Unredacted Episode 7: Transcript of Interview with Larry Hancock
Larry Hancock is author of the 2006 book Someone Would Have Talked, which begins with the self-incriminating statements of John Martino and others, and uses a wide range of declassified documents to follow the trail to the conspiracy that killed John Kennedy. Larry is also active in JFK Lancer and organizes the annual November in Dallas conference in Dallas. This interview was conducted on 30 May 2007.
REX: Hello, and welcome back to Unredacted. I’m Rex Bradford and we’re here with Larry Hancock, who is the author of the 2006 book Someone Would Have Talked, which discussed the JFK assassination using its title as a starting point. Larry is also active in JFK Lancer, organizing the “November in Dallas” conferences for the past several years. Welcome Larry.
LARRY: Good afternoon, Rex.
REX: Larry, there’s an awful lot to talk about. You’ve been an active researcher and writer for several years. Let’s just start with your book. There are a lot of books on the assassination which deal with the evidence for a cover-up and often extrapolate acts of cover-up into the theory of assassination as a whole, and you took a different tack in the research for your book. Can you tell us about your approach?
LARRY: I did. I guess one of the things in the tack I really took was to kind of go back to the basics. I had been in JFK research for well over a decade before I even thought about doing the book, and basically instead of going with the conventional wisdom, I decided it would be better to reset, find the starting point, and build it from the bottom up. When I started building it from the bottom up, what I really found was that there was a very slender thread that directly tied the cover-up or damage control - damage control might be a better word for it - to what actually was obvious in the way of conspiracy, in what people had talked about, the leaks in gossip and other evidence pertaining to the conspiracy, so I - I definitely found - although a slight bridge between the two - nothing that would imply that the two went hand in glove, and nothing to really suggest certainly that the cover-up was well-planned, pre-planned, well organized, or actually very well done. If it hadn’t been, there wouldn’t nearly be all the loose ends that we’ve been looking at for decades.
REX: Sure. Now, you focus in the book initially on a guy named John Martino. I’m wondering if you could summarize who he was and how he fits into this story?
LARRY: Sure, and that was the starting point for me, because I spent several years really looking at people who might provide an insight into the conspiracy after struggling as everyone does with how muddied the evidence and the record is. I just picked up the idea that you should really try the “back door” and see if you could find anyone who was really credible who was involved - even peripherally - that could give you some insights to it.
As it turns out, John Martino had worked in the gambling industry, he worked in the casinos in Havana, and had actually been jailed by Fidel Castro, spent three years in a Cuban prison, came back, was a very popular, well-known anti-Castro advocate that went on the John Birch speaking circle, did a book about the perils of Communism and Castro, and after the assassination was very much involved in spreading, basically, information and reports to the FBI that Castro had been behind it, had been behind it with Oswald, and that actually, Castro had been connected to both Oswald and Ruby. So, there were a lot of records early on about Martino that one could consult to really verify who he was, who he was associated with. The interesting thing is that years later, shortly before his death, he actually remarked to a couple of - to his business partner and to a friend - that there was an entirely different story to be told, and that story was that Castro was not behind it, that there had been a Cuban exile conspiracy, and that Martino himself had been very peripherally involved in it; as a courier, a liason, and knew a few details, certainly not all the details. One of the things that makes him convincing is that he didn’t claim to know any more than he should have.
REX: He had said that the plan was to fly Oswald out of the country and then kill him, presumably planting papers on him of some kind, although I don’t know if that was part of his story per se.
LARRY: Certainly what he had heard was that they were going to, that Oswald was supposed to leave, make some kind of contact in Dallas, and that he would be taken out, and the implication was that he would be done away with somewhere in a fashion that would more dramatically point the way towards Castro. I think one of the problems was - Martino made it quite clear that Oswald was essentially being fooled by anti-Castro exiles posing as Castro agents, so Oswald wasn’t a knowing participant, and really wouldn’t be excited about cooperating in framing himself, so what you could expect him to do, and what you could do on the scene to frame him was fairly limited because he wasn’t cooperating, and if it became visible to him, you blow the whole thing.
REX: Now, I know Frank Sturgis of Watergate fame was another person who was involved in spreading propaganda after the assassination tying Oswald to Castro. Is there a link between the two that you found in this?
LARRY: Sturgis was actually well known to Martino. Actually, Martino mentions two people that he was associated with that were associates of his, I won’t say friends of his - Sturgis was one of them, and Bernardo de Torres is another. Basically, there’s no personal tie, they’re just people that he was associated with in the exile community, so I don’t know. The question you would have to ask yourself, was Sturgis the source of the information, or was Sturgis just passing on information that had been relayed to him from others.
It wasn’t just Sturgis. Buchanan, one of the folks that was associated with Interpen, one of the exile-associated folks, was passing the same information, and frankly, the same information was being passed very aggressively by the DRE people - both in New Orleans and Miami, so - Martino certainly wasn’t unique, Sturgis certainly wasn’t unique, but it appears that there was a storyline basically that all of them were either given or heard pretty shortly.
REX: So where do you trace the story from Martino then? Where did you go from there?
LARRY: Where does it go up the line? Basically, I think that Martino did hear it from the people that he was physically in contact with. Martino was going out on a speaking tour that fall on his book, and it was sponsored by the John Birch Society and the Christian Crusade. He had gone to New Orleans. He had gone to Texas a couple of times. He had gone to Dallas - he had given speeches in Dallas, and actually, he kind of made a slip when he was in Dallas in one of his speeches, mentioning that he knew about Silvia Odio and the Odio family, and had been in prison when their father - actually he hadn't been.
But, to answer your question, I think he had heard it directly from the people he was associated with who were some of the exiles who were tactically involved in what was going on. Martino was very well-respected by the exiles, he had gone on a very high-profile mission in his fifties - a penetration mission into Cuba which had gained him a lot of respect. He was actually pretty close to another one of the Watergate burglars, Fernandez [sic: Eugenio Martinez], and there are pictures of them together on this mission. So, I can’t give you a single name. It would be the people he was serving as courier for.
REX: So, we certainly don’t have time to go into all the people you talk about in your book, but you bring in other folks - David Morales, who was chief of operations at JMWAVE - and in general, it seems that all the characters who seem to factor into this story, come from one or more aspects of this milieux of Cuban exiles, organized crime, and CIA figures as well, and I’m curious how far you think you got in painting a picture of the ultimate sponsorship of Kennedy’s murder? There’s a lot of - there’s people that tie this into the CIA, and for some people this coming from the top, or at least at Richard Helms’ level. Other people talk about rogue agents. I wonder where you fall in that debate, or whether there’s something different than either of those two characterizations?
LARRY: I think the right term is either a “network” or a “clique.” Not sure exactly what the right word is. It’s somewhere close to what Peter Dale Scott developed in his concept of “deep politics,” where a lot of things in the world happen because of people that are involved in social or in business networks who don’t - who interact occasionally, but support each other when they’re needed, and don’t ask any questions, basically.
I think, interestingly enough, I was quite surprised to see in David Talbot’s book that he put in the characterization that is referenced to Robert Kennedy, where apparently Robert Kennedy pretty much intuitively determined within a matter of hours that he felt the guilty parties were a mix of the CIA, crime, exile factions that had been involved in the Cuba project - the assassination attempts against Castro. I would see exactly the same set of people. Actually it’s interesting, because I wish I could have given a copy of my book to RFK because it sort of provides the detail that Talbot writes about him thinking that afternoon.
REX: As far as I know where Talbot gets that - one, the fairly well-known story of Robert Kennedy calling Haynes Johnson and Harry Ruiz Williams on the afternoon saying “one of your boys did it.” I think David Talbot also credits a much more recent story told by Angelo Murgado that he was involved in tracking Oswald, and that the name was known to RFK. I wonder what you think about that story, or in general where Robert Kennedy might have gotten this inkling?
LARRY: Well, I think that there are probably some other non-specifics that go along with it. I think that David does describe that reasonably early on, RFK got some feedback - this was in the next couple of days - that Jack Ruby was crime connected. I think that probably would have solidified his view, I don’t - I think he probably had an intuition that afternoon because he knew that that group of people was very dangerous, and he knew that they were very emotional. He had had some indications and seen some reports that these people were very - they had mixed emotions about whether Kennedy support would really get them back into power in Cuba, had they been contaminated by their association with the U.S. anyway, were they going to be able to succeed with obvious U.S. support? I think he knew that it was a very volatile mix, I don’t think he had any one or two sources, as you would say.
As far as Murgado, I tend to think as close as RFK was to monitoring the Cuban situation, the secret war, the AMWORLD projects that were going on, the AMTRUNK projects, that he very well could have been aware of Lee Oswald. I think that’s very possible, because Lee Oswald was very visible. I think that - can we document that? We can’t. Murgado says yes, Talbot has found some people that seem to suggest yes. I think that would have been a big play in it. I do tend to agree with David’s cut that - I find that fairly credible - some of his other information about the Odio incident I don’t find credible at all. I feel that’s disinformation.
REX: Interesting. Can we talk about that for a second? You know, Silvia Odio was the daughter of a prominent, imprisoned, anti-Castro Cuban, and had been approached by three men, one of whom she said after the assassination was Lee Oswald. One of the other two had called her the next day, saying that this guy’s loco, he says we should have killed Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs and so forth. That story’s interesting because it stood out as a beacon for a long time, although it has funny side trails, like a neighbor of Miss Odio’s who claimed that she had told her something completely different, that Oswald had been giving talks to local Cuban exiles and was brilliant, and I’m wondering where you come down on the whole saga?
LARRY: Well, I think what seems to solve it for me is that Silvia Odio had actually written her father in a Cuban prison before this - before the assassination - and had talked about her visitors, and her father had written her back - we have a copy of his letter that warns her that he doesn’t know anybody that would be claiming to represent themselves that way, and he should be - she should be very worried about being in touch with them, because he suggests they certainly could be Castro agents. We also have a statement from her doctor that he had talked to, that she had talked to him about the incident beforehand. And of course, we have her sister, who supported her. Seems to me like there are a lot of credible people - a lot of credible evidence to support her core story. I still come down with her core story, I would say.
And as you say, it was a very significant incident. In fact, the Warren Commission ordered the FBI to go back and investigate it, and were somewhat hesitant to conclude their report that fall, it was an outstanding issue for them. I think the interesting thing is that we now know from the documents we’ve seen - and I describe this in the book - that the FBI investigated it. The FBI came up with three people that it might have been, and went to the Warren Commission, and said, “don’t worry, we’ve solved it. It was just mistaken identity. There’s really nothing going on here,” when internally, they knew that was totally false, and they had even shown Silvia and her sister pictures of the three guys they were proposing to the Warren Commission, and Silvia and her sister had said “those definitely weren’t them.” It’s also become a very strong case for showing the fact that the FBI definitely wasn’t straightforward with the Warren Commission in a number of incidents.
REX: That’s actually related to the next thing I wanted to ask. You had brought up Jack Ruby a little while ago, and according to the Warren Commission, and apparently now Vincent Bugliosi in his very large book, Jack Ruby was just a “police buff” with no connections to organized crime. You’ve written about Ruby, and I just find this phenomenon amazing, that after 40 years that this is still a point of debate as to who Ruby was and what connections he had. Is it just that what ties Ruby to organized crime and other circles so tenuous, or is there a lot of fibbing going on, or ... Could you give us a take on Ruby and what the overall place we’re at now with him?
LARRY: It may be a matter of definition. If you really want to go by the book and say “was Jack Ruby a made member of the Mafia?” No. Probably not. If you want to say, “was he associated with organized crime figures and part of the broad network of organized crime?” I don’t think there’s any difficulty about that. I mean, we have copies from the Dallas Police showing him, of him showing up in reports of their routine surveillance of crime figures. There’s another report that shows him hosting meetings of organized crime figures that year, that summer.
Again, “is he part of the structure?” No. He’s just part of the network, basically. I think it - well, you probably remember this - probably a giveaway is like the first person to visit him in jail in Dallas was the number two figure in Dallas organized crime, and a fairly high lieutenant in the Marcello network. Now, I don’t know how you - see, they weren’t just neighbors. I find it hard to see that being a sheer coincidence.
REX: Sure -
LARRY: And now we know even worse, the sources that the FBI went to to determine that Ruby was not a member of organized crime, have in the following years been shown to be organized crime members themselves. So, essentially, again the FBI wrote him off based on sources that would be totally questionable.
REX: Sure. An area that is perhaps a bit murkier that you write about that I find fascinating is this issue of gun running and Ruby’s connection to it - therefore a possible way for him to be connected to the milieux that you write about in your book.
LARRY: Correct. And his connection with gun running and his connection with Cuba. Again, I don’t see how Mr. Bugliosi can ignore that connection. It’s very clear that Jack Ruby was interested in doing business in Cuba - his visits to McKeown, who had been a very prominent Cuban gun runner for Castro pre-revolution. His trips to visit his friend McWilly, his travel to Cuba - there’s a lot of questions about his travel to Cuba. You know, can you prove any particular transactions? I don’t even think that you need to. I think what you need to be able to prove is that he was connected to these people and he was interested in that subject, and that we certainly have proof of.
So, again, was he convicted of gun running? No. But that doesn’t prove that he didn’t do it and he wasn’t interested in it. Proves he didn’t get caught.
REX: What about Oswald? Where do you - do you have a take on him? Martino had a version, I guess in his story, generally of who Oswald was. People look at him through a variety of lenses in history, of being a lone assassin, or a co-conspirator, or a completely framed patsy. What’s your take?
LARRY: Martino’s take, and the information that he was given about Oswald was that Oswald was a low-level FBI informant. Basically, the parlance for that is a dangle, which means someone who talks to the FBI occasionally, and who the FBI watches a lot to see who’s talking to them. I think that’s absolutely true. There’s clear evidence that he would - I mean, let’s face it: he gets arrested in New Orleans for leafletting, and this is the same person that we’re supposed to think is deathly afraid of the FBI and afraid they’re persecuting all the time, and the first thing he does once he gets in jail is to ask for someone from the FBI to come and visit him. Hard to deny that he’s - feels as persecuted and paranoid as we’d been lead to believe.
REX: In this context then, the pro-Castro activities are a stance?
LARRY: They are a stance. I think a lot of what we see with Oswald is a stance. He bounces back and forth. When he comes back from Russia, he starts work on a manuscript that is decidedly anti-Soviet, anti-Russian, anti-Communist, and before he finishes that - although we do have part of it - before he finished that, talking about how anti-Russian he is, he starts subscribing to all these Russian and socialist and communist political magazines.
And then, the next time we see him, he’s in New Orleans and he’s - at first - he's presenting himself as anti-Castro, then he becomes pro-Castro. And then, Joan Mellen writes about her interview of a doctor who observed Oswald ranting about how anti-Castro he was, and how he’d like to be able to go to Cuba and kill him. Either he’s bi-polar, or it depends on what agenda somebody’s got in mind at a given moment.
LARRY: One thing he is is he’s not simple. He’s not a simple lone nut.
REX: That’s for sure.
LARRY: And in fact, thinking of him as a lone nut, somebody asked the question the other day, “how does a young man who’s travelled widely, been in the service, give speeches, appears on media, and has a wife and two children a loner?”
LARRY: Can’t be all that anti-social!
REX: I want to get back to what we talked briefly about before, which is the nature of the overall plot and how high up it might go. I know you did a fair amount of research in the book about Lyndon Johnson and in general the FBI and White House and other people driving “damage control,” - you use that word, I guess - in the days after Dallas. I’m curious what that told you about the level of the plot itself, who might be involved...
LARRY: I got it. When you look at the actual - or at least when I look at the details of the cover-up - you see a lot of people following orders. You see calls made from Washington D.C. to Dallas, and to Austin, telling Texas authorities not to file conspiracy charges - those calls are coming from Lyndon Johnson’s staff person who offers to get Johnson on the phone if anybody challenges that. You have Johnson’s personal lawyer going to Texas to meet with the Texas Attorney General saying he’s in charge of the conspiracy investigation when he has no official status at all, of course. You have a lot of people doing things that are giving - that are being given orders - but when you trace the orders back, they all seem to be coming from the new President.
So, rather than seeing a lot of people that are complicit in the cover up, what I see is a lot of people who are following orders, who are then later following the security oath that they are made to sign, and some of them who may have eventually regretted it. I think Admiral Burkley is a case in point - the President’s doctor who went to Bethesda, tried to prevent an autopsy from being conducted at Bethesda, and eventually wrote a letter to the House Select Committee offering to provide them with evidence that would have been supportive of the conspiracy. Some of the people, after a while, started questioning what they had done quite sincerely. But, I don’t see a lot of conspirators in the cover up as it were. I see orders coming directly from President Johnson.
REX: Sure, it seems like...
LARRY: Why they’re coming is another question.
REX: That was my next question. It seems like Johnson himself is at the center of these activities, although it doesn’t seem to be strictly limited to him. The “Establishment,” for lack of a better word - Robert Kennedy, later Earl Warren - rallied behind this approach. But, I’m curious on Johnson in particular, whether you think this was him taking the lead in dong what needed to be done to prevent a civil war or whatever the aftermath would be of challenging the lone nut coming out of Dallas, or whether there’s something more sinister possibly at work?
LARRY: We know for sure that he gave several of the people that he talked to a reason. He told several of the people - including Earl Warren - that they just needed to certify the FBI report on Oswald, but if they didn’t, circumstances would result in a nuclear exchange that would kill millions of Americans.
I think one answer is that the people who were being talked to were given a story - I’m not saying it was an untrue story, but they were given a storyline. Again, Johnson was using that when he needed to. If he needed leverage, that was the leverage that he was using. So then the question becomes, “did he believe that, or was there something more sinister, and that was simply a point of leverage?” I guess this is where I’m going to waffle a little bit, as I did in the book, and... In the book I did a very detailed analysis, because the question in my mind would be “was Lyndon Johnson really scared that this was the issue” - did he think that this was a national security issue early on and was that what was driving his behavior? And, the problem is, you don’t seem to see that. You don’t see that in the actual events. You don’t see Johnson in touch with the National Command structure. You don’t see him in touch with the Joint Chiefs. You don’t see him in touch with the Secretary of Defense.
REX: No, it seems like -
LARRY: McNamara when he shows up in DC, he didn’t even call McNamara to the airport, when McNamara went up to him, he just said “well, is there anything important happening I should know about?” This doesn’t seem like a person who’s nervous about an atomic exchange.
REX: So is that somebody then who knows what it’s all about because he already knows what it’s all about, or somebody who was smart enough to figure out what it was all about afterwards?
LARRY: (laughs) I could certainly be either. The concern that I have is - which is outlined in the book - is there’s another element pertaining to Johnson, and that’s Johnson’s own behavior in about the 45 days before the assassination. There’s a - something happens. Johnson is clearly worried to death about the Baker scandal and his potential exposure in influence peddling, the potential that Kennedy may have to sacrifice him. You know, Jack Kennedy calls him at seven o’clock in the morning and talks to him for an hour and a half at the ranch in Texas - nobody does that to Lyndon Johnson. That’s real unusual.
He’s clearly worried to death. He’s meeting with his lawyer. He’s meeting with Baker’s lawyer, and then suddenly, as of October 31st, there are no further records of any contacts. It’s just as if suddenly all the pressure is off. Does that indicate that he heard something that made him feel that all the pressure was off? I think there’s certainly a reason to speculate.
REX: That’s a few days before the Chicago plot, right?
LARRY: Correct. And the other thing that I bring up in the book that you have to at least think about is Johnny Roselli - who we haven’t discussed, but who was part of this Castro assassination network - was best friends with the person that had already been called to go give totally damning information to the Baker investigation. If he had gone in, and simply told the truth - Johnson’s career would have been over. So, again, can you prove any of that? No, but it certainly would have provided some interesting leverage.
REX: One thing that had occurred to me while you were talking was that some of the information that was used by Johnson to put together the Warren Commission was also reports of Communist participation that were coming out of - some of the stories were coming out of Mexico City as well - and I wonder if you found any tie-in to those stories or the people that may have been behind them, and the stories being told by John Martino and Frank Sturgis and others out of Miami and other places in the U.S?
LARRY: I think one thing that I did not find, I simply repeated it, was Peter Dale Scott again had done a lot of work on this subject before, when he started evaluating the people in Mexico City who were generating the reports and who was supporting them. Because initially, the reports out of Mexico City pointing towards Castro and Castro agents having met with Oswald were very enthusiastically promoted by certain of the Agency staff in Mexico City. They endorsed them. Now, the interesting thing is that over the next two or three days, or a week, those reports were basically torn to shreds, and nobody ever seems to have sent a memo saying, “Oh gosh, I’m sorry,” or “do you guys really know what you’re doing,” or - and the point is is that the person who’s connected to virtually all of this, and one of the persons endorsing it strongly is David Phillips. David Phillips - very important in anti-Castro operations - and David Phillips again connected with David Morales and a bunch of the same names that we’ve talked about before.
REX: Another person promoting those plots of course was Ambassador Mann, who Johnson promoted a few weeks later.
LARRY: (laughs) Correct. And then suddenly, after he promoted him, it wasn’t an issue anymore, but yes, that’s true.
REX: Let me give you a chance to talk about your website for a second. You have a website around the book which is quite good, and has photographs, exhibits, and so forth. Do you want to give the URL and talk about what’s on there?
LARRY: Sure. The site is www.larry-hancock.com and the reason - the website is basically supposed to be a resource for the reader. We have several thousand pages of documents that support what’s in the book. My position has always been look, don’t believe what I’m saying, go read the documents that I’ve read. I won’t say that all the documents I’ve read are there, but several thousand pages of them are - probably the more key documents for each chapter.
But we went a little beyond that. One of the things that we did was to create a photo library, which illustrates several things we're talking about, because we found that some of the photos really - you can't do justice to them in a book. You need a bigger page. You need a bigger screen. You need more space to display them, so we put those on the website. Then, one of my fellow researchers helped me build some charts that connect various events and people, and again perhaps will save people their note-taking. Note-taking is good, but we've also provided the charts, and we encourage people to print them off and use them as kind of a reader's guide as they're going through the book. Because this is very complex.
One thing that we've added to the book - or the website - fairly recently also is an elaboration - we talked about John Martino, but over the years, I've had a fairly extensive dialogue with his son, Edward, and at the end of last year, Edward finally decided to go public with some of his experiences and his - basically a synopsis of his statement and other material was then added to the website.
REX: That sounds very interesting. I'd like to actually fast-forward to the current time frame. Your book talks about various people who have said things that they shouldn't have said or shouldn't have known about, or in fact, even confessed some kind of involvement in the assassination, so the name Howard Hunt comes to mind as the most famous recent confession to or at least foreknowledge if not mild involvement in the plot. I'm curious what your take is on that phenomenon. Do you think he's telling the truth or the partial truth, or... what do you think?
LARRY: Well, it's a fascinating thing. One of the things that first struck me about it - as I understand it - is that apparently David Morales, who I have become pretty familiar with, as far as his operating - the way he did business, which was very professionally, very covertly, and very effectively deadly. Supposedly - in Hunt's scenario - Frank Sturgis invites Howard Hunt into a meeting with David Morales, and they ask him if he wants to join the conspiracy, and Howard thinks about it for a little while and says no thanks, and walks away. And, I sort of have a hard time with that. It seems to me that if this were really serious business, you don't walk in and get people to tell you details about a conspiracy to kill the President, including what kind of gunmen are going to be hired, and walk away and live. (laughs)
REX: Or even just tell people that kind of knowledge. Hunt's scenario brings LBJ and Kord Meyer and other people into the plot. It does seem curious to have such a detailed map.
LARRY: And this is all substantial - it is so at odds with the way that those operations are normally done. Information is highly compartmentalized, you're not told anything that you're not supposed to, and if anything, you're asked to do certain things and you don't ask questions. One of the things about these cliques that I was talking about is that they trust each other enough so that they're either, and have been associated with each other for years, so that they do things pretty much without asking, or they're not part of the clique.
So, yeah. You're point is well taken. Hunt's given a huge amount of information before the event is to occur, and is allowed to say no with no consequences. That does not strike me as what I would have expected from someone like Morales. Morales was notoriously efficient - much more so than Hunt, whose reputation for trade craft and efficiency - as you can see in Watergate - is not all that great. So, some of it I have a hard time with.
On the other hand, I will say that there's an interesting thing that both Hunt and Sturgis share, and that is that Hunt was very, very close to Manuel Artime for some period of time. Sturgis was very close to him in 1963, and involved in certain operations with him. There's some interesting documents on that - some on the Mary Ferrell site, as a matter of fact - about Sturgis and giving Artime a gun that became a real problem for the CIA. The interesting thing is that Gaeton Fonzi writes that the HSCA was told by some very reliable informants that Artime had what was called "guilty knowledge." You wanted the inside story, you could get it from Artime, and Fonzi went off to interview him and Artime passed away before that could be done, but I guess where I'm going with that is I wouldn't - it would not surprise me at all in fact - I would be surprised if, considering the other people that heard gossip and rumors about going on - what was going on - that both Sturgis and Hunt didn't know a certain amount about the real conspiracy. I would be very surprised if they didn't. The question is - and know some of the real names - and so I would expect that what we're seeing has some truth to it. The whole scenario as a whole, I don't know enough about yet. Certainly, that's something - for example - that we're going to be exploring very extensively at the conference in Dallas this year in November. We'll have a number of speakers on that subject, a number of people. We'll have someone who had talked to Howard Hunt about that subject for a period of time beforehand, and we're certainly going to explore it, and try and reach some resolution on it. I'm very open on it at the moment, it's just that there are a couple of pieces of it that seem strange to me from this distance, at least.
REX: You mentioned Manuel Artime and that made me think of a lot of emerging information about what was going on in anti-Castro operations in 1963. Artime was being moved to Nicaragua as part of Operation AMWORLD, which Lamar Waldron has written a great deal about, although I think there are differences of opinion from people on just what project AMWORLD really is. I'm curious if you have a take on AMWORLD and also what's really going on in '63? It seems like it's been the last area of anti-Castro activity that's remained shrouded in a bit of mystery.
LARRY: It has, although it's becoming - well, there are two - I think there're two areas that have been shrouded in mystery that are becoming much closer. One thing, the first - I'll comment on briefly - was we were kind of always led to believe that there was one really serious Castro assassination project, and that was the one involving Roselli and Harvey. An in documents over the last three or four years we've seen that that's not really true. There were other, very concrete, assassination projects - people trained, people inserted - all to take care of Castro before the Bay of Pigs. All of which would have made the Bay of Pigs look a lot less stupid than it does after the fact. So that's one area that's clearing up. It's - I bring that up because it's important to know that it's not as simple as it was viewed as for a long time. These operations were CIA organized, and there's pretty good evidence that only the CIA officers involved knew about them. A lot of this was investigated by the - we know about it because the CIA ran its own internal investigation during the Church Committee, trying to find their own dirty laundry. And they found some of this, and of course, then they chose not to share it with the Church Committee, which is no big surprise, but we know about it because of that reason.
Now, what we know about '63 is - it's very clear to say that the Kennedy administration had several initiatives going to bring about a coup in Cuba. That Jack Kennedy had two tracks going, one was the Castro negotiation, but the other was a number of extremely active projects to get rid of Fidel.
REX: AMTRUNK was one of them?
LARRY: AMTRUNK was one of them. So basically, they reached out in three ways. One, with AMTRUNK, is they were looking for people within Cuba who would either go along with a counter revolution, or help start one. The net of that is A) Castro had it pretty well penetrated and B) all of these people said, "sure, we would be willing to go along with that as long as Fidel is dead. If Fidel isn't dead, nothing's going to work, so don't talk to us."
Then, with AMWORLD, we have the autonomous project which essentially says, you know, "we've been messing around with Cuba for so long now that none of the exiles trust us. Nobody trusts the U.S. because they don't think they can depend on us, so unless you can set up somebody that appears to be totally autonomous from the U.S., it's not going to work," and that was supposed to be Artime.
So, AMTRUNK [sic: AMWORLD] was this huge exercise to try and create a Cuban leader that would start putting pressure on from outside Cuba who wasn't ostensibly associated with the U.S. And that's really all that AMWORLD was. Now, I think Lamar discusses in his book, and I find no reason to object to that the Kennedys may have also thought that they had found very senior in the Cuban hierarchy - Almeida - that would be willing to cooperate. Whether he really would have been or whether they were being, you know, doubled by Castro - who would ever know? It's certainly - since apparently their only risks would have been that they wouldn't have done any action until they had heard radio broadcasts from Cuba, there's no huge risk. I don't find that implausible. They were gamblers. It would have been a very low-risk gamble, and very cheap compared to all the other efforts they were going through.
So, yeah, it's - 1963 is so much more complex than we would have ever thought at the time. Again, you can see in talking about Artime, one of the documents that I present in the book, one of his senior advisors writes a memo to him saying, "no matter how much money they give us, and no matter how much support, as long as this is associated with Kennedy, it's not going to work." Then you start going, "What are we really seeing there?" Maybe nothing suspicious, but, you know, attitudes count sometimes. So, iIn any event, don't know if that answers your question..
REX: Yeah, I think so. Larry, I wanted to switch gears for the few minutes we have left. You've been spending a lot of time of late becoming an expert on another Kennedy assassination, that of Robert Kennedy. I don't know if you're writing a book, or whether you care to share your plans, but I'd like to know what you might have to say about that - what you've learned so far?
LARRY: I will, but one thing to kind of wrap up the other, though. You had asked me the question about organizations within the CIA. I would encourage anyone who's got the book to pay a special attention the last appendix in there which I added, which is entitled "A Small Clique within the CIA." That gives you my best judgement of what a group, a network, a "deep politics"-type network would have been, would have looked like this this - some kind of plot could really emerge from within. I think, and it's tied to one of the few really mysterious JFK mystery deaths, which is that of Garret Underhill, who was in touch with some of these people and who had, who was scared to death because he thought that he had run across some of the people who were very capable of doing what we see in Dallas. I don't - certainly I don't develop it down to any great detail, but if you're looking for a characterization of the kind of network that could have brought it about, that's where you'd look in the book.
LARRY: The interesting thing is there were two networks within the CIA at the time. One was kind of the good old boy, ex-OSS, European, Eastern establishment group, which kind of founded the CIA. But there was a whole other group out of the China theater. The China Lobby and Southeast Asia who had a different take on things and if you're looking for the real rogues, you might be looking that way.
REX: It seems like they might be more likely to have some ties to ex-military people or other folks in the Texas area that might help along. I mean there are folks - Edwin Walker, who had long been tied to various parts of the case.
LARRY: Ex-military people, various front companies, very black money - and political assassinations. You can find evidence that these people had taken it within their own decision-making to assassinate certain foreign leaders and certain individuals who were - basically, it's sort of like "the Communists took China, we're not going to let it happen again. Whatever we need to do, we'll do." That kind of doctrine, "now they were traitors, and they lost China and we're not gonna let it happen again."
And you see a lot of the names that we've been talking about come up, and these are people that operated - they weren't the CIA establishment. I guess that's another thing that makes them particularly interesting is they're the guys that do things "off the books." They have personal agendas. They have dirty money, if you will. They're not part of the highest-level command structure. I think one person refers to them as "the boys in the woodwork," which I thought was a pretty neat description.
REX: So -
LARRY: So on RFK - I'm sorry -
REX: It seems like some of those names come out of PBSUCCESS - the successful operation overthrowing the Guatemalan government.
LARRY: They do. Henry Hecksher, David Morales, David Phillips -
REX: Even Ann Goodpasture, who was in the Mexico City station happens to have been part of that operation. I mean it's amazing, all the names that show up.
LARRY: I think that's what you have to have, because if this truly happened they way we think it did, it happened with people that had been working together for so long, that again, they didn't ask questions before, and they didn't ask questions afterwards. Sort of like, "ok, if you want me to do such and such, there must be a good reason for it, I'll do it," and kind of - what is that famous quote? "Yes, I was looking at something I knew not to be true, but I signed off on it anyway." I think that's the attitude.
REX: (laughs) Alright, should we return to Los Angeles?
LARRY: Sure. We're kind of starting again, and actually I'm working with a team of folks, Stu Wexler and others, and trying to do basically - take the same "bottoms up" approach. No assumptions, no agendas, and go back and look at both the RFK and MLK assassinations and basically look at the investigations themselves, see how the investigations were conducted, and were there any obvious stones that were, you know, left unturned? And, you know, were there any obvious connections that weren't explored? And I say obvious now - a lot later. It's not 1968, you know. But things that we can see from this distance that really wouldn't - in the heat of the moment - wouldn't have been that obvious.
In both cases, we're finding things. We're certainly finding in the RFK case that the classic phenomenon of the District Attorney prosecutor deciding to go to court with a simple case applies. It's really clear that at first there's this very general investigation, and then suddenly it narrows down very tightly. It becomes not an issue of opening up leads, but rather closing down leads. We see the same thing in the FBI work on the JFK assassination, and it's just as dramatic in LA. What that leaves you with is the fact is - I don't think that there's any question that Sirhan was involved in an effort to kill RFK. The question is "was there anyone else involved with him?" As we see so many times, what prosecutor wants to go to court with a complex case? Now let's face it. If I've got this guy that was there with a gun four feet away, everybody saw him fire the gun, why would I want life any more complex than it needs to be? I go to court, I've got a slam dunk, it's over, and I go on with another case.
REX: Is the type of research you have to do different? I mean, in the JFK case, we are buried in paperwork at this point from multiple investigations, whereas in both those two other cases, it seems like there's far less investigation that went on.
LARRY: That is absolutely correct. I would say there's two things. It's far easier to get a handle on it. The documents are more readily available - those that exist - are more readily available. RFK's very well covered in Sacramento and Dartmouth. The folks at Dartmouth have been a pleasure to work with. A lot quicker than working with NARA.
REX: This is Phil Melanson's - the late Phil Melanson's - archive at UMass Darmouth?
LARRY: Correct. And there are other materials there. They've done a great job, they're very responsive, so I would say that work is going much quicker.
One of the disappointing things I've seen so far is that the LAPD background research - the questions that you would have expected them to ask and - there's just a lot of information - obvious questions that you would have expected to be asked that were not there. One example is that it becomes obvious that Sirhan's gun was actually purchased by Sirhan's brother. Sirhan's brother had been convicted for narcotics, for marijuana, he had been on probation, and he was in the midst of a deportation hearing at the time that he bought a pistol for Sirhan. And, you know, that would seem to raise a lot of questions - why would you do that, does that not worry you? Well, he actually lied to the police and gave them a totally incorrect version of how he got the gun, knowing full well that all they had to do was go to the guy that sold it and get the right story, and they did!
Now, that would strike you that that would raise a lot of questions, but they didn't do anything with it. Their file, so far as I can tell contains - what I've told you is all that's there. They drop it. It's just, "OK. No. He bought the gun and he lied about it, and we'll just leave it at that."
REX: It seems like in some cases it seems like the investigation is what you could call "active cover-up." The business of the girl in the polka-dot dress and people like Sandy Cerrano being browbeaten about it to recant their stories.
LARRY: Oh, and I think we're going to be able to demonstrate that in great length. The timing, the way in which it was done, the process, the methodology that they used with Cerrano, even their notes on their papers. It's clear that that was intentionally done. I think that we're going to demonstrate that it was wrong in a great many ways.
I would love to have a chance to talk with Miss Cerrano again, but I haven't been able to locate her. After her experience, she's sort of like Silvia Odio - I wouldn't think she'd be interested in talking to anyone else again, but I'm 100% convinced in her story and the fact is that the LAPD discounted her story with files sitting in front of them that had corroboration from their own officers. And that's amazing that they would discount her story when the same file folder contains another officer with other witnesses saying exactly the same thing she did. It's really annoying actually.
REX: One of the rallying cries of the Dallas cop - I'm sorry, one of the Los Angeles cops - was "not another Dallas!" But in some ways, maybe that's exactly what happened.
LARRY: Well, I'll give you a rallying cry from Los Angeles. The officer who had sent in the radio message saying that he had another set of witnesses to the polka-dot dress girl, essentially his watch supervisor came up to him, first asked him to withdraw it, because he quote-unquote says "well, we've go the guy, and there's no reason to make another federal case out of it." And then when the officer refused to withdraw it, the watch supervisor withdrew it over his protest. So I think -
LARRY: It does remind you of things, yes it does. Don't want this to be any bigger than it needs to be.
REX: Well, I'll be extremely curious to see what you come up with. Any last words? Anything about the - you mentioned the upcoming November JFK Lancer conference?
LARRY: I think - I think we're going to - it's going to be very interesting. We've already got a lot of very interesting speakers lined up. We're going to deal with a lot of the newest information. We'll be visiting the article that was recently written which is a death knell for the neutron activation analysis, and we'll be going into length with that. We'll address the Hunt revelation in great detail. We will also deal with both RFK and MLK to some extent. At least trying to keep the investigations of those open, because there is a lot of ground that can be covered in those. So it'll be a very broad-based conference, I think, and we'll be touching on all - and it has been a very active year. David Talbot will be with us in Dallas, and David will be talking about his book and his work, so that will be part of the RFK session. It's certainly been a more active media year than virtually any, in a decade or so, so we'll be trying to touch in Dallas, and get people that can, you know, kind of "insider comments" on those issues. I think we've got that pretty well organized so far.
REX: Great. Well, I look forward to seeing you there, and thanks for chatting with us.
LARRY: Oh, thanks for the time! It's always a pleasure.