: I have no idea why he was not called. Of course, there was a public record of this program and that might have influenced the judgment of the lawyers working in this area. Nonetheless, he certainly would have been a good candidate for a deposition by one of our lawyers and some effort might have been made in his direction. I simply do not have an answer to this question.

Warren Commission

Presentation of the Warren Commission report to President Johnson, September 1964.

JFKFacts:  A quote from your journal shows your awareness of the role of the Warren Commission report in shaping historical consciousness.

“Mr. Rankin also told me that he had raised with the Commission the problem of Archives handling of Commission materials. There is apparently a feeling among the members of the Commission that it would be desirable if all the material of the Commission were not available to the public for a year or two after the report comes out. They suggest that the organization and the screening of these materials will take this long, but of course the principal interest here is making sure that sufficient time elapses before any real critics can get access to material [emphasis added] other than those which the Commission desires to publish simultaneous with its report. Apparently the Chief Justice intends to talk with the National Archivist on this subject.

To me the italicized observation indicates that you wanted to make sure that the Commission’s report was the dominant narrative of JFK’s assassination without competition from possibly less-qualified critics who analyzed the evidence differently. This is not criticism. The Commission found the truth as nearly as it could be discerned by the most qualified people in Washington, and you believed the American people needed that truth more than anything else.

Yet within a couple of years, the critics of the Commission got access to the Commission’s material and almost immediately had gained the upper hand, at least in terms of public opinion.

HW: I believe that this journal entry does a disservice to the Warren Commission. I think the Commission’s intentions regarding the publication of its material should be assessed by what it did, rather than what some members might have been thinking at an earlier time. Less than two months after issuance of its report in late September 1964, the Commission published 26 volumes of investigatory material – including the testimony, affidavits, and statements of 552 witnesses; more than 3,000 exhibits; all expert reports considered by the Commission; and some of the most important agency reports submitted to the Commission. So, the critics who were eagerly awaiting the materials allegedly supporting the Commission’s findings had to wait less than two months to get access to these 26 volumes.

In addition, Chief Justice Warren learned early in 1965 that the National Archives was not processing all the other Commission materials delivered to that institution with a view of making them available to the public. Warren asked President Johnson to instruct the National Archives to override its customary policies in this regard and process the Warren Commission materials for release to the public that were not classified. By the time of the JFK Act in 1992, about 98% of the Warren Commission’s papers were available for inspection at the National Archives.

I think that this commitment by the Commission to public disclosure is not generally acknowledged.

JFKFacts: With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you think the Commission should have done to make its findings more credible?

I have no useful thoughts about what more the Commission could have done “to make its findings more credible.” The fact is – and all the evidence so indicates – these findings were well supported at the time and no contrary evidence has emerged after 50 years to undercut them.

JM: Now 50 years later, every poll shows that a majority of Americans reject the Commission’s findings. When it comes to JFK, are Americans, in your view,  a) irrational; b)  misinformed; c) credulous d) all of the above e) none of the above.

HW: I think that with the passage of time the findings of the Warren Commission will become more acceptable. As with the Lincoln assassination, there will always be conspiracy theories urged by those unwilling to accept the Commission’s findings. As Vincent Bugliosi has written, challenging the Commission’s conclusions has the characteristics of a religious endeavor – like seeking the Holy Grail – and persons who have committed their lives to such an effort will never be persuaded that it is not a worthy and necessary venture.

 

 

34 comments

  1. Shane McBryde says:

    HW: “I think that with the passage of time the findings of the Warren Commission will become more acceptable.”

    This is, has been and will likely remain demonstrably false.

    On another subject, today is the anniversary of RFK’s assassination, which I believed is linked with JFK’s. That having been said, Jeff, here’s a link to a piece I wrote some years ago on the then 42nd anniversary of RFK’s death. I’d love to have your thoughts on what I wrote, if of course you have the time. http://voices.yahoo.com/42-years-since-murder-robert-6167832.html

  2. Alan Dale says:

    For an informed alternate assessment of the Warren Commission’s methods and practices, my interview with Professor Gerald D. McKnight may be heard here:

    http://www.jfklancer.com/audioconversations.html

    Professor McKnight is the author of Breach of Trust: How The Warren Commission Failed The Nation And Why (updated 2013 paperback edition).

    • Shane McBryde says:

      Alan,

      Just to let you know I have listened to your interview of McKnight maybe 10 times or more. I love it, it’s a great interview with lots of very interesting nuggets., hence the reason I listen to it so frequently. Also, McKnight strikes me as not the easiest person the world to interview and you did a great job with him!

      Thanks,

      Shane.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Just one question for Howard Willens. How did the barrel of the alleged murder rifle become so rusted in fewer than 24 hours?

    FBI’s Robert Frazier said one round fired through the barrel would have cleaned out all the corrosion. On the morning of November 23 Frazier inspected the rifle and did not bother testing to see whether it had been fired recently, the barrel was so corroded.

    If you don’t have a satisfactory answer to the question, please explain why the Warren Report conclusions make sense.

    Silence, of course.

  4. Ronny Wayne says:

    Excellent book. The outer cover slip on the original hard copy is intriguing. The commissioners around a conference table setting up straight or leaning slightly forward, some with hands on the table and stoic looks on their faces. All but Dulles. He’s leaning back with an arm hooked over the back of the chair and what looks like a faint grin or smirk on his face. Like the cat that ate the canary.

  5. George Simmons says:

    HW : “The HSCA…conducted a thorough investigation of the Agency’s relationship with Oswald…”

    I feel it is somewhat disingenuous of Mr Willens to state this considering what we now know about the HSCA investigation.
    The HSCA did not know that the DRE were CIA assets.
    The HSCA did not know the role of George Joannides in 1963.

    George Blakey, Chief Counsel for the HSCA : “..I no longer believe that we were able to conduct an appropriate investigation of the Agency and its relationship to Oswald”

  6. Marcus Hanson says:

    Jeff,did he get your point?

    Re:

    “JFKFacts: True or False or matter of opinion? Kennedy’s assassination was the culmination of a counterintelligence failure for which Angleton and Helms should have lost their jobs.

    HW: False. As indicated above, I do not believe that Castro or his government was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.”

    I’m not sure that he did: it seems he’s assumed,wrongly but not unreasonably,that you imply a Cuban plot which the CIA failed to uncover -or failed to address.

    The “cointel failure” speculation still holds , however ,if -as you believe – pre-assassination knowledge of Oswald’s activities was not passed to the FBI/SS/DPD.

    I don’t believe there was a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy.
    But I believe that various agencies withheld what they knew from the WC to protect reputations.
    Why are they still keen to withhold information today?
    The “sources and methods” argument is valid,but I think there are other reasons for their reticence.

    We all know that Helms lied – nothing new here.
    Still,nice going in getting a Commission lawyer to go on record about his belief that Helms was not truthful.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Did Willens elaborate on this quote of his?

      But I believe that various agencies withheld what they knew from the WC to protect reputations.

      What is it that they are protecting or covering their ass about?

      The complete answer to this question could be key to mitigating Oswald’s ostensible guilt.

  7. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Dear Mr. Willens. The Warren omission is full of more holes than a sieve. History has already proven you wrong. Further naivety about it will not benefit any of us. Just a naive citizen’s thought.

  8. Michael Flower says:

    Great article Jeff ! At least this guy admitted that the CIA had duped the Warren Commission after the fact. I think many in America HAVE TO BELIEVE in the Warren Commission even though FOIA documents pretty much clarify that there was a concerted effort to get along to go along to cover up potential conspirator collaboration. The reason some will still cling to the Warren Commission is they dont want to go to the conclusion that elements of their own government were murderous . They want to watch tv and have warm fuzzies ..

  9. John Kirsch says:

    “True or False or matter of opinion? Kennedy’s assassination was the culmination of a counterintelligence failure for which Angleton and Helms should have lost their jobs.”
    Helms and Angleton passed away long ago and suggesting that they bear some or most or all of the blame for 11/22 seems eerily reminiscent of the Warren Commission, which laid the blame for the assassination on a man who was murdered before he could defend himself in court.
    It isn’t that I think Helms and Angleton were white knights. On the contrary I suspect they were quite devious and then some.
    It’s just that trying to put some, most or all of the blame for 11/22 on two men who are not here to defend themselves strikes me as a little … convenient.

    • Jerry McComb says:

      like the WC put the blame on Oswald, who was murdered 2 days after the murder of Jfk, without being able to defend himself, as you say “convenient”

  10. M. Ellis says:

    I find these parts astonishing.

    “HW: Helms’s testimony before the Commission was not truthful and did not comply with President Johnson’s mandate in the executive order creating the Warren Commission that all federal agencies should cooperate fully with the Commission.”

    “HW: I see no reason why the Commission should have asked Angleton to testify before it. Deputy Director Helms was the responsible official at the CIA and there is little doubt that Angleton, if called, would have been as non-responsive as Helms.”

    The Deputy lied. But there was no need to call his boss to testify, because he would have lied also.

    And yet…

    HW: “I have no useful thoughts about what more the Commission could have done “to make its findings more credible.” The fact is – and all the evidence so indicates – these findings were well supported at the time and no contrary evidence has emerged after 50 years to undercut them.”

    It’s odd that Mr. W. does not consider the CIA’s lack of truthfulness “evidence to the contrary”.
    He’s a lawyer. He knows what happens when a witness is caught lying.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Well said. Even the FBI has to be regarded as biased, although they were not as tightly controlled as the CIA.

      BTW, the following quote by W sounds more like the usual ‘sound bite’.

      no contrary evidence has emerged after 50 years to undercut them.

  11. John McAdams says:

    It’s odd that Mr. W. does not consider the CIA’s lack of truthfulness “evidence to the contrary”.

    So the only embarrassing, or incompetent, or morally questionable thing the CIA might have ever done is assassinating Kennedy?

    When we find bureaucrats covering things up, we might reasonably infer there are things that would embarrass them. And in a typical bureaucracy, there are a lot of potentially embarrassing things.

    And this is aside from the fact that bureaucrats might fear being scapegoated for something that isn’t misconduct.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      How can Willens say that there is no contrary evidence to undercut them, yet admit that the CIA lied and withheld information?

      Sir, it is more than just an embarrassing aspect that is being hidden. It is probably criminal negligence if not vicarious complicity.

      After all these years, anybody who can be scapegoated ‘for something that isn’t misconduct’ is probably dead. If not, to hell with the bureaucrats and let the facts be divulged to speak for themselves.

      • John McAdams says:

        How can Willens say that there is no contrary evidence to undercut them, yet admit that the CIA lied and withheld information?

        Because we know a lot about what the CIA lied and covered up, thanks to later investigations (official and journalistic).

        For example: the CIA, at the behest of JFK, was trying to kill Castro. Something they covered up, but no evidence of a conspiracy to murder JFK.

        Willens could only know that anything was “covered up” because it has subsequently come out. A lot has come out. But none of it implicates the CIA in the murder of Kennedy.

        • david thurman says:

          “no evidence of a conspiracy to murder JFK,” Really? What do you call David Phillips telling Tennabaum during HSCA that the supposed audio tapes of Oswald in Mexico City had been destroyed automatically after two weeks (from late sept./early oct.), then being presented w/FBI report from 23 Nov., where 6 FBI agents in Dallas have listened to the supposed tapes of oswald on the weekend of the murder (almost 2 months since their recording) all concluding it’s not oswald. As you no doubt know, Phillips put the report in his pocket got up and walked out.

          If their was no conspiracy what was the cia doing in late sept. making it appear oswald was meeting w/a KGB agent in Mexico City? How could they have known that information would come in handy a couple months later? If oswald had been killed rather than taken in to custody no one would have tried to verify the voice; would they?

          • John McAdams says:

            Really? What do you call David Phillips telling Tennabaum during HSCA that the supposed audio tapes of Oswald in Mexico City had been destroyed automatically after two weeks (from late sept./early oct.), then being presented w/FBI report from 23 Nov., where 6 FBI agents in Dallas have listened to the supposed tapes of oswald on the weekend of the murder (almost 2 months since their recording) all concluding it’s not oswald.

            You need to check this out:

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/clueless3.htm

            Alan Belmont talked to Shanklin early Saturday morning, and apparently misunderstood what Shanklin told him.

            Nobody in Dallas said anything about hearing tapes and indeed, when questioned by the HSCA, they all denied it.

            This was quickly corrected.

            You particularly want to look at these two documents:

            http://history-matters.com/archive/jfk/fbi/105-3702/124-10230-10430/html/124-10230-10430_0002a.htm

            This is the one Rudd actually brought from Mexico City to Dallas.

            And an even earlier memo, that says to expect photos and transcripts. No mention of tapes.

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/images/Shanklin112263.pdf

            Tannenbaum was acting like an asshole by calling Phillips a liar.

    • M. Ellis says:

      Mr. McAdams,

      Regardless of what the CIA was hiding, it was hiding something. Helms – by HW’s own admission – was not a credible witness. That is evidence in itself. And HW’s conclusion that there was no point in calling Helms’ boss, because he probably would have lied too – discredits an entire federal agency and whatever role it played in the WC conclusions.

      I don’t know what the CIA was hiding. But it’s reasonable to consider its lack of credibility to be ‘contrary evidence that has emerged in the last fifty years.

      • John McAdams says:

        Are you admitting that you have no evidence that the CIA had anything to do with the JFK assassination?

        Your argument is simply “the CIA lies, therefore I am free to believe anything I want about them, even if I have no evidence.”

        So I don’t actually need any evidence other than my belief that that “the government lies?”

  12. Gerry Simone says:

    HW: I think that with the passage of time the findings of the Warren Commission will become more acceptable. As with the Lincoln assassination, there will always be conspiracy theories urged by those unwilling to accept the Commission’s findings. As Vincent Bugliosi has written, challenging the Commission’s conclusions has the characteristics of a religious endeavor – like seeking the Holy Grail – and persons who have committed their lives to such an effort will never be persuaded that it is not a worthy and necessary venture.

    Huh?

    Isn’t it a fact that the Lincoln assassination involved a conspiracy?

    Warren Commission critics did not start as religiously conspiratorial. Their doubts directly stem from calling the WC’s conclusions into question after reviewing the facts.

  13. Willens’ comment about his alleged knowledge of the CIA interest in Oswald puzzles me.

    If they were aware of this, and if they were privy to the CIA files which revealed this, and they sent a guy to read the file, then where is any of this in the Warren Report? Or even the 26 volumes. If any of this information is there, I would like to see it.

    Or has it been declassified? I would like to see that also.

    As John Newman points out in his milestone book on the case, Oswald and the CIA, there are all kinds of interesting, even compelling things in the CIA file on Oswald. Like why was not a 201 file opened up on him when he went to Russia? Why was that delayed for a year? In fact, it seems it was only opened when Otepka sent his query to Bissell.

    Was that not an important point to the Commission about Oswald? Should that not have provoked some follow up questions? If so, what were the responses?

    This whole part of Willens’ story in a bit puzzling.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      James DiEugenio June 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      If this John Newman book is no more factual than his, “JFK and Vietnam” I would be suspect of anything it says.

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        Bait? Jim can deal with that or ignore it as he wishes.
        If JFK and Vietnam is anywhere close to Oswald and the CIA it is excellent and quite relevant. I’ve read the latter but not the former. It was from a library so I don’t have it at hand to quote from but I thought I remembered it as having being well documented.
        Amazon readers disagree with you.
        http://www.amazon.com/JFK-Vietnam-Deception-Intrigue-Struggle/product-reviews/0446516783/ref=dpx_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Ronnie Wayne June 9, 2014 at 11:05 pm

          No bait. It seems that Mr. DiEugenio can’t speak of John Newman without calling his books “masterful” (JFK and Vietnam) and “milestone” (Oswald and the CIA). I think it important for readers to know that not everyone has such a high opinion of Newman’s books. I certainly do not stand along here.

          “JFK and Vietnam” was also well referenced until it came crunch time. When the main thesis was stated the references disappear. The reason being is that Newman speculates.

          Amazon is in the business of selling books, not accurate history. And the review you reference is worthless because Mr. Finn doesn’t know what he is talking about. Here are some easy examples;

          Finn; “Kennedy’s efforts to withdraw resulted of course in the often discussed and debated NSAM 263 which stipulated a withdrawal of 1,000 American troops in December of 1963. As the author makes clear this plan included withdrawing the rest of the American “advisers” at the rate of 1,000 a month so that all Americans would be gone by 1965.”

          Clarke; NSAM 263 is on the net and easy to find. If you can show me this “at the rate of 1,000 a month” I’ll have no more to say about Newman or Finn. That was never mentioned in NSAM 263 or any other place else except someone’s vivid imagination.

          Finn; “Johnson issues NSAM 273 which amplifies American commitment to the war effort and in fact Kennedy’s withdrawal plan is reduced to a meaningless paper exercise as it is morphed into a mere rotation of forces”.

          Clarke; This is complete junk. JFK and McNamara had agreed to make this first withdrawal by “normal rotation”. Another example of the groupies blaming Johnson for something Kennedy had done.
          ____________________________________________________________________________________.
          http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1005_vietnam/index.htm

          President Kennedy: Otherwise we ought to just do it by rotation of.. [unclear].

          McNamara: Or we can do it just through normal attrition…[unclear: normal rotation]

          JFK: Yeah.

          McNamara: Normal rotation.

          • Clarke likes to recycle things that have already been dealt with.

            NSAM 263 was part of the McNamara-Taylor report. That report was not written by either man. It was written b Krulak under Kennedy’s supervision.

            It was the report that said the troops would eventually all be withdrawn, and this was announced in October by McNamara and Salinger in a press release. When McNamara went out to tell the press this, Kennedy peered out the window and said, “Tell them that means the helicopters too.”

            As noted the overall plan was well publicized at the time and I named several sources, including the front page of the Ny Times. But somehow that is not good enough for Clarke.

            As for Newmans’ milestone book, every major tenet is annotated. This means the origins of the withdrawal plan, with Galbraith, the implementation of the plan, with McNamara, the resistance of each attempt to place troops in Nam by Kennedy, and the final installation of the plan in May of 1963.

            WHen Clarke shows me something in that list that is not noted, I will take him seriously.

            I am waiting.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Amazon is in the business of selling books, not accurate history.

            This statement by you is unresponsive and irrelevant.

            Ronnie is just referring to other readers who disagree with your lone view.

            And as Jim DiEugenio said, we’ve gone through this before.

            NSAM 263 refers to the October 2nd, 1963 memo to the President from the Secretary of Defense wherein it states:

            2. A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.

            This is what students of history should know. Not the spin by WC apologists.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Jim DiEugenio June 11, 2014 at 12:39 am

            DiEugino. Clarke likes to recycle things that have already been dealt with.

            You didn’t deal with it. You left the discussion when I asked you for notation of 3 of Newman’s statements. I guess that is dealing with it. Sort of.

            DiEugino. NSAM 263 was part of the McNamara-Taylor report. That report was not written by either man. It was written b Krulak under Kennedy’s supervision.

            No, certain PARTS of the McNamara-Taylor report was incorporated into NSAM 263, making these parts of the M\T report a part of NSAM 263. The M\T report was of course written by both men, it reflected the earlier report of General Krulak. You have no evidence that JFK “supervised” Krulak while writing his report.

            DiEugino. It was the report that said the troops would eventually all be withdrawn, and this was announced in October by McNamara and Salinger in a press release. When McNamara went out to tell the press this, Kennedy peered out the window and said, “Tell them that means the helicopters too.”

            No, NSAM 263 does not say “ALL” troops. Have you ever read NSAM 263? You really shouldn’t lecture on NSAM 263 until you know something about it and from your statements here it is clear that you do not.

            DiEugino. As noted the overall plan was well publicized at the time and I named several sources, including the front page of the Ny Times. But somehow that is not good enough for Clarke.

            That is good enough for me.

            DiEugino. As for Newmans’ milestone book, every major tenet is annotated. This means the origins of the withdrawal plan, with Galbraith, the implementation of the plan, with McNamara, the resistance of each attempt to place troops in Nam by Kennedy, and the final installation of the plan in May of 1963.

            DiEugino. WHen Clarke shows me something in that list that is not noted, I will take him seriously.

            DiEugino. I am waiting.

            So you can stop waiting now. Here is the major tenet of his withdrawal plans according to Newman. And this is pretty funny. Page 322, JFK and Vietnam; “Kennedy decided to use Taylor’s and Harkin’s reports of battlefield success to justify the beginning of the withdrawal he was planning”. Italics Newman’s.

            Newman didn’t note this whopper of course. Perhaps you can help him. No Kenney O’Donnell, no Dave Powers, no senators or anyone else saying, “Jack told them this in secrecy”. No newly declassified document, no missing tape. Nothing. Newman just pulled this from you know where.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone June 11, 2014 at 11:48 am

            Amazon is in the business of selling books, not accurate history.

            Gerry. This statement by you is unresponsive and irrelevant.

            It wasn’t meant to be. But if you think you can judge the accuracy of a history book by reading one review at Amazon you are very wrong. In fact, the reviewer didn’t know what he was talking about as I pointed out in my post on the 10th.

            Gerry. Ronnie is just referring to other readers who disagree with your lone view.

            It is hardly a lone view. At a seminar at the LBJ Library where Newman was pushing his book his theory was roundly rejected by a collection of well-known historians in the field. Usually it is the Camelot crowd that supports Newman and their need to apologize for Kennedy is overwhelming.

            Gerry. And as Jim DiEugenio said, we’ve gone through this before.

            Then why are we still saying NSAM 263 was Kennedy’s plan to bring ALL the troops home, as DiEugenio still claims today. As you can see in your cut and paste it doesn’t say ALL, it says the bulk of. But it is my guess that you and Mr. DiEugenio will go right on claiming that NSAM 263 was an order to withdraw ALL of our troops. Am I right?

            Gerry. NSAM 263 refers to the October 2nd, 1963 memo to the President from the Secretary of Defense wherein it states:
            2. A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.

            Gerry. This is what students of history should know. Not the spin by WC apologists.

            I agree. They should know it says “bulk” and not “ALL” as we so often hear from the uninformed. Don’t you agree?

            And if you are calling me a WC apologist you would be wrong again. You’ve never read anything I’ve written that supports the WC.

    • Dave says:

      The WC members and their staff lawyers knew which sensitive and emerging areas of inquiry to best leave alone (CIA and Oswald) in the interests of “national security”, thus it was simply willful blindness and the beginning of the official coverup on the part of Willens and his colleagues. His answers here are also at variance with what he has said in the past, so what else is he still withholding 50 years later?

    • John McAdams says:

      Like why was not a 201 file opened up on him when he went to Russia? Why was that delayed for a year?

      Newman appears to have ignored the HSCA on this:

      To determine whether such a delayed opening was unusual, the committee reviewed the files of 13 of the 14 persons on the CIA’s November 21 1960, response to the State Department and of 16 other defectors (from an original list of 380) who were American-born, had defected during the years 1958-63, and who had returned to the United States during that same time period. Of 29 individuals whose-files were reviewed, 8 had been the subject of 201files prior to the time of their defection. In only 4 of the remaining cases were 201 files opened at the time of defection. The files on the 17 other defectors were opened from 4 months to several years after the defection. (43) At the very least, the committee’s review indicated that during 1958-63, the opening of a file years after a defection was not uncommon. In many cases, the opening was triggered by some event, independent of the defection, that had
      drawn attention to the individual involved.

  14. Which is why I don’t listen to you.

    Richard Helms admitted this to the HSCA, and he then said he was amazed this was the case.

    If you did not know that then you are not qualified to comment on Newman’s excellent book.

    But, you will anyway won’t you?

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