Hal Hendrix, journalist who collaborated with the CIA, dies at 92

Hal Hendrix
Hal Hendrix

Hal Hendrix was one of those respectable figures who hovered on the edge of the JFK assassination story. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose service to the CIA is well-documented (though blandly denied in his recent Miami Herald obituary). He died Feb. 12 in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 92 years old.

Who was Hal Hendrix and what was his role in the JFK story?

One version comes from the Spartacus Educational Forum. John Simkin writes:

“A few hours after John F. Kennedy had been killed, Hendrix provided background information to a colleague, Seth Kantor, about Lee Harvey Oswald. This included details of his defection to the Soviet Union and his work for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This surprised Kantor because he had this information before it was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation later that evening.”

Kantor, a Washington reporter for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, told the story in his 1978 book The Ruby Cover-Up. Kantor had accompanied the presidential entourage to Dallas. When President Kennedy was shot in Dealey Plaza, Kantor raced to Parkland Hospital, where he ran into Jack Ruby, the owner of a Dallas strip club, whom he knew from his days as a reporter in Dallas.

Ruby later denied that he had ever been to Parkland that day. The Warren Commission, in its eagerness to play down conspiratorial speculation about JFK’s murder (and about Ruby’s murder of suspected assassin Lee Oswald) concluded (on page 336) that Kantor, a veteran newspaper reporter, “probably” did not see Ruby where he said that he had seen him.

Kantor’s book politely demolished the Warren Commission’s erroneous account of this minor but telling episode, and Burt Griffin, a commission attorney, came to agree with him.

What Hendrix knew

Hal Hendrix also figured in Kantor’s account of that terrible day. While at Parkland, Kantor was constantly on the phone with his editors in New York, one of whom told him to call Hendrix, also a Scripps-Howard reporter, in Miami. Kantor said it was 6 p.m. in Dallas when he reached Hendrix.

“The information he gave me, according to my notes, concerned details of Lee Harvey Oswald’s past, particularly Oswald’s time span in Russia and his later connections with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans. Hendrix gave me a bunch of knowledgable background on Oswald’s appearance on the New Orleans radio station WDSU the previous August. In a show moderated by William Kirk Stuckey, Oswald had debated Carlos Bringueir, an anti-Castro activist and Cuban refugee.”

Seth Kantor, reporter

Hendrix’s knowledge of the WDSU debate, including the identity of Bringuier, who belonged to the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE), a Miami-based anti-Castro group funded by the CIA, is noteworthy. (Bringuier denies receiving money from the agency; I know of no evidence that contradicts his claim.)

But Simkin’s claim that Hendrix’s information was not released until later that night by the FBI is mistaken.

A tape of the WDSU radio debate was first played on the air by NBC television at 3:30 Central Time (4:30 Eastern) on November 22. So the imputation that Hendrix had some inside knowledge is not confirmed. He could have gotten the information about the WDSU debate that he relayed to Kantor from watching TV.

But Hendrix’s collaboration with the CIA is not in dispute, even if his eulogists of the Miami Herald do not know about it.

Hendrix’s CIA connection

In a piece I wrote last June, “Memories of the CIA in Miami,” I reported on a lunch that Hendrix had with Miami station chief Ted Shackley during the missile crisis in October 1962. Hendrix was looking for help in writing a piece critical of President Kennedy.

After the lunch, Shackley (known by the cryptonym “Andrew K. Reuteman”) reported to CIA headquarters via cable:

“Hendrix trying research story on inconsistencies in [US.-Cuba] policies: statements to [Cuban Revolutionary Council] re liberation [of Cuba] versus guarantees to Soviets that [United States] will not intervene militarily if Soviets withdraw missiles from [Cuba]. ”

Shackley added: “If above info used by [Headquarters] pls protect fact that info obtained from Hendrix. This most important if we are to continue development of Hendrix as source.”

From a CIA cable, Oct. 29, 1962

So the CIA was seeking to develop Hendrix as a source in 1962. And the CIA succeeded.

Simkin’s account finishes the tale.

Hendrix left the Scripps-Howard News Service in 1966 and went to work for the International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation, as director of inter-American relations in Buenos Aires. Officially, Hendrix worked in public relations, but according to Thomas Powers, “he was something in the way of being a secret operative for the company.” Later Hendrix moved to ITT’s world headquarters in New York City.

In 1970 ITT sent Hendrix to represent the company in Chile. On 4th September, 1970, Salvador Allende was elected as president of the country. Hendrix was disturbed by this development as Allende had threatened to nationalize $150 million worth of ITT assets in Chile if he won the election. It later emerged that Hendrix worked with the CIA in the overthrow of Allende. His CIA contact during the Chile operation was David Atlee Phillips.

On 20th March, 1973, Hendrix gave evidence before Frank Church and his Multinational Corporations Subcommittee. He denied ever being a paid agent of the CIA. However, an investigation by Justice Department lawyer Walter May discovered documents that showed that Hendrix had lied when interviewed by Church’s committee.

Hendrix was allowed to plead guilty to lying under oath (which cost him a $100 fine and a one-month suspended sentence) in return for his cooperation with the Justice Department in its pursuit of perjury charges against higher-ranking ITT and CIA officials in the Chile matter.

The fact that Hendrix collaborated with the CIA, of course, does not prove that he acted nefariously on November 22, 1963. But it is beyond dispute that the CIA wanted to recruit him as a source in 1962; that he spread the story of the WDSU radio debate on November 22, 1963, that the debate was initiated by Carlos Bringueir, the representative of the DRE, a CIA-funded organization; and that Hendrix went on to a career of helping the CIA .














11 thoughts on “Hal Hendrix, journalist who collaborated with the CIA, dies at 92”

  1. A great piece. And the fact of the matter is the CIA never let on to anyone in authority that it ran the DRE, a salient point considering the organization’s public incursions with the accused assassin of the president.

    In other words, if the CIA was honestly interested in the truth about the assassination, securing the nation and protecting the people’s interest, they would’ve told someone. They didn’t then and continue to obfuscate on the issue to this day.

    The only conclusion you can draw is the details are incriminating or deeply embarrassing. My money’s on the former. You don’t risk jail time and the dissolution of the agency for ’embarrassing.’

    1. I mean, come on… Let’s not pretend that media spooks are anything but a deceptive and rather despicable part of the way our intelligence system attempts to constrain and shape our public political dialogue. They are liars and should be identified as such. I don’t what’s respectable about that. (I don’t know if this applies to Shenon as well as Hendrix, but clearly a few past pay-stubs from the NYT doesn’t entitle his BS to a free pass).

  2. It might be informative to know which editor told Kantor to call Hendrix. How did that editor know Hendrix would leak a trove of information about Oswald and why was that editor sitting on it when the Times obviously had the biggest scoop of the day?

    Playing “connect-the-dots” with this revelation, we see hard evidence of the initial plan to position Oswald as the pro Castro communist enabled conspirator. I can only imagine how delighted the Hawks would have been if this had led directly to a shooting war with Cuba.

  3. One of the earliest books in my collection on these topics was David Wise and Thomas Ross’s book, “The Invisible Government”. It was quite an influence on me. That and ‘A Nation Of Sheep’ by William J. Lederer (1961).
    The second book is fascinating in describing what has become known as “wagging the dog”, with first hand knowledge from the author of seeing such staged battles. These were not fed directly to the west, but allowed to percolate through Asia, to Europe, and then arrive in the US as substantiated stories of real attacks. This is what led to the business in Laos, with Kennedy on TV with maps talking about the “Communist insurgency” in South East Asia. All of it contrived half a world away by western intel.

  4. Jeff, you wrote “Hendrix’s knowledge of the WDSU debate, including the identity of Bringuier who belonged to the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE), a Miami-based anti-Castro group funded by the CIA, is noteworthy.(Bringuier denies receiving money from the agency; I know of no evidence that contradicts his claim.)”

    You might want to talk to John Newman about that. John Newman at a presentation in 1994 in Dallas, an A.S.K conference, proved that the DRE was created by the CIA, funded by the CIA with a military budget and a propaganda budget. Bringer was a CIA propaganda asset. Everyone involved with the WDSU radio and TV debate with LHO was either a CIA or FBI propaganda asset, most of them with the CIA.

    I have a blog on John’s previous presentations. I’m trying to find, scan, and insert documents I have that I know are what he used. I’m currently working on this when I can on the weekends.

    For his A.S.K. 1994 talk see – http://presentationsofjohnnewman.blogspot.com/2013/04/john-newman-at-ask-94-newly-released.html

    I’m sure he’ll have this developed further by now with I’m told a new book on JFK and Cuba due out fairly soon. I think he is actually doing several books on JFK and Cuba like Doug Horne’s multi-volume tome on the medical evidence.

  5. How pervasive was goverment control of message
    According to Alex Constantine (Mockingbird: The Subversion of the Free Press by the CIA, first chapter of Virtual Government: CIA Mind Control Operations in America, p. 42), in the 1950s, “some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts”. Wisner was able to constrain newspapers from reporting about certain events, including the CIA plots to overthrow the governments of Iran (see: Operation Ajax) and Guatemala (see: Operation PBSUCCESS).[8]

    Thomas Braden, head of the International Organizations Division (IOD), played an important role in Operation Mockingbird. Many years later he revealed his role in these events:
    “If the director of CIA wanted to extend a present, say, to someone in Europe—a Labour leader—suppose he just thought, This man can use fifty thousand dollars, he’s working well and doing a good job—he could hand it to him and never have to account to anybody… There was simply no limit to the money it could spend and no limit to the people it could hire and no limit to the activities it could decide were necessary to conduct the war—the secret war… It was a multinational. Maybe it was one of the first. Journalists were a target, labor unions a particular target

  6. Listen to the mockingbird
    The mockingbird is singing o’er her grave
    Listen to the mockingbird, listen to the mockingbird
    Still singing where the weeping willows wave…

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