The Man Who Kept The Secrets

1968 – JFK, MLK & RFK were dead.

The Vietnam War raged on.

From Berkeley to Cambridge, student revolution was in the air.

Yale graduate Thomas Powers, wrote for the Rome Daily American in Italy and for UPI.

According to Wikipedia, the Rome Daily American:  “was 40% owned by the CIA as part of Operation Mockingbird until the early 1970s. The intent of this ownership was to provide cover for CIA operatives and to influence the Italian electorate which was threatening to vote Communist at that time.”

In 1970 he became a freelance writer and ”wrote quite a lot of reviews of JFK assassination books.”

In fact, as a Warren Commission apologist, he wrote quite a lot of negative reviews about conspiracy books and glowing reviews about lone nut books, such as Priscilla Johnson’s Marina and Lee.

In 1971 he won his Pulitzer for National Reporting on Weathermen member Diana Oughton.

In 1979 he published The Man who kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA.

In 2002 he published a series of memoirs entitled: Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al Queda.

In his introduction he defends the CIA and throws JFK under the accusation of responsibility for the assassination of foreign leaders bus.

He writes:  “But what about the awkward question of authorization – did President Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson approve the murder plots or not? The general rule leaves no room for doubt on this score; of course authority came from the White House – where else? Laymen need not agonize over this question; the absence of an explosion of official anger at the discovery of murder plots provides all the evidence anybody really needs.”

We exchanged the following e-mails:

TCH> > Do you believe Oswald acted alone and, hypothetical: what if you’re wrong?

TP> > You put the question in an odd way — what if I am wrong? What difference would that make? — I’m doubtless wrong about lots of things.

TCH> > What if you’re wrong? I suppose I phrased the question in an odd way because as I’ve surveyed the charred remnants of the JFK assassination, I’ve found the subject remains taboo. As terrible a tragedy as the murder was, I think, if Oswald did NOT act alone, a tragedy of equal proportions: the national security cover up. If Oswald did not act alone, then the remaining senior citizens that actually grieved the man, have been hood-winked. If, 50 years from now the assassination is historically remembered as the JFK conspiracy, then the bad guys won and future generations will wonder how we let this happen.

TP> > If I’m wrong, no big deal. If the country is wrong, maybe it would be a big deal, and maybe it wouldn’t. It would depend entirely on the facts as established — if the whole Warren Commission knew the truth and sat on it — yikes!

If some scraggly highschool dropout Fidelista friend of Oswald drove him to the Texas School Book depository and wished him luck on the fatal day, then lived in secretive fear until an overdose killed him a few years later — well, no big deal.  So it depends.

My friend Max Holland is writing a book about  the deliberations of the Warren Commission and he certainly does not think they knew and sat on the truth, but I urge you to read his book when it appears. I would also urge you to read Priscilla McMillan’s Marina and Lee. It’s a very rich and intimate account of the months and days preceding the assassination which in my view leaves no room for an offstage conspiracy.

People sometimes fall victim to the dark charm of a densely factual and hugely documented mystery — I’ve had two friends who were convinced for a time that they were uniquely smart enough to read everything and figure out what happened — David Kaiser and Burton Hersh. In my opinion, they were not. Nor were any of the other writers who caught that particular bug.

At one point I wrote quite a lot of reviews of JFK assassination books, but I quit after David Lifton’s Best Evidence, which was so crazy it seemed crazy to think of him as anything but crazy. I will save you some trouble by saying that his version of what happened involves the removal of Kennedy’s body from the back of the plane, during its flight to Washington, then slipping it out a side door in the cockpit to waiting confederates at Washington’s (then) National Airport, and spiriting it off for surgical alteration of the wounds to make it appear he was shot from behind. You understand that this meant carrying the body from the back of the plane to the front of the plane, during flight, past all the passengers, including the grieving widow and the new president. This book received a lot of respectful attention because the explanation was buried in a mountain of confusing and mainly irrelevant narrative digression.

I don’t know if that’s helpful, but its what I think.

Best wishes –

Tom Powers

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