Many US Government Files about JFK and King Assassinations Still Secret
by Lamar Waldron
, 17 Mar 2009
rev. 10 Dec 2009
New Introduction, 10 December, 2009
I originally wrote Part I last March, to draw attention to the large quantity of files from the CIA, FBI, and other agencies that were still being withheld from Congress and the public, despite the 1992 JFK Act. Part II was going to spotlight more files, by focusing on the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, in addition to John and Robert Kennedy's plan to stage a coup against Fidel Castro on (or just before) December 1, 1963, with the aide of the Commander of Cuba's Army, Juan Almeida.
However, the death of Bernard Barker on June 5, 2009 changed things dramatically. Barker had been investigated by several Congressional committees, who knew him as a Watergate burglar and former CIA agent (1959 to 1966) who was E. Howard Hunt's assistant for the Bay of Pigs operation. However, in 1992, my co-author Thom Hartmann and I had been told by an aide to Robert Kennedy that Barker had worked for Tampa godfather Santo Trafficante before, during, and after his tenure as a CIA agent, and that Barker's real loyalty lay with Trafficante. The former Kennedy aide--Enrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams (who asked us to call him "Harry Williams")--also said that Barker had worked with Hunt on sensitive aspects of the JFK-Almeida coup plan. He also stated that Barker was involved in JFK's assassination.
We spent the next seventeen years compiling information to confirm those assertions. In doing so, we also uncovered evidence that a huge amount of information about Barker and his associates had been withheld from numerous Congressional committees and was among the "well over a million CIA records" related to JFK's assassination that an OMB Watch report found were still being withheld.
Much of the information that had originally been planned for Part II became three additional chapters for the recently-issued trade paperback of "Legacy of Secrecy." Those chapters are crammed full of enough information to fill a small book, and are backed by hundreds of references--many from the Mary Ferrell Foundation website--that are contained in 145 new endnotes. In addition, we updated dozens of places throughout the book where Barker was hinted at but not named (as a CIA agent linked to Trafficante), to add Barker's name and provide additional information.
What follows is a new Introduction to an updated Part I. It includes a few highlights from the new material, which casts Barker and his associates in a new light, and which point to numerous CIA and FBI files which have not yet been released. It should be seen as just the tip of the iceberg of new material about Barker in the trade paperback (now 944 pages, with over 2,000 endnotes), which is itself just part of the story--much more remains to be found on the Mary Ferrell Foundation website and when new files are released. The text and endnotes of the new edition are fully searchable on Amazon, and anyone using them to explore Barker, Hunt, and their associates like Richard Helms, David Morales, David Atlee Phillips, Santo Trafficante, and Johnny Rosselli will no doubt turn up additional important material and evidence of additional withheld files.
New files documenting Barker's ties to the Mafia make it clear that the recent news reports of information being withheld from Congress about CIA assassination plots is nothing new. Instead, those actions are just a continuation of a decades-long pattern, which sometimes used the protection of US assets like Commander Almeida to justify hiding secrets and intelligence failures that would have proved embarrassing (or worse) to agencies like the CIA and FBI. Worse, a recent Boston Globe article makes it clear that the agencies are stonewalling Obama's administration, just as they have previous administrations.
Barker was not known as a Mafia associate during the Watergate investigation in the early 1970s, or during the Church Committee's investigation of the CIA in the mid-1970s, or during the inquiry of the House Select Committee on Assassinations during the late 1970s. But the day after the Watergate break-in, the first FBI summary about the incident stated that Barker's involvement "in gangster activities" had begun in the late 1940s. However, that brief summary--and other information in FBI files about Barker's extensive Mafia links--was not given to the Watergate Committee. The House Select Committee was finally given the brief summary, though it was buried among hundreds of other FBI pages about Barker that didn’t mention Barker’s work for the Mafia
Richard Helms, CIA Director during Watergate, testified--not to the Watergate Committee, but in executive session to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--that Barker was "fired" from the CIA in 1966 because "we found out the was involved in certain gambling and criminal elements." But information in CIA files tying Barker to the Mafia wasn't given the Watergate Committee or the Church Committee.
The House Select Committee was finally given a memo, dated a year before Barker's firing, with one line saying that "Barker may [be] becoming too involved with underworld elements." Barker's supervisor during much of his CIA tenure was E. Howard Hunt, who was Helms's protégé and a much more significant CIA figure than later CIA spin led the press and Congressional investigators to believe.
The Mary Ferrell Foundation website has many files about Barker, including some not provided to Congressional investigators, but these files often raise additional questions and point to additional files that have not been released. For example, the real name of the man who recruited Barker to work for the CIA in 1959--when the FBI knew Barker had been involved "in gangster activities" for a decade--has never been revealed. The CIA officer's alias is "Woodrow C. Olien" and some of the possible candidates include people familiar to Congressional investigators and JFK researchers, like David Morales, "Frank Bender," Henry Hecksher, and a case officer for Rolando Cubela.
Likewise, CIA files released so far don't say why Barker was first assigned to work E. Howard Hunt on Sept. 21, 1960. That was just seven days after another CIA officer had met with Mafia don Johnny Rosselli to discuss the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Fidel Castro. Soon after Barker was assigned to work with Hunt, Barker's real boss--godfather Santo Trafficante--was brought into the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro.
Hunt admits that prior to the CIA's recruitment of Rosselli and Trafficante, he had written the first CIA memo calling for the assassination of Fidel. It's also interesting that on September 20, Hunt was assigned the aliases of "Eduardo and "Edward." Even though "Eduardo" would be Hunt's best-known alias among Cuban exiles from 1960 through at least 1964, none of his operational files under that name were given to any of the Congressional committees who investigated him. Even when the Senate Watergate Committee specifically requested Hunt's "Mr. Edwards" file, the CIA refused to provide it.
Likewise, both Hunt and Barker have stated that Barker worked as Hunt's assistant in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs operation, after JFK's election. Yet none of the operational files about Barker's work as Hunt's assistant were given to Congress or the public. From the available files it would appear that Barker was just a low-level CIA informant, not someone who was actually distributing significant amounts of CIA cash to exiles and exile groups. Perhaps the omission is connected to the fact that in early 1961, the CIA was continuing to deal with Barker's boss, Trafficante, and with Rosselli about the plots to kill Fidel, without telling President Kennedy.
Richard Helms's congressional testimony and a CIA Inspector General's Report, confirm that Helms (as the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans) continued to have his men work with Rosselli in 1963, without telling President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy (who was waging a massive war against the Mafia), or JFK's CIA Director, John McCone. However, a memo withheld from Congressional investigators (and the Miami Police) says that a Cuban exile leader named Manuel Artime was also involved in the CIA-Mafia plots. Artime was Hunt's best friend and was also close to Barker.
As described in "Legacy of Secrecy," in May of 1963 Commander Juan Almeida contacted Harry Williams, and offered to stage a coup against Fidel Castro, whom he felt was betraying the Revolution by becoming another dictator. The CIA only had a supporting role in the resulting coup plan, which was run by Robert Kennedy, with the aid of military leaders like Army Secretary Cyrus Vance and Joint Chiefs Chairman Maxwell Taylor. With JFK's approval, Harry and Robert Kennedy chose a handful of Cuban exiles leaders to work with them on the coup plan. One of those chosen was Antonio "Tony" Varona, a Trafficante associate and long-time CIA asset involved in the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Fidel. Another was Manuel Artime, whose CIA-supported portion of the coup plan was codenamed AMWORLD.
The Kennedys had banned the Mafia from the coup plan or from reopening their casinos in Cuba if the coup was successful. But they didn't realize that Varona was tied to Trafficante or that a CIA memo said that Varona received a $200,000 bribe from Rosselli's associates in the summer of 1963. The Kennedys and Harry also didn't know about a CIA memo which had a brief summary sentence saying that "rumors of Mafia support of AMWORLD had long pervaded AMWORLD organization." The actual CIA reports of those rumors have never been released. They should be, since Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi wrote of receiving a tip that Artime had "guilty knowledge" of JFK's assassination.
According to Harry, Hunt was one of two CIA officers assigned in 1963 to assist him in dealing with Almeida and the coup, and Barker was Hunt's assistant. Harry was in frequent contact with Barker and Hunt in the summer and fall of 1963, but he had to contact Hunt through Barker. Barker's released CIA file has none of that. The only CIA memo mentioning Barker and Almeida isn't an operational file, but one from November 1963 in which Barker (whose codename was AMCLATTER-1) claims to have heard a rumor that Almeida was part of a plot to overthrow Fidel. Barker's other files from 1963 depict him as only a low-level informant, whose primary source was Frank Fiorini, a Trafficante bagman who would be using the name Frank Sturgis by the time he was arrested with Barker at the Watergate. The FBI was monitoring Harry during that time and would have been aware of his meetings with Barker, and likewise Barker's meetings with Trafficante--but those FBI files have never been declassified, if they still exist. (Other FBI reports mentioning Harry are on the Mary Ferrell web site, though Harry's FBI file itself--like his CIA file--has not been released.)
Hunt's released CIA file is vague about his 1963 activities. It does note that he supervised seven CIA employees that year, something which seems beyond the need of his acknowledged activities. Clearly, both Hunt and Barker had additional CIA roles not acknowledged in their released files. This was the case for Hunt's associate David Atlee Phillips, who ran Cuban operations at the CIA's Mexico City station while he also had an additional role for the CIA's Desmond FitzGerald, based in Washington. It's often overlooked that in E. Howard Hunt's CIA-approved autobiography, Hunt finally admitted what Phillips and the CIA had denied to Congressional investigators and the press for years: that Phillips had "helped support Alpha 66 [and] the organization's founder Antonio Veciana." (Veciana says he met with Oswald prior to JFK's assassination.) In the same way, Hunt and Barker had roles in 1963 for the CIA that are not disclosed in the files released so far. In fact, a CIA Office of Security memo admits that "3 sealed envelopes" were deleted from the Barker file given to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and had been withheld from the Church Committee as well.
Before and after JFK's assassination, associates of Barker like Fiorini, David Morales, and others planted what we now know to be phony reports implicating Fidel Castro in JFK's murder. However, some of those reports were believed by high officials ranging from President Lyndon Johnson to Alexander Haig, who was an aide to Vance in 1963 and later Secretary of State for Ronald Reagan. Those long-whispered beliefs help to explain why even today, Cuba is treated so much more harshly than former Communist enemies of the US like China and Vietnam.
I've barely scratched the surface in highlighting important files about connections between the JFK assassination and Barker, the CIA-Mafia plots, AMWORLD, and the JFK-Almeida coup plan, including many that have not been released as required by the 1992 JFK Act. Almeida's death on September 11, 2009, should have removed the last barrier to their release, but that does not appear to be the case.
Surprisingly, even Barker's testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations appears not to have been released, even though the testimony of higher officials like Hunt, Helms, and Phillips has been declassified. The Committee doesn't mention Barker in its Final Report, but a draft of a Committee report on Barker was found at the end of a long, unrelated Committee file on the Mary Ferrell website. That draft doesn't mention anything about Barker's work for the Mafia, which indicates that the FBI and CIA withheld that aspect of Barker's work from the Committee. That's especially tragic, since the Committee concluded that Trafficante (and his close mob associates, Carlos Marcello) "had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy." Likewise, the entire JFK-Almeida coup plan--and even the AMWORLD portion of it (except for a few sentences) was withheld from all of the Congressional investigations of Barker and JFK's assassination.
The following is an updated and revised version of the original Part I
President Obama declared a new era of open government in Washington after his election, and on December 8, 2009, his administration announced a new "Open Government Directive." While that is an important and welcome step in the right direction, most journalists and members of Congress don't realize how many important files related to the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remain unreleased, after more than four decades.
Former Congressional investigators like G. Robert Blakey--a former Mafia prosecutor for Robert Kennedy and author of the RICO Act--and Gaeton Fonzi have for years pointed to examples where government agencies like the CIA not only withheld files but deliberately deceived the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the late 1970s. In other cases, the FBI later released files they had apparently withheld from the same committee, and other government investigating committees faced similar withholding and stonewalling. Many of today's journalists are surprised to learn that the Warren Commission was only the first--and least informed--of at least six US government committees and commissions that investigated aspects of JFK's murder; the HSCA was the fifth such group.
Recent news events show that releasing all of the files about the assassinations of JFK and Dr. King is not merely an academic exercise, but impact current US foreign policy and even the protection of President Obama. Over the past year, there have been arrests in ten states for plots to assassinate Obama, mostly by white supremacists. Several of those plots have similarities to decades-earlier plots against JFK and Dr. King that are described in files that have only recently--and partially--been released.
Secret Service destroyed files, FBI and CIA still withhold
The sixth and most recent government committee to investigate President Kennedy's murder was the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, created by the 1992 JFK Act, passed unanimously by Congress in the wake of the publicity surrounding Oliver Stone's JFK film. The Act was supposed to release all the JFK assassination files, except for a few that--for reasons of national security or protecting informants--could remain secret until the year 2017. The Review Board didn't really get started until 1994, and ceased to exist in September 1998. They did a good job, given their limited time and the stonewalling by some agencies, described to me by two who worked with the Board. In addition, the Board only learned of some important files from private researchers--sometimes near the end of the Board's life--and not from the agencies that should have informed them.
The Review Board released approximately 4.5 million pages, though many have only become easily searchable by researchers in recent years and some are still not easy to search. The released files sometimes refer to other groups of records that have still not been released. Also, the new information in the newly declassified files often puts older information in a new light and raises new questions--the biggest of which are why at least one agency destroyed certain files after the JFK Act was passed and how many files remain unreleased.
As for the number of unreleased files, on September 29, 1998, NBC News reported that "millions" of pages would remain secret until 2017. The respected Washington watchdog group OMB Watch issued a report in 2000 quoting someone who worked with the Review Board as saying that "well over a million CIA records" alone related to JFK's assassination remain outstanding. The CIA--stated in a court filing last year that they reserved the right to withhold their unreleased JFK assassination files even beyond the 2017 deadline. It's unclear how that CIA assertion would affect copies of any of those--or related--files that might be held by other agencies, like the FBI.
Most in the news media and Congress overlooked the portion of the Review Board's own 1998 Final Report which stated that "in January 1995, the Secret Service destroyed presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy's trips in the fall of 1963." In addition, when the Review Board asked the Service for "files relating to threats to President Kennedy in the Dallas area," they found the files had been "destroyed," as was "a protective intelligence file on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (Lee Oswald had started a one-man chapter of the small group in New Orleans, three months before JFK's death). The Review Board said the Secret Service "was unable to provide any specific information regarding the disposition of" the threat and Fair Play files. Even though the Service did provide a seemingly innocent explanation for destroying JFK's trip files, the Board noted that when the Secret Service initially submitted "its Final Declaration of Compliance" with the JFK Act, the Service "did not execute it under oath," as did the other federal agencies.
Why the destruction? What wasn't publicly revealed in any book until 2005's Ultimate Sacrifice was that there had been a serious, credible threat to assassination JFK during his long motorcade in Tampa, Florida on November 18, 1963, four days before Dallas. That plot to kill JFK had never been noted in any government report released to the public, or provided to the Warren Commission or to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, or to any of the Congressional investigating committees. It was first discovered by myself and my collaborator Thom Hartmann while going through thousands of pages of newspaper micro-film in the early 1990s. While no mention of the threat appeared in the press at the time of JFK's motorcade, a small article surfaced in the Tampa Tribune the day after JFK's murder.
The Tampa Tribune article quoted a November 1963 Secret Service memo which said that just weeks prior to JFK's Tampa motorcade, "subject made statement of a plan to assassinate the president…stated he will use a gun…subject is described as white, male, 20, slender build." (It should be noted that description fits Lee Oswald much better than the first description issued in Dallas after JFK's murder.) The quoted Secret Service memo may no longer exist, though if it were shown to a newspaper, surely it would have been shared with the Tampa FBI office. The 1963 article said the Tampa threat involved at least one additional person, and quoted Tampa Police Chief J. P. Mullins as saying the "two may have followed the Presidential caravan to Dallas."
Within 24 hours of that November 23, 1963 article, a veil of secrecy had slammed shut on the matter, with Mullins and others refusing comment, and the later government investigating committees weren't told about the attempt to kill JFK in Tampa. When I interviewed Mullins in 1996, he said I was the first journalist or investigator to talk to him about it since November 1963, and he'd been surprised the Warren Commission or the Congressional investigations had never asked him about it. Mullins, and another high Florida law enforcement official, provided additional information about the threat, its ties to the Mafia and to a young Tampa suspect (not Oswald) linked to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. They also indicated that in addition to the Secret Service, the FBI was also well aware of the threat.
When I reviewed the Tampa FBI field office files for the JFK assassination at the National Archives, there was not one mention of the Tampa threat, not even a routine copy of the Tampa newspaper article just cited (something that should have been in the file). However, at one time the FBI had--and may still have--files about the Tampa threat. There was one surprise in the Tampa FBI file, that had accidentally been left in the file when it was sent to the National Archives: the wire tap transcripts of a bugging operation against some casual associates of the young Tampa suspect.
That raises yet another question: if the casual associates of the Tampa suspects were bugged, what about much closer associates of him or of Lee Oswald? There has long been available a single FBI memo indicating a wire-tapped conversation involving the woman Marina Oswald was staying with at the time of JFK's death. Were other calls or other people wire-tapped as part of the FBI's JFK investigation? Who authorized the bugging? When and for how long? Where are the transcripts?
Those answers were never given to the Warren Commission or the later investigating committees. The interest of most researchers is not in exposing the private conversations of innocent citizens, but in shedding light on the domestic surveillance that was--and is--a hidden part of the JFK and King investigations, one that was never revealed to Congress. It should be noted this information was withheld from Frank Church's Senate investigation in the mid-1970s, which specifically looked into domestic surveillance, as well as aspects of JFK's assassination.
Why federal agencies withheld--and are still withholding--files
Before detailing even more examples of withheld files, it's important to note that the millions of pages that have been released in recent years--coupled with information from former government investigators and dozens of people who worked with John and Robert Kennedy--show there are many reasons for government officials and agencies to withheld information from the public and Congress, aside from protecting those involved in the assassinations of JFK or King.
Sometimes there were legitimate national security reasons for withholding files from the public and press. These range from preventing a potentially nuclear confrontation with the Soviets (JFK was murdered a year after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis) to protecting US covert assets or operations. For the FBI and Justice Department (run by Attorney General Robert Kennedy at the time of JFK's death), protecting informants or other prosecutions was sometimes an issue. However, the cover-ups also helped to hide the wide-spread domestic surveillance operations of the FBI, CIA, and US military in the US. Largely targeting civil rights and peace activists, and other liberals and leftists, throughout the 1960s, they only started to be exposed in the 1970s, but were never fully revealed. In addition, cover-ups were often designed to hide intelligence failures by high FBI or CIA officials, and/or to protect reputations, careers, and agency reputations. That was true even years or decades later. For example, some of the information discussed below and in Part II was withheld from the Senate's Church Committee during the administration of former Warren Commissioner President Gerald Ford, when his two top aides were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, who became Ford's campaign manager for the 1976 race.
The currently-released files show that US agencies weren't just hiding information from the press and public, but also from Congress and from each other. Even within agencies like the FBI and CIA, certain branches or offices would withhold sensitive or embarrassing information from other offices or from subordinates or--in the case of the CIA--from their superiors.
The secrecy surrounding JFK's murder meant that the true extent of the lack of cooperation between various agencies was never fully exposed. This left the problems unresolved--and not fully exposed--for decades, contributing to the intelligence failures that preceded the 9/11 tragedy. Finally releasing all the JFK and King files now can help to prevent further intelligence failures, and begin to restore the faith of the American people in their institutions of government.
Robert Kennedy and the possible “assassination of American officials”
Luckily, there was some cooperation between the various agencies in 1963, and the relatively few files they did exchange about sensitive operations often point to large numbers of files still being withheld by the originating agencies. One of the most surprising revelations to come out of such files was the planning to deal with the possible assassination of a US official in the weeks and months prior to JFK's murder in Dallas.
At the direction of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, a secretive sub-committee of the National Security Council began making plans for dealing with the possible "assassination of American officials" two months before JFK's murder, and the planning continued into November of 1963. Even though this was an extensive operation, with representatives from numerous agencies ranging from the Defense Department to the State Department to the CIA, only one copy each of three substantial files have ever been released about this planning. Just two of those were given to Congressional investigating committees and the third was released, heavily censored, after the HSCA completed its work.
Some agencies, like the FBI and CIA, have withheld all their files on this matter, while the State Department released one two-page file from November 1963 and the Defense Department released two substantial memos from September 1963. So many missing memos from so many agencies is all the more remarkable since one of the existing memos asks each participating agency to prepare further extensive memos, and provide ten copies each. The Church Committee only learned late in its term about the fall 1963 preparations to deal with the possible "assassination of American officials," and it asked the agencies in 1976 for all relevant documents about the matter. When the Church Committee's report went to press, it said the Senate was "awaiting a response from these agencies." More than thirty years later, Congress and the American public are still waiting. The files are extremely relevant in light of events like the cover-up of the Tampa plot to assassinate JFK, which was kept out of the press at the time at the direction of John and Robert Kennedy.
Carlos Marcello’s FBI confession
Only in 2006 were uncensored FBI files discovered in the National Archives in which Louisiana godfather Carlos Marcello admitted in 1985 that he had JFK assassinated. Prior to this, only a few heavily-censored pages about Marcello's confession had been known, and those were impossible to evaluate, since up to 90% of the pages had been blacked-out. It's now clear that Marcello's confession was made to an FBI informant--Jack Ronald Van Laningham--who had been found reliable by a federal judge. In addition, Marcello's confession was made in front of another named witness, an associate from New Orleans that Marcello trusted. Marcello's confession was obtained as part of a previously-unknown FBI sting operation targeting Marcello, code-named CAMTEX, that also generated "hundreds of hours" of secretly-recorded audio tape of Marcello talking in his federal prison cell about his crimes. None of those tapes or transcripts have ever been released. While Marcello's clearest JFK confession was made in the prison yard, remarks in his cell to the same two men also included Marcello's admissions that he had met with Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby prior to JFK's murder, and that he had set Ruby up in business in Dallas. Those remarks, or others mentioning people linked to the assassinations of JFK or Dr. King, could be on the FBI's tapes and transcripts, which should be released.
Marcello's confession almost became public prior to the 25th anniversary of JFK's assassination in November, 1988. But the several FBI memos make it clear that steps were taken in Washington by the FBI and Justice Department to placate the FBI's informant so that Marcello's confession wasn't revealed at that time. The files about those decisions--and why Marcello's uncensored JFK confession was withheld from Congress and kept secret for so long--should be released as well.
The House Select Committee had concluded in 1979 that JFK was likely killed by a conspiracy and that Marcello "had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy." There are several additional reasons why many people--including G. Robert Blakey--find Marcello's confession credible. The admission was made as part of an outburst to a trusted business partner of Marcello's--whom Marcello soon threatened to kill if he ever told. The confession was made more than three years before Marcello had the first of a series of dehabilitating strokes. Finally, all of Marcello's remarks about Kennedy as written up in the FBI files can be verified by the independent findings of Congressional investigators and respected journalists. It should also be noted that on two occasions, the FBI's Marcello informant offered to take a lie detector test about the matter, but none of the FBI files about those tests--if they were given, or if not, why not--have been released.
From files that have been released, it's clear that both the FBI and CIA had--and should still have--additional relevant files on Marcello and his close associates that have never been released or provided to Congressional investigators. Releasing those files, as required by the 1992 JFK Act, would not just shed additional light on JFK's assassination, but also on that of Martin Luther King.
King assassination files withheld until 2029
The House Select Committee on Assassinations was chaired by Rep. Louis Stokes, and it also investigated Dr. King's murder. After investigating and debunking information tying the FBI and Memphis Police to King's assassination, Stokes' Committee "concluded that there was a likelihood of conspiracy in the assassination of Dr. King" and that James Earl Ray acted "for financial gain." But the FBI apparently withheld files from the committee that tied Marcello to Dr. King's assassination. Those files that were released years later through the efforts of Freedom of Information attorney James Lesar, and easily available now for the first time on the Mary Ferrell Foundation web site. I say the files were "apparently" withheld because while no reference to them is in any of the published reports of Stokes' committee, and there are many indications the committee never saw the files, there is no way to know with absolute certainty, since the committee's King files are withheld until the year 2029.
The FBI report linking Marcello to King's murder includes information a journalist obtained after Dr. King's murder from several sources, including "a well-placed protege of Carlos Marcello." Among the claims were that the Mafia "brokered" the assassination for a well-financed group of white supremacists for approximately "$200,000." The white supremacists were linked to Mississippi and a town named Quitman. Two lieutenants of Marcello wound up with the contract, Frank Liberto of Memphis and a man whose named sounded like "Joe Carameci."
The journalist even had one of his named sources repeat his claims to a Justice Department official. That official found the journalist and source credible, and the Justice memos form part of the FBI report that was withheld from Stokes' committee. Instead, the FBI misled the committee by giving them an FBI memo of a later interview with the frightened source by FBI agents, who denied to the agents that he gave information to the journalist--something clearly not true, since the FBI knew the source had spoken to the reporter in the presence of the Justice Department official.
It's a shame the FBI withheld this particular file from Stokes' committee, because their congressional investigators already knew about a Marcello lieutenant named "Frank Joseph Caracci," who was likely the "Joe Carameci" mentioned in the report. FBI files show the Bureau was well aware of Frank Joseph Caracci in 1968, and he shows up in several [FBI reports now available on the Mary Ferrell web site. Likewise, both before and after King death the FBI was keeping tabs on a Marcello lieutenant in New Orleans named Jack Liberto, but there is no indication in the files that the FBI looked at any connection between Jack and Frank Liberto. The FBI report withheld from Stokes' committee indicates the FBI did interviews in New Orleans related to Marcello after King's assassination, but those interviews have never surfaced.
Because this FBI report was withheld, Stokes' committee looked only briefly at Carlos Marcello as a suspect in Dr. King's murder, and found no connection. That is tragic because in hindsight, a review of the committee's published reports shows numerous leads tying Ray to the New Orleans underworld and its drug network, leads that likely would have been pursued if the Committee had more reason to suspect Marcello. The Committee also wasn't told that the journalist, William Sartor, died--reportedly the victim of a homicide--the night before he was to interview a Marcello associate in Texas.
In 2000, the Justice Department did their own investigation of the possibility of Marcello's and Frank Liberto's ties to Dr. King's murder, as a result of the King family's successful civil trial judgement against an associate of Liberto. But the 2000 Justice Department Report didn't mention the Marcello information in their own 1968 memo that was contained in the FBI file withheld from Stokes' committee.
The FBI did tell Stokes' committee about a Los Angeles map found in James Earl Ray's Atlanta rooming house. But they didn't tell the committee about any investigation they made into the marks that Ray had made on the map, most near Beverly Hills, far from the seedy area where Ray lived. The FBI surely undertook such an investigation, since for almost two months they were engaged in a huge manhunt for King's killer, even going to the trouble of tracking down the manufacturer of a beer can that belonged to Ray--not just the store that sold the beer, but the company that made the can. Perhaps one reason the Los Angeles map traces weren't given to Stokes committee was that one of the marks indicated the apartment building of Marcello's Los Angeles associate, Mafia don Johnny Rosselli. Rosselli and his apartment building were being monitored by the FBI in 1968, and the FBI had kept close tabs on Rosselli through the building's manager, switchboard operator, etc., since 1964. The address jumped out at me as soon as I saw it, as it surely must have in 1968 to Los Angeles FBI agents or to FBI officials in Washington who saw the regular reports on Rosselli.
Other King files withheld from Stokes' committee by the FBI include any investigation of Georgia white supremacist Joseph Milteer for his whereabouts at the time of King's murder. The FBI did provide files about their investigations of other well-known, violent white supremacists, to see what they were doing when King was killed. (For example, Milteer's associate J. B. Stoner was being observed by FBI agents when King was shot.) For the HSCA's JFK investigation, the FBI had provided the committee with their reports about Milteer just before, and right after, JFK's murder, since Miami Police had secretly recorded Milteer predicting--almost two weeks before Dallas--that JFK would be shot from a building with a high-powered rifle. On the same November 1963 police tape, Milteer talked about an associate's unsuccessful effort to stalk King, which made Milteer an obvious suspect to investigate after King was shot, at least to see where he was at the time of King's murder. But no information was given to the Committee indicating that the FBI ever looked into Milteer for King's murder. That's especially tragic since Milteer himself told an associate that he was in the Atlanta neighborhood where Ray was abandoning his getaway car, on the day after Dr. King's murder. And, information published for the first time in Legacy of Secrecy in 2008 details how Milteer was part of a small white supremacist group that put up the money for King's assassination, similar to the plot outlined in the file the FBI withheld from Congress.
If you'd like to get the remaining JFK assassination files released before the year 2017, and the congressional King assassination records before 2029, you can find and contact your members of Congress by following this link to http://www.vote-smart.org. A short, polite note saying you want the 1992 JFK Act fully enforced can help to get both sets of files released.
Lamar Waldron is the author, with Thom Hartmann, of Legacy of Secrecy (updated trade paperback, 2009), which extensively discusses all of the files discussed in this article. Excepts and documents are available on the book's resource page at this website.