Gary Hart on JFK: ‘American journalism never followed up’

Former Senator Gary Hart talked to the Huffington Post yesterday about a missed opportunity in the mid-1970s when Congress reopened the JFK assassination investigation, two Mafia bosses knowledgeable about the events of 1963 were murdered — and the Washington press wasn’t interested.

The two Mafia bosses, Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana, had been enlisted by senior CIA officials in various conspiracies to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Giancana was shot dead in his Chicago home by someone he admitted into his house in June 1975, shortly before he was scheduled to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Hart, then a senator from Colorado, was a member of the committee.

Roselli testified before the committee shortly thereafter and declined to answer most questions about the Castro assassination plots, which had been organized by Bill Harvey, chief of anti-Castro operations for the CIA in the first two years JFK’s administration. In August 1976, Roselli was called to testify again when his body was found stuffed in an oil drum floating in the ocean near Miami.

Some associates of Roselli and Giancana have contended they were involved in JFK’s assassination.

Press reaction

Hart, an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988, who was sometimes likened to JFK for his personal style, said this about the puzzling reaction of the press to the murders.

Sen. Gary Hart, JFK investigator

“I was always amazed in that particular instance of the CIA-Mafia connection and the Cuban connection 12 years — coming up 12 years — after Kennedy was killed that somebody didn’t go after that story,” he said. “New York Times, Washington Post; anybody. And they didn’t. They reported the deaths and that was it, and the strange quirky coincidence, you know, but nothing more.”

Hart is talking about an early instance of JFK denialism — the impulse to shy from confronting the hard facts and disturbing implications of the JFK assassination story. The phenomenon is visible these days at PBS and CNN, and Hart’s comments suggest It was also at work in 1975-76.

It’s not hard to understand why. At the time, the U.S. government was in terrible shape. President Nixon had been forced to resigned in August 1974. In early 1975, the CIA had been disgraced by the disclosure of mail intercept program that illegally targeted U.S. citizens and revelations about its conspiracies to kill foreign leaders. In April 1975, the pro-American client government in Saigon was overthrown and the United States lost the Vietnam War. Washington was reeling.

In those circumstances the idea that the murders of Roselli and Giancana might be connected to the assassination of JFK was almost too lurid to be believed. And yet they were.

Suspicions of CIA man

When former CIA official John Whitten heard that GIancana had been murdered, he immediately wondered if his former colleague Bill Harvey had been involved. Whitten knew Harvey well from their time working for the CIA in Europe in the 1950s.

Bill Harvey

Bill Harvey

Harvey served as chief of the CIA’s program to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961-62 and openly derided Attorney General Robert Kennedy for what he regarded as the Kennedy administration’s weak Cuba policy.

Harvey also knew Giancana. In 1961, he enlisted Giancana and Roselli and other organized crime leaders in a plot to kill Castro.

Whitten, who served as chief of the Mexico desk in the clandestine service in 1963, told investigators in closed-door testimony in 1978 that, “Harvey was really a hard-boiled unsubtle, ruthless guy who was, in my opinion, a very dangerous man.”

Whitten went on:

“I have wondered — I wondered if the government ever looked into the possibility that Harvey did not knock off Giancomo [Giancana]. He lived in the same area when he retired. He was a great one with guns. I read it in the newspaper. I was overseas and I said to myself I wondered if they looked into Bill Harvey.”

The CIA didn’t and neither did American journalists. The Giancana murder was never solved.

Among the 1,100 JFK-related documents that the CIA is still keeping secret in 2013 is a 123-page file on Bill Harvey’s operational activities. 

 

 

 

7 comments

  1. JSA says:

    Oprah made a comment recently that got blown out of context by the old white male demographic, particularly Faux News, when she said that racism and bigotry will probably only die out when the older generation of bigots and racists die off. Similarly, it might take a sea change of a new generation who comes along and reopens the JFK case before it gets the attention that it deserves. Most of the defendants of the Warren Commission seem to be old white guys who grew up during the Cold War, who still revere the CIA (and NSA), who think our government just couldn’t possibly sponsor a domestic coup, because WE’RE THE USA—WE DON’T DO THAT. I’ve got news for them…There is no such thing as a pure race of people or a pure nation of all good people. Every nation does bad things at one time or another. This whole “American Exceptionalism” argument that you mostly hear from aging white guys is a myth. It’s time those guys either take the flag that they’ve wrapped around their eyes (so they can’t see anything) and look around. That was what Kennedy was doing, when he questioned his Joint Chiefs and his CIA about their pre-conconceived notions. Our media should “grow a pair” and ask the relevant questions. To not do so is to march, lemming-like, Pravda-like, into blind “nation-think”.

    • alex says:

      well said. I agree completely. There are still a few more aging people that need to kick the bucket, the last few road blocks. and like you said, the new younger generation needs to take up the issue.

  2. Hans Trayne says:

    Journalists, supposedly representing the conscience, rights & education of the American citizens in all matters that concern the public that sit back & not investigate any story to it’s final closure or no different than a doctor refusing to treat a dying patient or a police officer refusing to respond to a criminal act. All betray the public’s trust with their misdeeds.

    TV & print journalists all have bosses to answer to. To earn a paycheck requires pleasing the boss. The bosses are aware of what’s not being covered in the JFK murder case. It’s them that are at fault here; they wear the villain hat each day that passes that their TV broadcasts, newspapers & magazines are filled with incompetent incompleteness & unreliability.

  3. LMB says:

    Has this changed ?

    “The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception” . . . . The CIA and the Media by Carl Bernstein, Rolling Stone, Oct. 20, 1977. THE CIA AND THE MEDIA

    How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up.http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

  4. Photon says:

    After the “Monkey Business” monkey business I could never see how anybody could take this idiot seriously.
    He actually invited the press to follow him around but was too dense to believe that someone might take him up on the offer. He had a clear path to the Democratic Presidential nomination and just threw it away.
    And we are supposed to respect his opinion?

  5. John Kirsch says:

    The assassination occurred not far from the editorial offices of the Dallas Morning News, then, as now, one of the biggest papers in the state. But I don’t believe the paper has ever undertaken a serious, in-depth investigation of the crime of the century, which happened just blocks from its offices. But you could say the same about the NYT and the other “elite media.” As a former reporter, I often hear that newspapers are dying because of the Internet. That’s obviously a factor but I also think newspapers are dying because they have been shirking their duty for decades. Their failure to actually investigate 11/22 is only one of the more flagrant examples of their refusal to fulfill the watchdog function set out for them by the men who established our representative form of government. The men who established that system gave the press special privileges. In return, the press was supposed to actually tell the people the truth so that citizens would be able to make well-informed decisions. Instead, newspaper owners used those privileges to enrich themselves, to the detriment of the nation as a whole. That’s a hard thing for me to say as a former reporter but I believe it’s true.

  6. John Kirsch says:

    I have to amend my blanket indictment of the U.S. press re: their coverage of 11/22, in light of this column posted by John Cassidy on Nov. 21 on the New Yorker site, “A Word In Favor of J.F.K. Conspiracy Theories.”
    Cassidy begins with a ritual (and off-putting) bow in the direction of the conventional wisdom, “I have an embarrassing confession to make” but soon demonstrates his backbone by writing, “Even today, fifty years on, some aspects of the official version of the Kennedy assassination don’t stack up for me.”
    After saying that some critics of the Official Story are “off their rockers” and that much of what passes for historical analysis is gossip and speculation (so true!), Cassidy states his case even more bluntly than he did at the start by saying, “But having said all that, there’s another, more substantive reason why the conspiracy theories survive: the official version of events begs questions; in some aspects, it beggars belief.”
    To support his argument, Cassidy notes that some of the ballistics evidence “ruling out a second shooter is still disputed by some experts” such as Robert K. Tanenbaum, “a former New York prosecutor who worked for the House Select Committee.”
    After conceding that he is willing to swallow his doubts and accept that there was only one shooter, Oswald, Cassidy asks a vital question, why would Oswald have killed JFK? Cassidy notes that no less a figure than Secretary of State John Kerry has said, on camera, that he has serious doubts that Oswald acted alone.
    Cassidy performs another valuable service by saying that doubters should continue to raise questions, “The horrific and endlessly fascinating forty-eight hours that brought together Kennedy, Oswald, and Ruby bequeathed too many puzzling details, weird coincidences, and shady characters for the doubters to stay silent.”
    Indeed.

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