Did Bradlee fear Angleton?

In response to  Ben Bradlee’s thoughts on JFK’s assassination, a friend asks, “Do you think Bradlee feared tangling with Angleton? Angleton was supposedly livid because Bradlee spread the story that Angleton had lock picked the studio of Mary Meyer [JFK’s mistress, slain in October 1964]?”

Good question.

I don’t know but it is quite possible. The Washington Post editor never admitted such a fear but he moved in circles with CIA people. He might well have known that crossing Angleton was a risky proposition. In general, I think David Talbot’s interview shows that Bradlee feared the whole subject of JFK’s assassination and avoided it.

The Daily Beast has a good account of the strange encounter between Bradlee and Angleton when the editor went looking for Meyer’s diary the day after her murder.

“Bradlee and his wife began their search the next morning, only to find that someone else had been tipped off about the diary’s existence. Meyer’s door had been locked, but when Bradlee made his way in, he found James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s counterintelligence chief, standing there in the living room. He, too, was looking for Meyer’s diary.”

via The Bizarre Tale of Ben Bradlee, JFK, and the Master Spy.

But the DB story omits one important detail.

Angleton’s wife Cicely said later that Mary Meyer had told her that she wanted Angleton to have the diary in case anything happened to here. That makes his creeping around Meyer’s home and studio around slightly less creepy. But it also indicates a closer friendship between Meyer and Angleton than is generally known and increases the possibility that Angleton knew about her affair with JFK.




20 thoughts on “Did Bradlee fear Angleton?”

  1. John Newman makes a strong case in the final added chapter of the paperback edition of Oswald and the CIA that it was Angleton who, having managed Oswald’s case as a false defector and later, was setting up the whole situation where Oswald would be blamed for the JFK assassination. Somebody presumably arranged for all or most of the strange deaths of the JFK assassination. Couldn’t Angleton’s shop have been doing that too?

    1. Speaking of the strange deaths of witnesses, I have just learned about a late (1994) exercise in intimidation of a witness of the fishy proceedings connected with JFK’s autopsy. One of the witnesses Douglas Horne found and interviewed for an early arrival of JFK’s corpse at Bethesda Naval Hospital was Roger Boyajian, in 1963 a Marine sergeant, who headed a 10-man squad that accompanied the early delivery of the corpse to the hospital. Boyajian, who eventually retired to Hubert, NC, outside Camp Lejeune, kept a document attesting to what happened in 1963. In 1997, he was interviewed by Horne and sent him a copy of the document. There was a news report in the New Bern Sun Journal of Jan. 19, 1994, “Woman recovering after night in trunk,” which can be found on line. The preceding day, Boyajian’s wife surprised a burglar in the Boyajians’ home. She was kidnapped and left overnight in the trunk of her car in a remote area, after having suffered a blow to the head, but was soon discovered and sent to the hospital, where she was treated until she could return home. Roger Boyajian had earlier arrived home to find the home ransacked and his wife missing. The Assassination Records Review Board, which commenced operations later in 1994, had been established by an Act of Congress passed in 1992. It looks as though somebody was tidying up loose ends in anticipation of the pending AARB investigation.

    2. Here’s latish (1975) evidence that Angleton continued to try to scare people out of casting doubt on the Warren Commission’s version of events from David Talbot 2013 article JFK assassination: CIA and New York Times are still lying to us:

      •In the years following the Warren Report’s release, several of the commissioners and staff members distanced themselves from their own report and publicly criticized the manifold deceptions of the agencies on which they had relied, namely the FBI and CIA. Among those who suffered grave doubts was lawyer David Slawson, the man who had been the Warren Commission’s lead investigator into whether JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. In 1975 Slawson aired his criticisms to the New York Times, attacking the CIA for withholding vital information from the commission and calling for a new JFK investigation. Within days of the story breaking in the Times, Slawson received a strange and threatening phone call from James Angleton, the spectral CIA counterintelligence chief. Angleton – who had not only closely monitored Oswald for several years before Dallas, but later took charge of the agency’s investigation into the alleged assassin – adopted a decidedly sinister tone during his call with Slawson, making it clear to the lawyer that he would be wise to remain “a friend of the CIA.” Slawson and his wife were deeply unnerved by the call. He thought the message was clear: “Keep your mouth shut.”

  2. “neither Toni nor Anne Truitt have denied the carnal nature Ms. Pinchot’s relationship with John Kennedy. ”

    sure, and neither Madeline Brown nor Judith Baker have denied that LBJ pulled the trigger. And Nixon never denied planning JFK’s assassination.

    this is not proof.

  3. Angleton was a mole just like Shackley and Colby. Bradlee cooperated with Operation Mockingbird so what he says is irrelevant.

  4. Given the extent of Angleton’s power in the 1960s, and the fact that he was an unnerving character to say the least, I think it is a distinct possibility that Bradlee did not want to get on the wrong side of him. Ben Bradlee had a illustrious career in journalism, but it does seem that he did not want to look too closely into JFK’s assassination.

  5. I agree with Mssrs. Lowe and DiEugenio. We do not know the nature of Ms. Meyer’s relationship with John Kennedy. What we do know is that she was well placed to pick up CIA information or “intrigue,” that Angleton was vocationally in charge of seeking molls within the agency, that she was estranged from her highly placed CIA husband, and that there is apparently a long list of witnesses that met a bad end. The accused murderer may very well have been a patsy. Why is it assumed (incorrectly I believe) that Angleton’s moll hunting would be exclusively concerned with leeks to the Soviets, when leaks to the U.S. public would be of such greater concern? If Cord Meyer made the death bed comment attributed to him, then the only mystery left in this episode is “what did Mary Meyer know, or was mere suspicion enough?” As to the editor of the Washington Post, Cord Meyer was a principle in Operation Mockingbird. Bradlee would be tighter lipped than Antonio Veciana.

    1. Ramon F Herrera


      “We do not know the nature of Ms. Meyer’s relationship with John Kennedy.”


      I think we do. It was revealed in the 1996 biographical book, by a person of unimpeachable reliability, who happens to be her brother-in-law and close friend.


      As far as I know neither Toni nor Anne Truitt have denied the carnal nature Ms. Pinchot’s relationship with John Kennedy. I doubt that a person and the end of an illustrious, legendary career (one in which credibility is essential) would stoop so low as to calumny his wife’s sister, just to sell a few more books.

      NB: I don’t know why they keep on calling her “Meyer”. They were divorced in 1958. And she was not “estranged”, either, having filed (as in a large majority of cases: it is always the woman who leaves) for divorce herself.



      “After about an hour, Tony found the diary. It was slim, about “fifty to sixty pages,” according to Bradlee, and mostly concerned with her paintings. Ten or so pages of it, though, recounted her affair with President Kennedy, of which Bradlee and his wife had been completely unaware.

      “To say we were stunned doesn’t begin to describe our reactions,” Bradlee wrote. The Bradlees and the Kennedys had been close, and while there were persistent rumors that the president cheated on his wife, Kennedy had always denied it to Ben even as he playfully flirted with Tony. Jackie Kennedy once joked to the Bradlees that Jack liked to call Tony his “ideal woman.” Jack, meanwhile, told Ben that he imagined the trouble-loving Mary must be “hard to live with.”

      1. The issue isn’t the possible/probable/maybe affair Mary Meyer and JFK were having. It’s why J. Jesus Angleton was burglarizing, committing a felony, her house. Obviously he was looking for documents. He wasn’t interested in the affair aspect of her relationship with JFK. So Bradlee discloses the existence of a diary twenty years after he divorces the writer’s sister. Bradlee made two disclosures, a salacious diary and Angleton, at a risk, rummaging through her house. Which is the historically significant disclosure? My only point is we need to get off the spy v spy characterization of Angleton. The moles he would be most concerned about had to do with domestic leaks.

        1. You’re ignoring the strong evidence that Angleton played a central role in organizing the assassination that is provided in the added final chapter of the paperback edition of John Newman’s Oswald and the CIA. We know Mary Meyer didn’t believe the Warren Commission story, which to a large extent was the work of Allen Dulles. She obviously knew a lot about the CIA and Cord Meyer. Surely Angleton would have been most worried about any evidence Mary Meyer might have had about the guilty parties in the assassination.

  6. What Allen said. And Jim DiEugenio has written of the numerous conflicting accounts of Angleton and the diary. Hard to say where the truth lies between those accounts.

    Re C. David Heymann, that guy was a proven fabricator. See Newsweek’s recent cover story re how he made up “witnesses” from whole cloth. I know who can research and who can’t by how they treat Heymann. Btw – even the recent Newsweek cover story was the tip of the iceberg re his fabrications.

  7. Journalist C. David Heymann asked Cord Meyer shortly before he died who he thought had killed his former wife. Cord replied: “the same sons of bitches who killed John F. Kennedy!”

  8. the one fallacy in the above is that there is one essential element missing in the claim that Mary Meyer was JFK’s mistress – proof, evidence. Like most of the claims of JFK’s womanizing (as James DiEugenio has so astutely pointed out) this is just more post-assassination character assassination. So much of the information upon which these claims are supposedly based is non-existent.

    1. Given JFK’s penchant for screwing around, and given his closeness to both Tony Bradlee and her husband, Ben, and of course Mary Meyer, whom he knew at least going back to the 1945 San Francisco UN conference, I doubt there was nothing there. But you’re entitled to your skepticism.

      Funny, but I rarely hear people say that they are skeptical of JFK’s affairs, usually only about how he was gunned down.

    2. Ramon F Herrera


      Check out this documentary, available in Netflix:

      American Experience: JFK

      The Kennedys are womanizers: even their closest, most loyal friends will tell you that.

      Furthermore, they have reason to be. It goes back to the female genes: some women dig money, others dig intelligence, others go after looks, or social standing, heroism, fame, etc.

      What genes can a Kennedy (of that unique generation) provide? How about ALL OF THE ABOVE? Haven’t you seen the women going hysterical, trying to touch JFK? Only the Beatles caused larger flow of hormonal juices.

      Ever since high school, the conquests by Jack were legendary. Who could possible attest to this? His best friends, of course.

      I had been trying to exculpate Ted in the Chappaquiddick incident, choosing to say that it was completely innocent. Until I learned that Mary Jo left her purse and hotel keys back at the party.


      PBS is a trusted, reliable source. At least one Kennedy sister contributed to that documentary.

  9. Hmmm. Having read a few books about Mary Pinchot Meyer, I have to wonder if she could have been duped into trusting Angleton, whom she probably got to know via her husband Cord’s network. Her murder on the C & O Canal towpath was bizarre and not entirely solved, although a local black man was charged with that crime. It doesn’t make a lot of sense as I don’t believe she was carrying a purse while jogging, maybe it could have been sexual assault however. Or maybe CIA keeping her quiet.

    J. J. Angleton’s wife may have fabricated the story, or she could only know part of it and told the truth about what she knew. If CIA wanted to murder someone like Mary, it wouldn’t be out of their league to do so. Certainly the number of statistically implausible JFK assassination related deaths of witnesses after the event raises that suspicion. The death of Dorothy Kilgallen comes to mind too.
    Spouses murder each other quite often, in police cases. Could Cord Meyer have assisted Angleton?
    Too many unresolved questions.

    But one thing is clear: CIA elites mingle and mix with other power elites in Washington, D.C. social settings. The higher up you go in the power structure (and Ben Bradlee got pretty high up there via his personal contacts and personal friendship with JFK), the smaller and more insular that “social fishbowl” can be. So if Ben Bradlee knew ANYTHING about that elite power structure, he would have known to tread VERY CAREFULLY. I think this scenario helps to explain why he didn’t delve too deeply in JFK’s (or in Bobby’s) assassination. He kept his career going. He took risks (like Watergate) that were tense enough, but more manageable. Watergate got resolved, but Gerald Ford assumed the presidency. It wasn’t as if Nixon left and Frank Church came in to replace him. The power structure was rattled a bit, but not severely upturned, except for Nixon and his staffers.

    1. Did Bradlee fear Angleton?

      Did Angleton fear Katharine the Great:

      “Angleton’s wife said later that Meyer had told her that she wanted Angleton to have the diary in case anything happened to her.”

      Naive? Of course , she may have fabricated the story…Bradlee was good at calling bullshit on bullshit:

      Timothy Leary had dealt with Myer:

      “The Kennedys are womanizers”

      So what? FDR had girl friends also, and Hoover had boy friends… So what?

      “PBS is a trusted, reliable source”

      Trust them as far as you can throw them:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top