RFK and Dulles: A closer look at the record

RFK i shadowedPhil Shenon writes:

“I see there’s a suggestion on your site, in response to my POLITICO piece, that Bobby Kennedy would never have recommended Allen Dulles for membership on the Warren Commission. I continue to believe the record shows that RFK did propose Dulles, and not just because LBJ (more than once) said that was the case.

“There’s a document in the LBJ Library in Austin that supports this — a Nov. 29, 1963 memo prepared by LBJ aide Walter Jenkins. It pretty clearly shows that RFK – through Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach – was consulted about the membership of the Warren Commission, and that RFK and Katzenbach offered Dulles’s name. (In fact, Dulles is the only candidate identified by name.)

“Here’s the link:

“I would also point out that RFK – in private, to friends – offered praise for Allen Dulles after his ouster from the CIA after the Bay of Pigs. According to the book Robert Kennedy, In His Own Words, a collection of transcripts of RFK interviews edited by close RFK friend and aide Ed Guthman, Kennedy said of Dulles:

“”He dealt with his ouster with a great deal of dignity and never attempted to shift the blame…. The President was very fond of him, as was I.” Does that sound like someone who saw Allen Dulles as a bitter enemy?

“I think the June 1964 recording of the White House phone call that you posted on your site suggests that the post-assassination relationship between RFK and Dulles was, at the very least, polite.”


  1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

    Shenon at his best. Let’s concede, gratia arguendo, RFK did propose Dulles for the WC, but the hard core of Shenon´s approach to RFK regarding the assassination is that he suspected Castro was behind, which any closer look at any record can sustain.

  2. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Polite huh? Jenkins…Katzenbach (see him/LBJ 11/24/63 conversation – Oswald did it).
    If RFK recommended Dulles he was probably still in shock or it was tongue in cheek. Or didn’t want to be shot himself at that point.

    • When Abe Fortes claimed that “the ‘Attorney General’ recommended Dulles”, he was not referring to Robert Kennedy, he was referring to Katzenbach.
      As far as Kennedy’s enemies were concerned, when JFK was done away with, both of the Kennedy brothers were through.

      The “acting Attorney General” is the ONLY Attorney General in this realpolitik sense that arch conservatives held. Such was the thinking of those who instituted the coup d’etat.

      This same thinking was apparent in NSAM 273 wherein even when JFK was still alive, the “President” was Johnson. This is reflected in the very first sentence of the document:

      “The President has reviewed the discussions of South Vietnam which occurred in Honolulu, and has discussed the matter further with Ambassador Lodge. He directs that the following guidance be issued to all concerned.”

      Written in the future tense this, sentence is predictive not mere assumption; because the perpetrators knew that Kennedy would not have signed the document.

  3. Brian Joseph says:

    I think that Shenon is correct in his view of RFK’s opinion of Dulles. That RFK had no animosity towards Dulles seems to be evident in the recording of the OBJ, RFK, and Dulles phone call that Shenon references in his comment. The so called “firing” of Dulles by JFK after the Bay of Pigs may have been very political in the sense that someone had to take the blame and Dulles being a loyal “soldier” did what needed to be done. RFK would probably admire such loyalty and it would not be forgotten. That Dulles reportedly continued to have connections and influence with The Company after his support firing gives further credence to the idea that Dulles “firing” was political and operational. Operational the sense that it could help deflect criticism of the Administration on the international stage by the Soviets. The “firing” of Dulles would mean that JFK didn’t support the Bay of Pigs scenario. In essence Dulles ‘fell down on his sword’ for what he saw as being for the greater good.
    How could RFK forget such loyalty? How could he not trust and admire it? Dulles was the man for the Warren Commission. He would insure that the attempts by the Administration (under RFK’s oversight) to assassinate Castro wouldn’t come to light. If it did it would create an international incident. At the time it would have damaged US standing in the international community that the US would assassinate a foreign head of state. The Soviets would surely have capitalized on such a disclosure which would decrease US influence in third world countries.
    There is also the fact that RFK was involved in plans to assassinate Castro. Dulles being on the Warren Commission would also insure that RFK’s role wouldn’t come to light. As he did in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs Dulles would serve his country and a Kennedy.
    Was RFK aware of Oswald prior to the assassination of JFK ? It’s possible. Oswald may have been being set up to enter Cuba as a leftist to carry out the deed as David Atlee Philips says in his fictional manuscript AMLASH. RFK possibly knowing of Oswald prior to the assassination is evidenced by Otto Otepka’s experiences with RFK and Walter Sheridan prior to the assassination. Sheridan was later instrumental in helping to sabotage and discredit Garrison’s investigation which may have also revealed the attempts to assassinate Castro and Oswald’s being part of one of those plans.
    I highly doubt that Dulles was one of the conspirators in the assasination of JFK. He was covering up something but I don’t think it was the footprints of the conspirators.Dulles himself was a pawn on the chessboard.

    • Photon says:

      Brian, your comment is the most logical one posted on this subject on this blog. Forget the speculation, the fact is that elder statesman Dulles gave JFK badly needed political cover by taking the fall for the Bay of Pigs. Dulles was deeply respected at the time by the Washington elite; he certainly did not have to go gentle into that goodnight-but he did. Coming at the low point of the JFK Presidency Dulles’ quiet departure (despite his multiple contacts with powerful men on both sides of the aisle) certainly had to be appreciated by RFK. Dulles could certainly have exploited JFK’s disastrous encounter with Khrushchev in Vienna to bolster his position had he been interested in a post BOP comeback; the fact that he didn’t wasn’t lost on the Kennedys .

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        Same old tactics Photons? Dulles didn’t have to take the fall, he was fully responsible and should have been tried for the BOP. His record with Iran and Guatemala prove this among many other things.

      • Brian Joseph says:

        Thank you Photon. Keep in mind that I am what you would call a Conspiracy Theorist. I just don’t think that Dulles or David Philips ( who is another that is often man as a conspirator by Conspiracy “Theorists”) were involved in the planning.

      • David Regan says:

        Actually Photon, JFK’s approval ratings went through the roof after he publicly assumed responsibility for the CIA’s blunder and he learned a valuable lesson for who’s advice he could trust in his administration. He privately blamed the CIA and the Pentagon for the fiasco, which was made apparent with NSAM 55-56-57.

        As declassified CIA documents later revealed, the CIA itself knew that the operation was doomed to fail, and had hid these bleak reports from Kennedy and went ahead with the operation anyhow. Startlingly, “the CIA knew that it couldn’t accomplish this type of overt paramilitary mission without direct Pentagon participation,” and further, the CIA had “discovered in advance that the plan had been leaked to Soviet intelligence” and Castro, who even knew the date of the attack. Dulles, therefore, “regarded the band of Cuban exiles who were about to hit the beaches as mere cannon fodder, a device to trigger the real invasion by the U.S. military.”

        A close reading of the IG’s Survey makes it clear that the military and intelligence chiefs had clearly believed they could sandbag the young, untested commander-in-chief into joining the battle. But he had stunned them by refusing to escalate the fighting.

      • Fairyfloss says:

        Ready for that apology and walk-back on your name, Paul?

        C’mon, you can do it, Photon. 🙂

    • David Regan says:

      Dulles loyal to Kennedy? The top three officials of the CIA were dismissed following the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the scathing report that followed it. Also, the issuance of NSAM 57 in June 1961 stripped the agency of any authority for paramilitary operations.

      Allen Dulles’s own closely guarded feeling toward JFK were revealed years later in a remark to a prospective ghostwriter. Harper’s assistant editor Willie Morris had gone to Dulles’s Georgetown mansion in Washington to collaborate with him on a piece in defense of the CIA’s role in the Bay of Pigs–a never-to-be-published article whose most revealing, handwritten notes would one day be cited in “The ‘Confessions’ of Allen Dulles.” In one discussion they had about President Kennedy, Dulles stunned Morris with an abrupt comment. “That little Kennedy,” Dulles said, “…he thought he was a god.” “Even now,” Morris wrote over a quarter of a century later, “those words leapt out at me, the only strident ones I would hear from my unlikely collaborator.” — Willie Morris, New York Days (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993), p. 36

      • Brian Joseph says:

        I think those dismissals including the dismissal of Dulles along with the memorandum were designed as political cover for an operation that failed on JFK’s watch. I don’t think the reason for the political cover were entirely or even primarily domestic.
        Why did RFK continue to trust Dulles as it evidenced by the chummy phone call between RFK, Dulles, and LBJ from 1964? Why was RFK at least publically non critical of the Warren report?
        RFK spent a lot of time at Langely. For an AG to participate in plans for the
        assasination of a head of state, if known would have created an
        international crisis and ended RFK’s political career. Dulles was
        instrumental in keeping that information from the public. Had he not been
        loyal to the Kennedy’s he could have gotten that info to the public via
        “leaks” long before Dallas happened.
        As for Dulles reported comment to Morris. So what. Who doesn’t have a complaint or negative comment about a former boss. That does not mean that he was a conspirator in planning the assasination.

        • Ramon F Herrera says:

          “Why was RFK at least publically non critical of the Warren report?”


          For a very simple reason: he was surrounded, had no idea who to trust. Had no idea which Senators had a bloody knife under their togas.

          Additionally: The “There would be blood on the streets” motivation which seems to be dominant to this very day.

          Plus, Will Rogers said it best:

          “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

        • David Regan says:

          I’m not certain what evidence you have encountered that proves RFK was behind plans to assassinate Castro, but the Secret 1967 CIA Inspector General’s Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro clearly shows the Kennedy’s did not authorize these attempts.

          CIA Report on Castro Plots – latimes http://articles.latimes.com/1997/nov/18/local/me-54914 via @latimes

          1967 IG Report On Plots To Assassinate Fidel Castro – http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/cia/80T01357A/104-10213-10101/html/104-10213-10101_0001a.htm

          *See page 143: The CIA answers it’s own question in the negative if “Can CIA state or imply that it was merely an instrument of policy?”

          *On page 142, they pose the question “Can we plausibly deny that we plotted with gangster elements to assassinate Castro?” No, we cannot…

          As for Dulles, I would put nothing past him given his involvement with Operations Paperclip, Mockingbird and MKUltra.

        • david thurman says:

          I didn’t hear any chumminess on the part of RFK or Dulles; RFK & LBJ are simply requesting Dulles to intervene w/a southern governor re: a civil rights issue, a task he seems more than able and capable of dealing with. By claiming their is a chumminess between RFK & Dulles, when their is no such thing on the audio recording, you are telling a LIE! Either you have not listened to it or it’s just too convenient for you’re argument. This is an old trick, where you (or Shenon) figure few will go to the trouble of finding out the truth (in this case listening to the audio recording). Didn’t Dulles say (re: releasing the 28 volumes) something like, don’t worry, americans don’t read? I guess they don’t “hear” either.


    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Let’s give Dulles credit here, he might be at least a rook.

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Yes the firing of Dulles by JFK was very political. How could it not be? By a still “new” President of an old Guard (still powerful) figurehead?

    • Jarileigh says:

      I appreciate your rounding out the information with what was going on at the time with Castro, which younger people like myself tend to forget what was going on as far as International affairs when learning about the assassination of JFK. However, couldn’t Dulles having this information on RFK also be manipulation, or more bluntly, blackmail. “I’ll keep Castro out of it” doesn’t necessarily equate with a friendly relationship. Dulle remaining in power behind the scenes could be the same thing. My reasons for thinking so is that JFK was angry that the CIA had mislead him at best, & outright lied at worst, he wanted to do away with the CIA COMPLETELY. He didn’t think any “agency” should have so much power. He wanted to do away with the Federal Reserve for the same reason Andrew Jackson did, & Lincoln wasn’t having it, a President he very much admired. He also was the 1st (and only) President to my knowledge to go directly after organized crime. Any ONE of these 3 things would be enough to have him assassinated, the Federal Reserve isn’t giving up their power to print money & control the world, & the CIA isn’t giving up their power & illegal gains.Then you have LBJ, who blackmailed JFK to get on the ticket, & killed anyone who got in his way, he’s in tight with Dulles, JFK I know, appeared polite to both of them, but it’s established he was not going to put LBJ on the ticket next term, he was out, LBJ was also facing possible indictment & prison time. Prison or the Presidency? (He had a man killed prior to being VP to keep him quiet, Mac Wallace, killed a man on a golf course in front of witnesses in broad daylight, when he was picked up, he said he did it & for Johnson. He was represented by Johnson’s attorney, found guilty of murder, & was given 5 yrs probation by the Judge, the 1st person in TX to be found guilty of murder at that time & not get the death penalty). So you have a VP who’s comfortable with murder as a means to get ahead, who blackmails his way to VP, who’s tight with Dulles (that & Dulles lying to the President bespeaks what kind of men they were….& how morally responsible could you be & be head of the CIA? JFK was ANGRY, he said he wanted to do away COMPLETELY with the CIA), major motive from the Federal Reserve, & you have to conclude something was going on internally, not Internationally, if you follow the insanity that followed JFK’s death, not getting a proper autopsy, so many conflicting reports about everything from SSA’s to civilians,etc. When asked why he would give up all the power he had in TX to do ceremonial things as VP for JFK, LBJ responded “Do you know how many VP’s become President? Do you know how many President’s die? I’m a gambling man”. RFK was probably in shock & knew Dulles had something on him.

  4. Michael says:

    You mean the same LBJ that said RFK said it was OK to get sworn in on Air Force I, that same LBJ, I would not believe one “F”ing word that came out of that Murderous man’s mouth! Why, in the hell would RFK say,it was OK to have Dulles( who was FIRED by JFK) to sit in on an commission that was “hand selected” by LBJ! There was only ONE reason Dulles was on the commission, to cover up any evidence linking the CIA to the assassination! At least there was a “Death Bed Confession” from Hunt proving they were involved!

    • Brian Joseph says:

      I don’t doubt involvement by some in the inteligence community. I also pretty much agree with your assessment of LBJ. There just isn’t any evidence of RFK being opposed to Dulles being appointed to the commission.

      • “There just isn’t any evidence of RFK being opposed to Dulles being appointed to the commission.”~Brian Joseph

        There simply isn’t any evidence that RFK supported, or recommended Dulles being appointed to the commission. All of the so-called evidence of such is secondhand references to an assertion by Abe Fortes that claimed “the attorney general recommended Allen Dulles…” I have already described earlier that Fortes was referring to Katzenbach, not Robert Kennedy.

        The idea that either John or Robert Kennedy held Dulles in anything other that contempt is the stuff of rhetorical moonbeams coming through the curtains of disingenuous and vile propaganda.

        Phil Shenon is one of these propagandists and apologists for the militaristic views of the military industrial complex that instituted the coup d’etat in Dallas.

  5. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Phillips autobiographical (?) manuscript is not named amlash.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      I didn’t say that it was his autobiography. It is the manuscript to his unpublished novel. I incorrectly called it Amlash. The actual title is “The Amlash Legacy.”

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        Ok, I should have looked deeper before posting. My memory meshed the two.
        Phillips autobiography was “The Night Watch”.
        Regarding the “manuscript”: “As far as I know there is no “manuscript”. There is a brief summary, just a few pages, which is what I quoted from. Jeff Morley provided it to me. I believe it was a proposal for a book which for some reason did not go any further.”
        David Kaiser, Education Forum, 6/22/08.

  6. pat speer says:

    You really gotta wonder about the reading comprehension of some of those attacking Talbot (and defending Dulles). Jenkins mentioned THREE men–Fortas, Katzenbach, and RFK–and then said “They recommend” among others, Dulles. Well, let’s get serious. If Fortas talked to Katzenbach and Katzenbach talked to RFK, Fortas was probably leading the discussion, at Johnson’s bidding. To wit, he talked to Johnson on the day of Jenkins’ memo and the two of them–Fortas and Johnson, working together–decided who would be on Johnson’s commission. Well, it follows then that Fortas wasn’t simply passing on RFK’s recommendations. For all we know, in fact, Fortas said he wanted Dulles on the commission, Katzenbach said “Whatever you say” and RFK said “Don’t talk to me about this nonsense–I’m in morning and nothing will bring my brother back.” Such a scenario would then qualify as the three of them recommending Dulles.

    And no, Johnson’s statements reflecting that RFK picked Dulles are not to be trusted. Johnson lied about RFK over and over again in the aftermath of the shooting. He was paranoid, and told Fortas and others that RFK would have arrested him for JFK’s murder if he could have, and that RFK was behind all the criticism of the Warren Report.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      In my opinion LBJ was not to be trusted regarding anything he said. Whether or not RFK recommended Dulles to the commission is pretty much irrelevant. If it can be proven that he did not that just proves that LBJ was a liar. Is any further proof needed of that ? What is known is that RFK never publically disapproved of Dulles being appointed and never publically questioned the findings of the commission. Why? That seems to be what is very relevant.

      • david thurman says:

        Re-read Brothers by David Talbot.

      • Jarileigh says:

        Why did RFK never question anything regarding JFK’s death? It was found in 1993 that the “autopsy” was badly mishandled, according to the man in charge, it was due to pressure to hurry up from the Kennedy family that required him to do a partial (and sloppy) autopsy. this is the President, & LHO got a much more thorough & scientific autopsy. But it was never questioned along with any other of the WC’s findings, & it did find all these inconsistencies & sloppiness. Jackie was afraid for her life & that of her children & thought marrying Onassis would protect them, perhaps RFK was afraid for his life as well….after all,it did turn out he had excellent reason to be if he wasn’t.

  7. Alan says:

    I’m skeptical about even a remote possibility that RFK directly wanted Dulles anywhere near this case. Yes, admittedly, there is a document suggesting as much, but unless there is an audio version of RFK directly supporting Dulles, at this point I’d believe a former news anchor who embellished his heroics In Iraq, over any contrived documents manufactured by the Johnson camp(it’s amazing what some people will do for thirty pieces of silver).

  8. Allen Lowe says:

    Shenon really must be kidding; that’s a third party reference to more third parties; as evidence it is worth about as much as the Warren Report. As for Bobby’s love of the Dulles family, of course he was infatuated and deeply indebted; that’s why he decided to purge the government of the whole lot of them, including Dulles’ sister, whom he made sure was fired.

  9. Philip Shenon writes:
    ” I continue to believe the record shows that RFK did propose Dulles, and not just because LBJ (more than once) said that was the case.
    “There’s a document in the LBJ Library in Austin that supports this — a Nov. 29, 1963 memo prepared by LBJ aide Walter Jenkins. It pretty clearly shows that RFK – through Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach – was consulted about the membership of the Warren Commission, and that RFK and Katzenbach offered Dulles’s name. (In fact, Dulles is the only candidate identified by name.)”

    Shenon was kind enough to supply the link to the memo, which reports what Abe Fortas said, not even what Katzenbach said RFK said. Shenon wrote a good book about the 9/11 Commission. But after this latest shoddy performance I will never again trust Shenon on anything.

  10. [Sidenote reply to Peter Dale Scott. As I am sure he knows, Abe Fortas was one of Lyndon Johnson’s closest, inner circle advisors, dating back decades and LBJ would use Fortas to make critical decisions and navigate the most difficult problems.]

    Allen Dulles – That little Kennedy….he thought he was a God!”

    James Douglass:

    “Allen Dulles’s own closely guarded feelings toward John Kennedy were revealed years later in a remark to a prospective ghostwriter. Harper’s young assistant editor Willie Morris had gone to Dulles’s Georgetown mansion in Washington to collaborate with him on a piece in defense of the CIA’s role in the Bay of Pigs–a never-to-be-published article whose most revealing, handwritten notes would one day be cited in “The `Confessions’ of Allen Dulles.” In one discussion they had about President Kennedy, Dulles stunned Morris with an abrupt comment. “That little Kennedy,” Dulles said, “. . . he thought he was a god.”
    “Even now,” Morris wrote over a quarter of a century later, “those words leap out at me, the only strident ones I would hear from my unlikely collaborator.”[61] The Bay of Pigs awakened President Kennedy to internal forces he feared he might never control. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas recalled Kennedy saying what the Bay of Pigs taught him about the CIA and the Pentagon: “This episode seared him. He had experienced the extreme power that these groups had, these various insidious influences of the CIA and the Pentagon on civilian policy, and I think it raised in his own mind the specter: Can Jack Kennedy, President of the United States, ever be strong enough to really rule these two powerful agencies?”[62
    [61]. Willie Morris, New York Days (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993), p. 3
    — JAMES W. DOUGLASS JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

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